BAYDOG: a success story for one man and his Labrador Retriever

07/31/2023| Anna Mishonova

BAYDOG: a success story for one man and his Labrador Retriever

07/31/2023 | Anna Mishonova

A slobbery tennis ball may be unappealing to many, but for Barton O’Brien, it became the start of his own successful canine adventure gear brand, BAYDOG .

O’Brien was on his way home from the dog park after walking his puppy Walter (a white Labrador Retriever) and, like many dog owners, he struggled to manage all his dog-walking accessories: dog treats, waste bags, and a slobbery tennis ball Walter was fetching in the park. That’s when the idea for his first product, the Pack-N-Go Bag, came to mind.

“I made the design on my computer, found someone to manufacture a prototype, and took it to a trade show in Chicago,” says Barton. “To my surprise it won the ‘Best New Product’ award! The rest is history .”

The Queen Anne’s County business (officially known as The Chesapeake Bay Dog Company) launched in 2018 at the Global Pet Expo in Orlando. Since then, it has grown to cover all of the U.S. Its canine adventure gear is present in over 2,000 pet stores across the country, and customers can even find the products in Canada and Bermuda!

BAYDOG’s most popular products are the Chesapeake Harness and the Monterey Bay Lifejacket. While the harness offers durability and solid construction for everyday walking, the lifejacket is a more specialized product. BAYDOG’s unique design provides a dog with necessary support both for floating and for being lifted out of the water. According to Barton, “there’s nothing like it anywhere on the market. It’s the only dog lifejacket that West Marine carries in all 275 of their stores.”

The reasoning behind BAYDOG’s success is not just the price or quality of their products – Barton believes in a close collaboration between BAYDOG and their retail partners, mostly independently owned pet stores.

“They carry BAYDOG because they know that we have their back. When they pick up the phone, they’re going to get someone on the other end that cares about their store and doing what’s right for their business,” said Barton. “Stores carry BAYDOG because the products are proven sellers, and because they know that they have a partner that will do whatever it takes to help them be successful.”

This unique partnership connection comes from Barton’s unexpected background. Before launching BAYDOG, Barton worked at a hedge fund that traded complex credit assets: mortgage backed securities and CLO’s (collateralized loan obligation). Although dog accessories and credit assets are nowhere near related, the experience in finance helped Barton distinguish his company as a reliable and exceptional partner for pet stores.

BAYDOG’s dedication to quality and partnership paid off this year, when the company won $30,000 in the FedEx Small Business Grant Contest  and received additional $20,000 as a veteran-owned business  from USAA Small Business Insurance. It plans to use the new resources for expanding its product line and staff. But even here, Barton’s previous finance experience comes in handy.

“We’re going to stick to our core principles and continue to do what has worked for us to this point. We’re going to continue to grow the company, but we’re going to do it in a managed, thoughtful way without taking on debt,” said Barton.

In addition to the well thought-through business strategy, the company also maintains one more competitive edge. Walter, Barton’s Lab, has grown up to be the company’s co-founder and ensures quality by testing every product first-hand – or rather, “first-paw.” Through balanced development, pet store support, and the $50k in funding, BAYDOG’s future is looking bright.

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