Tell our readers about your company.
We were founded in 1989 as “Horse & Hound” in Lake Geneva Wisconsin. Pleasure horses were very popular in the area so the combination of horse, dog and cat worked! I purchased the store in 1994 when it was between owners. We moved to a new location in 1995, changed the focus to strictly dog and cat and changed the name to The Bark Market in 2006.
Why did you get into this line of work?
The store was started due to the absence of a pet store close by, with quality products and the original owner (me too!) was a horse enthusiast. Half the store was dog/cat half was horse tack, feed, apparel.
What makes your business unique?
The store has evolved and has become a community. We know customers by name and at this point, year 25, we have a 2nd generation of customers! We are local, we live, work and play here and we take our relationships with our clients very seriously. We are customer service based and it has proven to be our strong suit. That and the product selection which is geared toward “optimal health” for both dogs and cats. We are also very community oriented. We support many many local charities, both animal and human!
Do you have a pet or pets that join you at work, and if so, what are their names and roles?
For many years I had store kitties, "Mouse” an orphan kitten who came to be nursed to health and never left and “Bandit” the most friendly kitty in the world. Customers came just to see him!
My personal dog “Charlie” a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, love of my life, who crossed over in 2015,was the official mascot and “face” of the store for 10 years. All of the pets were an integral part of the shop. I look forward to having a new companion to come to work with me!
How does your business help pets and pet parents?
We have always educated people, we don’t sell dog food, we educate pet parents to make informed choices. There is so much misinformation, folklore and gossip about the proper care of dogs and cats. We love answering questions and addressing the fears and confusion of our clients. My part time job is staying current on the latest research and information relating to pet health and wellness. Vets , groomers and other pet shops send people to us for advice. We are pretty humbled by that!
What challenges have you faced in running your company or growing your brand? How did you overcome them?
Initially as with most small business it was finances, staying out of debt, keeping product on the shelves. In the early days before I had “terms” I would drive 50 miles one way to pick up a small load of dog food and pay cash. I did this for a few years until my credit was good.
Also maintaining a balance in life where “The store” didn’t consume my whole life. It took a decade and finally hiring help to bring the balance back. I can still be passionate about the business and have a life outside of it. My best ideas come when I’m “away”!
Big challenge; Covid of course.. we just turned into a curbside store and made it happen, there was not time to ponder, our customers still needed what we sell. It was a scary and nerve racking time but we survived it!
What qualities have made you successful or do you feel are important for inspiring leaders?
A strong sense of pride and not being afraid of hard work. My parents instilled that in me.
Very important to chart your course and not let others discourage you. There will always be those telling you, you can’t do it. YOU CAN! My business is a reflection of me, my values and what’s important to me. Each day I unlock the door I get energized and think “It’s GO time!
As for leaders, be strong, be approachable and share your knowledge and skills with others so they can become leaders. My most important mentors have shared everything they know!
What cool things are you/your business working on that you would like to share? New product or service? Podcast or training series?
We just relocated after 25 years! The project began in 2019 and Covid could have derailed it but it didn’t. The build out got stalled but we moved in on May 1st of this year. The energy and vibe in this new space is just fantastic. We are beyond thrilled to be there! Our focus now is to settle in to the new space and expand our product selections of food, treats and supplements. CBD products are huge and growing and we want to be a good resource for people interested in those products for their pets. We will train with the individual companies whose products we carry.
Where can someone get information or access the products or services discussed?