These Friends Met on a Cruise and Bonded Over Their Love of Dogs, Which They Turned Into a $378 Million-a-Year Business

Plus, what happens when your entire office is filled with furry friends?
These Friends Met on a Cruise and Bonded Over Their Love of Dogs, Which They Turned Into a $378 Million-a-Year Business
Image credit: Adam Friedberg
Magazine Contributor
5 min read

This story appears in the July 2021 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

It’s been a crazy time at Bark — but then again, the company was born out of a crazy time. Years ago, Henrik Werdelin checked into a conference on a cruise ship to find his room had a heart-shaped bed that was separated in two for a random roommate (he’d taken the cheaper option). As a joke, he pushed the “heart” together. Returning that night, he found Matt Meeker in it, already asleep. The two, both straight, shook hands over the duvet, discovered a mutual love of dogs, and in 2012 started the subscription BarkBox with Carly Strife, which they turned into a $378 million–a-year, 440-plus employee, full dog lifestyle brand that went public via SPAC this year.

Related: See the Work Spaces of the Blanket Business Encouraging Employees to Take Midday Naps

Bark’s New York office is as quirky as its origin story. It has a toilet with a sink in its top and hidden cartoon doodles for employees to stumble on — “to rewire their brain so they’ll think a bit differently,” says Werdelin — and, of course, everyone can bring their dog. There are rules (on leash till 4 p.m.) and special nooks for cozying up together, pooch bars, and paw washers; pet insurance is a benefit. The humans get ideas for products watching the pups play, and the pups? “It’s just so de-stressing,” says Werdelin. “When you’re sitting in a meeting and it’s a tense moment, I guarantee you there’s a dog that will fart or do something that nobody can help laughing at.” Here’s what it’s like working there.

Christopher Rios, NYC office coordinator

Dog, Merlin, a Pomapoo (here with Lisa’s dog, Andi)

“By bringing in your dog, you are also bringing another side of yourself to work. And the tension is eased because there is always a little ball of fluff sitting right next to you, looking up, amazed at the work you are doing. I don’t think you will get that same reaction if you look over to your coworker like that.”

Mary-Elizabeth Piaia, Employee experience manager

Dog, Olive, a rescue mix (but “100 percent sweetheart”)

“I bring Olive every time I come in. She’s a great reminder to get out for a walk and break up a day of meetings and screen time. There are obviously challenges that come with an office full of dogs, but we have guidelines to help, like being on leash to cut down on any scavenging and to control interaction. And Bark employees know how to ‘read the room,’ if you will — which dogs get along, and how to avoid most problems.”

Related: The Surprising Ways Your Office Design Shows You Trust Your Employees

Kat Beaupre, Art director

Dog, Quentin, a corgi

“Quentin is a very New York dog — full of anxiety, wears mostly black, a little bit of a dick but also sweet when you need him. He has friends around the office and then definite ‘walk around to another aisle’ dogs. Thankfully, nothing actually dramatic has ever happened—but there has been a fair share of loud barking matches. I have a photo of one conference room meeting where the chairs all had dogs in them and all the people were sitting on the floor. It’s as if to remind us, We’re making dog toys here, people! This is supposed to be fun!

Emily Greitzer, Sample and merchandise operations coordinator

Dog, Jericho, a golden retriever mix

“We’ve seen incredible growth of the business since quarantine started and everyone started getting dogs while they were at home. It increases our workload, but it means we get to work on more and more cool products, with more retailers, more collaborations, all that good stuff. When we put health and wellness first, we set ourselves up for success in business and the rest of our lives. Sometimes that’s really hard for humans to do, but dogs do it effortlessly, so we always have them setting the example for us.”

Lisa Bernier, Program director of strategic communications and social impact

Dog, Andi, a dachshund mix

“As we transition back to work in the office, we’ve been keeping front of mind how to integrate all the new office dogs. My dog, Andi, comes in with me almost every day. She steals lunches a lot. Even dinners. I’ve had to pay for a lot of coworkers’ meals.”

Related: 4 Products Every Dog-Friendly Office Should Consider

Cris Kim, Engineering manager, platform engineering

Dog, Brownie, a Jack Russell terrier mix

“I adopted Brownie in 2014 as we were moving into our office. He used to come in every day, but now that he has diabetes and cancer, it’s more for special occasions. Having dogs around makes the workplace a kinder place. They see the best in us.”

Alexa Mateo, Accounts payable specialist

Dog, Mac Daddy, an American bully

“I’ve been here five years and seen a lot of celebrations. We’ve had a Bark Mitzvah, an all-corgi party, a ‘Frenchie kissing’ party. They take place over the weekend, so when you come in on Monday, you see tumbleweeds of hair all over the office.”

Image Credit: All Photographs by Adam Friedberg
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