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What It’s Like to Be One of the First 10 Employees at a Successful Startup

via Mashable


A fortuitous meeting… 

After six years, I left Etsy on a Thursday, and I met the BarkBox founders, Matt Meeker, Henrik Werdelin and Carly Strife, on Friday. I sat down with them at a table, thinking I could get some free stuff for the dog rescue I helped run; instead, I had a real conversation with three real, innovative, brilliant and hilarious people. They made me feel like I was one of them. Out of habit, I started spouting off ideas to grow BarkBox and help dogs in need and they listened. They threw ideas back at me and I was inspired to work with them. BarkBox hired me to focus on helping dogs in need — spending the 10% we give to shelters and rescues thoughtfully. While I was creating the BarkBox “Customer Love” team, I started a fundraising program for shelters and rescues. We soon found those who were referred to BarkBox through shelters and rescues, were our best “pupscribers” and I am now able to really focus on what I was originally brought here to do. I just put a six-month plan together — it’s so bloody exciting. BarkBox just sent 165 checks to small county shelters and volunteer-run dog rescues. Stuffing an envelope never felt so rewarding. Every month I get to send out more.


The keys to growing well… 

You have to be able to trust your team, and the vision for the company. That’s what you need to hold on to, through the first wild year. You have to be comfortable with both making high level decisions on a daily basis, and cleaning up an office dog’s pee. Growing a company? Hire the right people. Hire people that have enough balls to tell you an idea is terrible, and make sure they are the kind of person that can take this kind of feedback, too.


There’s a certain amount of crazy you need to have — and a dedication to that crazy. When I said I wanted to bringing fifty puppies to NYC from a kill shelter in Alabama and sell (adoption fees were donated to shelters and rescues involved) them in a pop-up shop in Soho, the BarkBox founders said, go for it. (And they seemed genuinely shocked when I made that happen 60 days later.)


Dogs in the office… 

You’ll get less work done at first. Some dogs will sleep all day in their beds under your desk, most will be anxious, annoying — they’ll pee in front of everyone in the middle of a meeting. It will take patience and guidance to get your dog to be a good office dog. Then you’ll get more work done because you won’t have to go home at 6:30 to take the dog out. Plus, work is just better when your dog is snoozin’ on your lap. They’re also great for check-out-how-cool-our-office-is photo shoots.


Keeping it cool… 

I have moments of preemptive anxiety, thinking about growing into a different company — losing some of the magic that is here now. I am confident though, if any team could keep this pace, energy and innovation alive as we grow, it’s BarkBox. There are a few of us here are BarkBox that have been early startup employees in the past, and we are on high alert, nipping signs of structured organization in the bud. “Should we have a schedule for dogs in the office? There’s so many of us now.” Nah, let’s just wing it. If your dog is annoying, we’ll just tell you to not bring them back.


Today, BarkBox has 30 employees.

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