Welcome to the Overshare, where we talk with other startups and small companies who are breaking the mold and revolutionizing tired industries in unexpected ways. Each week, we’ll feature a different company and focus on a specific aspect of their operation that sets them apart from the pack.
Last week, we spoke to Casper, a mattress company that’s changing the game, and learned how their company culture helps them keep innovation top-of-mind. Today, we take a look inside Bark & Co, the company that brought you BarkBox (and now a whole lot more), to discover how their editorial and media presence is differentiating them from traditional pet retailers and e-commerce sites.
BarkBox was founded in 2011 as a subscription-based service providing dog parents with a discovery platform to find products for their very pampered puppy children. Since then, the company has grown into Bark & Co, the parent company of BarkBox, BarkPost (the company’s thriving content site), BarkBuddy (like Tinder for dog adoption), and BarkShop (an online retail space). The company’s focus on editorial content has made them distinctly different from other pet e-commerce retailers and has brought the blog from a side project to a fully-blown media site that exists independently from the retail portion of the company, with millions of unique hits to the site each month. We visited the Bark & Co office and chatted with Editor-in-Chief Stacie Grissom to hear about how BarkPost has helped set Bark & Co apart from the competition and helped establish the company as not just a quirky subscription for dog lovers, but a real disruptor and innovator in the pet industry.
Seats for dogs, seats for humans
How is the editorial portion of the company serving to help Bark & Co disrupt the pet retail/e-commerce industry?
Looking back, a huge part of the BarkPost’s success is rooted in the fact that we knew we couldn’t get the reach we needed by posting the same stuff that every other pet-centric editorial team was pumping out. I’ve always wanted to stay away from boring stuff like “How to Trim Your Dog’s Toenails” or only posting the same nauseatingly cute animal content you see everywhere. At Bark & Co we are disruptive to the pet industry because we weren’t scared to have a voice and tone that is silly and a bit crass in addition to being cute, funny, and heartwarming. Because we’ve made ourselves different from the pack, we’ve built a crazy dog-lovin’ community who trust us when we do decide to sell a message or product. My biggest goal is to make sure we keep that trust.
Pixel helping her human get some work done
Was the blog always an integral part of the site or did it evolve over time?
The BarkPost was never an integral part of Barkbox.com. It took me over a year of begging until the founders would put a BarkPost link in the footer of BarkBox.com because they wanted Post to walk on our own paws. That being said, BarkPost has always been the integral piece to our company's voice and the integral piece of our community. When you think about it, there’s almost nothing more important than creating a community for your customers when you are selling products that are so intrinsically tied to a person’s love for their dog.
There’s almost nothing more important than creating a community for your customers when you are selling products that are so intrinsically tied to a person’s love for their dog.
When BarkBox started, it was primarily an e-commerce venture. Was there always a plan to have companion apps, services, and a media site?
I think that the suite of products and apps that we have today were always a part of our crazy dream, but there is a difference between a dream and a plan. The dreams became parts of plans when we started showing success after success with our content and commerce. Our companion apps and services like BarkShop, BarkBuddy, and BarkCam all started as solutions to recurring problems that we noticed in our community.
Barking hard? Or hardly barking?
How have you seen the BarkPost community evolve and change in the last several years?
If you told me that the BarkPost would be where it is today two years ago, I would’ve said you were crazier than a Schnauzer with a squeaky toy. I used to think that the BarkPost was about writing to our niche audience of dog lovers but now I know I was completely wrong about that. Everyone loves dogs—dogs are the lowest common denominator topic of all time and the audience is colossal.
How do you think BarkBox is differentiating itself, both from competitors in the pet industry and as a company in general?
All of the Bark & Co products differentiate themselves with our voice and our social mission. So many companies have a social cause just to have a cause, but we are the craziest, most cultish group of dog-lovers you’ll meet. We really care about making the lives of dogs better.
Puppies have to be office-trained, but four-legged friends are welcome
What has surprised you most about working at BarkPost? What’s the biggest change you’ve had to make as the company has grown?
Success surprises me. I operate in my day to day work like there is no question we are going to hit these insane and sometimes arbitrary goals that we've set for ourselves. Whenever I take a step back and think about some of the things that have happened at this company, I'm always surprised. The biggest change I’ve undergone during my time at Bark & Co as we’ve grown is letting others come in and add their work and input into the mix. If you hire curious, clever, and funny people who get your voice and dreams, I’ve learned that the surprising success can continue.
Casual dress code here—Hawaiian shirts are encouraged
What are the most important skills your department uses on a daily basis to stay relevant and still stay innovative?
Curiosity and camaraderie. I think of of the most successful things about the BarkPost right now is that we have the creativity to explore new paths to test and we encourage each other through our successes and failures. The team atmosphere is the thing I stress about the most and am most passionate about keeping intact. In a creative environment you can't put a bunch of rules and restrictions on people and expect any results. You need to hire creative, passionate people who get excited about stuff. If you have people just going through the motions there is no way you can stay relevant and innovative.
Normal under-the-desk stuff: file cabinet, cables, doggie bed