Friday, August 17, 2018

Dylan’s Candy BarN: Helping animals find a “home-sweet-home”

Dylan Lauren, CEO and founder of sweets emporium Dylan’s Candy Bar and founder of not-for-profit animal foundation, Dylan’s Candy BarN. Photo:  Todd Schmiedlin
by Delia von Neuschatz

The future was in the cards early on for Dylan Lauren, CEO and founder of confectionery emporium, Dylan’s Candy Bar.  At the tender age of eight, the modern-day Willy Wonka received two pet rabbits which she proceeded to name Chocolate and Vanilla and to feed with Oreo cookies.

Dylan with her two pet rabbits, Chocolate and Vanilla.  The California gold-footed bunnies sparked a lifelong love of animals in the candy impresario.  
“That was always my thing – candy and bunnies,” says the powerhouse entrepreneur who 16 years ago turned that fondness for sugary treats into the world’s largest candy store. 

Today, Dylan’s Candy Bar supports the sweets mogul’s concurrent life-long love of animals via a charitable organization aptly called Dylan’s Candy BarN.

“I’ve always wanted to help animals but this foundation, having a business behind it, has really allowed me to do something that’s bigger and more public,” says the philanthropist of her year-and-a-half old 501(c)(3) organization. While it strives to help all sorts of animals in need — from those caught in wildfires to those trapped by hurricanes — via grants to animal rescue groups, Dylan’s Candy BarN’s overarching mission is to promote animal adoption. 
Dylan with one of the pooches at an in-store adoption event held to benefit New York’s Best Friends Animal Society.  “I really would love to get every pet a home, get every animal out of the shelters. If I could do that, I would be thrilled.  One animal out leaves room for another one in.  I have friends who have gone to breeders and to pet stores, but it’s prolonging the problem.  People think that having a bred pet is the right thing to do for prestige, but a shelter animal gives you more happiness.” Photo: Todd Schmiedlin
Kelly Vitko, Program Manager of Dylan’s Candy BarN, with one of the adoptable cats at Best Friends Animal Society. 
“Our foundation seeks to change the stigma of rescue animals and encourage anyone who is looking for a pet to adopt from a shelter, rather than buy from a breeder or pet store,” affirms Dylan.  To that end, it holds adoption events at Dylan’s Candy Bar shops across the nation.  From New York to Chicago to Los Angeles and Miami, family-friendly gatherings featuring adoptable cats and dogs bring out kids of all ages.  “Most people are scared to go to a shelter,” explains Dylan, “but they are not afraid to interact with these animals in the comfort of a Dylan’s Candy Bar store.” 
Dylan’s Candy BarN’s animal adoption drives attract kids of all ages.  Can anything be more exciting to a little one than candy plus puppies and kittens?  When it comes to accommodating a rescued animal into a family, Dylan says:  “I have young kids and I feel that shelter animals are better prepared to be with a family due to the training and care they receive at a good animal adoption center.  We’re trying to educate people about that.”  Photo:  Todd Schmiedlin.
Dylan with friend Aaron Battista sampling the cotton candy on offer at Dylan’s Candy Bar in Union Square during an adoption event for Best Friends Animal Society.
Dylan with a few of her more than 3,000 stuffed rabbits, some of which are on display at Dylan’s Candy Bar in Chicago.  “My favorite animals are rabbits, so my mascot is a rabbit,” says the animal lover.  Photo:  Michael Edwards
Participating adoption centers benefit not only by finding forever homes for some of the animals in their care (and the adoption of one animal actually saves two lives as Dylan points out), but they also benefit from fundraising as a portion of the proceeds during the events is donated to the shelters.  
An adoption drive held to benefit PAWS at Dylan’s Candy Bar in Chicago.  No fewer than 35 animals were adopted at this event.  “Shelter animals are loving animals.  You feel like they all know that you saved them,” says Dylan.  “Our goal is to help prevent euthanasia and make people aware that there are all these wonderful creatures out there that just make your life better.”
Dylan and model Hailey Clauson co-hosting an adoption event at Dylan’s Candy Bar in Union Square to benefit Monmouth Country SPCA and Animal Lighthouse Rescue.  Dylan’s Candy BarN had additionally partnered with a multitude of animal rescue groups including the ASPCAFriends of Finn and the Humane Society.  
Fundraising is achieved in a number of ways.  Pet lovers can make tax-deductible contributions directly through the foundation’s website or simply give via donation boxes placed in all of the candy stores.  There is also the sale of animal-themed candy products and pet products like food and treat bowls — a percentage of which goes to the charity.  Last but not least, potential benefactors should be on the lookout for special fundraisers.  In celebration of its Sweet 16 last year, Dylan’s Candy Bar held a celebrity auction whereby 22 VIPs crafted one-of-a-kind candy mosaics for various charities including several animal foundations.  Philanthropic participants included Julianne Moore, Jessica Alba, Andy Cohen, Jessica Biel, Martha Stewart, Katie Couric and of course, Dylan’s dad, Ralph Lauren.  
Some two dozen celebrities created candy mosaics for a charitable auction in celebration of Dylan’s Candy Bar’s Sweet 16 anniversary.  Dylan’s Candy BarN along with several other animal welfare groups were among the beneficiaries.
Dylan (and proud parents) with the pop art candy mosaic that she designed.
Pet products available for sale at Dylan’s Candy Bar.  15% of each sale is donated to Dylan’s Candy BarN.  A whole range of pet accessories including leashes and clothing is currently in the works.
Sales of pet-themed products at Dylan’s Candy Bar also aid animal charities.
In addition to lifting the stigma of animal adoption and helping find a home for every shelter animal, Dylan’s Candy BarN aims to raise awareness about the importance of spay/neuter programs in preventing overpopulation and euthanasia and aiding animal welfare organizations put an end to animal cruelty.  “The thing that disturbs me more than anything else is animal cruelty,” says Dylan.  “And that’s part of our mission — making people aware that animal cruelty exists.”   
Dylan with her rescued dog, Jersey.  Jersey was found on the so-called Dead Dog beach in Puerto Rico.  Adopted by Dylan from the Monmouth County SPCA, Jersey is now a spoiled New York dog.  “We let her sleep in our bed and we bathe her and we give her massages and she’s just so happy,” admits Dylan.  “She’s my baby.  I tell my kids ‘I know you guys are here, but she’s baby number one.  She was first.’  They laugh because they love Jersey.  It’s a great feeling saving a life.”  Photo:  Michael Dweck
It’s clear that Dylan Lauren doesn’t do anything by halves.  The otherwise known-as Candy Queen is currently envisioning a candy hotel and even a candy theme park in the future.  And why not?  Her eponymous confectionery empire now boasts 21 store locations across the U.S. with additional shops planned for Japan, Europe and the Middle East.  This sugar Shangri La lays claim to more than 7,000 different types of treats and six million visitors a year. 

So, what does the entrepreneur/philanthropist envision for Dylan’s Candy BarN?  “One day I would love to open up my own sanctuary for animals,” reveals Dylan.  “I know it’s a big undertaking, but I’d love to learn how one runs that because I can just see a Candy Land for animals.” 

Sweet heaven indeed!
Photos of employees’ pets take pride of place at Dylan’s Candy Bar’s New York City headquarters.  The pretty pooches will be featured in an upcoming calendar that will be available for sale at later this year.  A portion of the proceeds will benefit Dylan’s Candy BarN.