Carol Perkins: How Sickness Helped Her Discover a Lucrative New Business

| September 3, 2009 | 0 Comments

Carol Perkins, Founder of Harry Barker

Carol Perkins, Founder of Harry Barker

Carol Perkins was leading a glamorous life as a Ford model — appearing in Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, and modeling for clients such as Victoria’s Secret. She was even profiled in a New York Times article  in 1991.

Until she got sick.

Carol was diagnosed with Cushing’s Syndrome, which was caused by a tumor in the pituitary gland. She experienced severe headaches and dizziness. Worse, she became disfigured when a hump grew on her back between her shoulders and her weight increased significantly. Her modeling career was over.

From a glamorous jetsetter, she became home-bound, with mostly dogs for company. She has always loved dogs, but her hectic lifestyle as a model and constant travels prevented her from keeping dogs in her home. She started pet sitting for friends. Since she loved to sew, she started making dog beds, sweaters and robes for her canine friends.

As she related in an interview published in Ladies’ Home Journal:

“They were my emotional support dogs. Dogs don’t care if you’re fat. They love you unconditionally …. There’s such joy in making something with your hands. I was really grateful to have a purpose.”

Perkins realized that she loved crafting doggie outfits and accessories. She then made a decision to turn her newfound hobby into a career. As luck would have it, a magazine editor saw and liked a doggie bed she made for a neighbor, and decided to feature it in a magazine.

That was 1997. After three years fulfilling orders from her kitchen table, she formally launched her business, Harry Barker, in 2000.

Today, her pet accessories company Harry Barker offer collars and leashes,  beds, toys and doggie treats. She has recently added a line of environmentally conscious collars and leashes made from recycled plastic bottles. From a “typical entrepreneur in that I didn’t have a clue,” Perkin’s products are now available in her website and in 3,500 stores internationally.

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