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In Conversation: Carol Perkins of Harry Barker

Fans of STORY know that no matter what story we’re telling, we often can’t resist finding a way to feature products by Harry Barker – the ethically-minded company that makes dog products with style and quality.  But few fans know the extraordinary story of the woman behind the business.

Carol Perkins founded the company in 1997 while recovering from Cushing’s Disease, a life-threatening and rare brain tumor. Before her illness, Carol was a Ford model who appeared in everything from Vogue to Harper’s Bazaar. While still modeling, she made her debut on Broadway as a fire-eater with Penn & Teller. Homebound during her recovery, Carol turned to her love of dogs and textiles for therapy – and began creating dog beds, toys, and robes for her friends’ pets. Soon, she was taking orders and hand-sewing each one with care – launching Harry Barker from a table in her New York City loft. Twenty years later, the rest is history! Harry Barker continues to improve the lives of pets (and their people) with products made of all natural ingredients. We caught up with Perkins to chat about running a business, her productivity hack, and how to keep the “big picture” in mind.

You’ve done a lot of programs that benefit Canines for Veterans. How has your work with them deepened your relationship with your own business?
I believe that you get as good as you give.  Within that context, I am convinced that our company’s commitment to Canines for Veterans and other worthy causes enhances our sense of purpose and fulfillment.

As a former performer for Penn and Teller (!!) what has eating fire taught you about running a business?
There’s  no trick or magic to eating fire.  It’s essentially about overcoming your fears. And that’s often a challenge that each of us faces in running a business.

What’s your favorite gift you’ve ever given?
I love to make pajamas for my friends and family.

What’s your hack or philosophy for staying productive while dealing with setbacks?
Stay focused on the big picture and remember; it’s all about the dog.

What is one thing about you that we can’t learn from googling?
I’m a travel addict! My best creative ideas often come from traveling to  places as diverse as Paris, Pompeii and Antartica.  If I can’t get away, there’s always The Travel Channel.

Favorite spot in NYC?
I have two in NYC:
1) Pug Hill in Central Park.  It’s near the Alice in Wonderland statue, and it’s a magical haven for people and their dogs (especially pugs!).
2) STORY on Thursday Nights. Its a thrilling adventure to discover the new ‘STORY’, the food truck, the DJ, the dogs, the people, the shopping…and a walk on the High Line. It’s perfection!

In Charleston?
Theodora Park in Charleston. My husband David created this exquisite pocket park  in loving memory of his Mother, Theodora. We go there everyday with our dog Mercy. It’s a soothing  oasis and a park for all people.