Robyn Schneider had a long and successful career in retail management, moving up quickly from a sales associate in a Harley-Davidson store in Tucson, Arizona to director of general merchandise for 10 Harley stores owned by parent company RideNow Powersports. Two years ago, she returned to Sheboygan to work from home as an account manager for a company that makes uniforms for Harley dealerships around the world.
But after all the accomplishments, she will put her corporate success on hold in October to focus on something completely different – Hometown Barkery.
Her home-based business baking and creating dog treats and pupcakes started about 18 months ago as she was searching for a creative outlet. Hometown Barkery become another full-time job for Schneider, who in addition to baking the treats is responsible for developing recipes and new ideas, packaging and filling orders. Now she’s poised to leave her full-time, work-from-home career and take the plunge to see if Hometown Barkery can sustain itself.
Schneider’s dog treats business, selling unique items and gifts for dogs and their owners, will open as a pop-up shop at 510 S. Eighth St. on Oct. 1.
The pop-up shop is a temporary establishment of local businesses looking to expand or open a storefront to supplement online efforts. Its purpose is twofold: give those businesses the help they need to open up a shop and test the market and to fill up some retail space that’s sitting empty. It is a project of the Harbor Centre Business Improvement District.
Hometown Barkery developed organically for Schneider, who started out baking the treats for fun and discovered an untapped market. She sells through local partnerships and events, farmers markets and online.
“It just kind of happened based on my love of dogs and my desire to have a creative outlet,” she said.
“With the support of friends and locals, it’s evolved. I’m ready to reach more people and more pups with more product.”
After researching recipes and designs and trying out her creations on friends’ dogs and her own best taste-tester, her mastiff Moose, positive feedback encouraged her to continue. She started an LLC, got licensed with the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture and took out insurance. Then she hung out a shingle on Etsy.
“It’s gotten to the point where I’m maxed out, producing as much volume as I can myself, in addition to my full-time job, and something had to give,” she said. “The pop-up shop was the perfect opportunity to give my business a shot at what the next level would look like, incorporating new products into the mix.”
She specializes in hand-made dog treats baked in small batches, including fancier iced treats and “pupcakes,” which are either 4-inch or mini cupcakes specially created for dogs.
With the opening of the pop-up shop, Schneider is working to secure partnerships with organizations that can help her to keep the integrity of her handmade recipes while meeting the anticipated volume increase. She will return to her retail roots and take to managing the day-to-day operations of the storefront herself.
The inventory will include things like mugs, signs, candles, stationery (those are for pet owners), as well as bowls, collars, bow ties, and dress-up accessories for dogs. She’ll stock gift baskets, custom Christmas stockings for dogs and unique items like treat-a-day doggie Advent calendars.
“That’s the real game-changer for the business – introducing new products that appeal to my customers and compliment my what I already do,” Schneider said. “I think the thing I feel like I’m offering that’s different than a lot of pet places is a focus on the pet owner, especially at a gift-giving time of year.”
Schneider has lots of ideas for promotions, including collecting letters to “Santa Paws” and granting some wishes, hosting a “make and take” event for people to create containers or other products and even working with other downtown businesses to participate in joint events.