Meet Our Inventor: Carl Baker

Meet Our Inventor: Carl Baker

We’re excited to introduce you to the always interesting and insightful Carl Baker. We hope you’ll enjoy our conversation with Carl below.

Hi Carl, thanks for joining us today. What do you think it takes to be successful?

I think topics like “Spending Money In Lean Times” and “Challenges To Profitability” are important and obvious to entrepreneurial startups, but for me, the number one key to success for any business, big or small, is the people. During my 35 years in the pharmaceutical industry—both big and small pharma—it became obvious that people are what makes success.

This is a deep subject for me personally, but it boils down to a foundation of trust. For a team, like DoggOffIt, we need to trust each other in order to make decisions and perform as a well-oiled machine. Empowerment helps build trust. We trust each other to make decisions that affect us all and the health of the company.

How do we build a foundation of trust? It doesn’t “just happen”; we need to build it and live it. Like any foundation, we need strong cornerstones. Our cornerstones are Customer Service, Accountability, Communication, and Teamwork.

Customer Service is not only external to our customer, but it is also customer service to our coworkers. After all, we rely on each other daily to make the company successful.

Accountability, commitment, and follow-through go hand in hand with providing good customer service.

Effective Communication is required to solve problems, create solutions, and enable the ability to actually be accountable when providing customer service to our colleagues.

When we have these three cornerstones, the fourth, Teamwork, easily fits in because we have refined the tools for working with each other. When all four cornerstones are in place, we have the foundation of Trust, and we are better equipped to surmount most obstacles placed in the way of achieving company goals.

Sounds easier than it is to achieve. Reason: people! We all have egos, priorities, personal agendas, habits, and all kinds of personality traits to harmonize as a team. It can be fun and maddening at the same time!

Carl, before we move on to more of these sorts of questions, can you take some time to bring our readers up to speed on you and what you do?

Born in Philadelphia, I live in Middletown, NY – in the scenic Hudson Valley. My wife Kathy and I raised 3 daughters who are married, and we have 5 grandchildren. For more than 35 years, I had a satisfying career in pharmaceutical process development (the “D” in R&D). I worked in both Science and Engineering disciplines, and every day was interesting and engaging. My undergrad is a BS in Biology, and my grad degree is an MS in Management of Technology from the Polytechnic Institute of NYU.

It seems like DoggOffIt would be a far cry from pharma development, but creating our new-to-world product drew on the skills and experiences I gained during my schooling and pharma career. It’s like solving real-world problems in 3-D, not just paper exercises.

The real-world problem DoggoffIt solves for those who wish to preserve their investment in their furniture is how to humanely and efficiently deter dogs, and to some extent, cats, from accessing the furniture and the resulting damage that inevitably occurs from repeated wear and tear, like chewing, tearing, shedding, and staining.

What makes DoggOffIt unique is that it is truly a “new to world” product. There is nothing else like it available. We received the patent in 2021.

A truly passive system, there is no pain inflicted, unlike other deterrents that deliver a static shock or alarming vibration. There are no pain points from sharp projections, no chemicals, or any kind of negative reinforcement at all.

There is no training required, of either the pet or the pet owner. Simply place it on the furniture you wish to protect, and it works! When you wish to use the sofa or chair, simply scoop, nest, and store DoggoffIt easily out of the way.

It is lightweight, durable, totally passive, and inert. Made in the USA from recycled plastic, and it is itself recyclable. We are about to offer customized units to go with any décor, and for protecting both interior and outdoor furniture.

How do you train a pet that it’s okay to sit on one sofa or chair but not on the other? People are using DoggOffIt for that purpose. Some folks travel with their pets to visit friends or relatives who may not like dogs on their furniture. DoggOffIt is easy to transport and use when you’re a guest in other homes.

DoggoffIt configures easily to most any upholstered furniture seating area, headrest area, and arms and leg protection. Just measure the length you need and use the 2-foot or 18-inch pieces to cover appropriately.

People come up with new uses each day; some are using it to keep dogs off the bed, the stairs, away from the Christmas tree, doorways, etc. The uses are many, and one only has to try it. There is no mess, no moving parts, so it is very easy to use and store.

What are we proud of? Made in the USA of recycled materials, easy to use, no training required, DoggoffIt solves the age-old problem of how to easily, simply, and humanely deter pets from furniture and other unwanted areas, in an aesthetically pleasing manner, with no negative reinforcement whatsoever. DoggoffIt also supports animal welfare by offering an alternative to rehoming pets or surrendering them to a shelter due to furniture damage. DoggoffIt also promotes pet adoption to those hesitant to bring a dog into the house for fear of damage.

We’d really appreciate if you could talk to us about how you figured out the manufacturing process.

We have a contract manufacturer right here in the Hudson Valley who manufactures, warehouses, and fulfills orders for us.

At first, homemade prototypes were used to prove the concept and some informal field trials. As these proved successful, we pursued the patent and more formal prototypes. I had a working idea of the design, and we worked with the local business incubator to make contacts, find service providers, like artwork and manufacturing, and potential funding. I received a small grant and used it for graphic design. The artwork turned out to be quick, as we found a local company who rapidly turned out the design we are using today. In fact, we like it so much, we trademarked it.

Manufacturing was more difficult. We had to engage local companies that had the time and were willing to make small-scale runs for prototypes. Many companies are contracted to exclusive contracts and schedules and can’t “break the line” for special projects. The company who did agree has been wonderful for us. They are responsive to our needs and provide realistic lead times.

The biggest hurdle is raw material costs. Believe it or not, recycled plastic costs more than virgin plastic. But we feel strongly about sustainability, so we stay the course with recycled material. There is little control over any raw material cost, except for ordering higher volume, and we’re not there yet.

Volume will also dictate the method of manufacture; as volumes go up, we can use more sophisticated methods of manufacture, decrease cycle time, increase quality, and drive down the cost of goods. All good things, and that is our short-term growth goal.

To date, we have bootstrapped all activities from savings and from a banking commercial line of credit. Now we are at a stage to raise growth capital, and we are currently exploring options. One blessing we have had all along is that we’re constantly surrounded by ethical, moral people in all phases of what we’re doing. They truly care about us and want us to succeed. These friends are looking out for our best interests, and ultimately theirs, because our success is their success too.

Life is a risk. You can sit on the sideline, or you can participate. Be grateful each day, for the successes and setbacks. Really take time to learn the lessons along the way. Think and reflect. Trust in people. Have faith and be honest. Practicing these things goes a long way toward remaining calm and making sound decisions. Do these things, and regardless of the financial outcome (success, we hope!), you will be more fulfilled and a good human being. And that is the greatest success.

How do you keep your team’s morale high?

What I have learned from my career and raising a family is that honesty, effective communication, accountability, and empowerment are two-way transactions, both for our family members and for our colleagues. Consistency from all parties develops ownership, positive habits, and leads to trust. Successfully performing all these qualities leads to achieving common goals through effective teamwork.

The end result is satisfaction from a job well done. And we have fun (mostly!) while we’re doing it.

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