On the Inside: The businesses of Bark & Co., where dogs dominate

This is On the Inside, a new series from Digiday where we tour through the spaces of brands, agencies and publishers to find out what makes them different.

If you don’t like dogs, a job at Bark & Co. isn’t for you, according to co-founder Henrik Werdelin. Roaming the company’s two floors of Chinatown office space are dogs of all breeds and sizes: A noble-looking German Shepherd sits under its owner’s desk; a pint-sized Shih Tzu yaps from atop a table where two team members are doing work; a 7-month-old Labradoodle puppy tries to maintain control of its long legs while playing fetch in the open office layout.

“We’re not a pet company. We’re entirely focused on dogs,” said Bark & Co.’s head of partnerships Alexis Anderson, who gave Digiday a tour of the office space. “We ask all new employees to sign a tongue-in-cheek agreement that says they’ll never suggest we include cat products.”

Instead, Bark & Co. has grown in other directions. Its flagship offering, BarkBox, is a monthly subscription box service containing four to six treats and toys based on a given theme. Since launching in 2011, the service has sent out 3 million boxes and 15 million products to date. BarkPost premiered a year later, a publication for dog owners that began as a company blog. BarkShop, an e-commerce store, opened in 2014.

The online store initially sold the products that were found in BarkBoxes, but an upcoming relaunch of the store will expand BarkShop’s e-commerce offerings to include products for humans (like tote bags and slip-on sneakers) as well as toys designed in house by Bark & Co.

“We started designing our own products back when we were looking for items for an Ice Age-themed box. We couldn’t find an abominable snowman anywhere, so we made one ourselves,” said Anderson. “Dogs are in our DNA, so we’re confident we can make the products they’ll want.”

All upcoming BarkBox products are tested and approved by the office dogs. A search through a closet drawer filled with chews and squeaky toys for an upcoming box held fall- and Halloween-themed items, like a stuffed candy corn and a squeaky bat ball with wings. A massive pile of worn and torn toys in an office corner is where the rejected chew things and products of past boxes go to entertain dogs during the work day.

While, as Anderson said, Bark & Co. is now expert in finding the right things for dogs, BarkPost and BarkLive are ways the company reaches dogs and their owners beyond products, both in-person and online. BarkPost content includes plenty of cutesy video: BarkPost is a top 20 video publisher on Facebook, and earlier this month, the company made headlines when it posted a video about Bretagne the Golden Retriever, the last-known living search and rescue dog that served at Ground Zero, and her trip to New York on the 14th anniversary of 9/11. The video now has 1.6 million views on YouTube.

BarkLive, the events business, puts on festivals, “pawties” and more, organized with dogs in mind. Bark & Co. also opens its offices to dogs and their owners about once a month for community mingling events.

“As a society, we’re not very good at creating things we can actually do with our dogs,” said Anderson. “Our office is a perfect space for that, for everyone to gather.”

Video production: Hannah Yi


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