Barbara Barzee had a predicament when she’d take her greyhound dogs out for a walk in her Chandler neighborhood.
She often didn’t have enough pockets to hold her keys, phone and whatever she may need to pick up after her pets.
Barzee wished she had an accessory functioning like a purse but was stylish and discreet enough to hide her doggie’s droppings.
She went home and sewed together a little backpack able to hold all the necessities for walking her dogs.
“It just made walking my dogs so much easier cause I didn’t have to figure out where I was gonna put all of my stuff and have pockets full of stuff,” Barzee said.
She knew other dog owners might like their own backpack and set out to satisfy this demand.
A couple years later, Barzee’s business, Hound Street Boutique, has expanded to offer a variety of bandanas, collars, and dog-themed decorations.
“It’s kind of taken off,” she said.
Her products are not exclusive to dog lovers. She’s got some items cat owners may fancy as well, like a tea towel featuring a prickly pear cactus in the shape of a feline – Barzee playfully refers to it as a “Catcus.”
The business is still a one-woman operation.
wwBarzee makes all the products out of her home studio and sells them at street fairs or through her website.
Her top-selling items are her knitted bandanas and embroidered towels that come with a variety of canine puns or slogans. She’s just started selling one that’s got “Feliz Naughty Dog” stitched across the front.
She’s got a variety of key fobs, in the shape of nearly every dog breed; corgis, beagles, and bulldogs are all part of the selection.
Sewing the items together is the easy part, Barzee said, it’s the preparation beforehand that eats up most of her time.
After buying her materials, she spends hours washing, cutting, and ironing all the fabric.
“It is all very labor-intensive,” Barzee added.
The work was once just a hobby for the Chandler resident. Before starting her boutique, Barzee had been a Latin teacher for several years at Arete Preparatory Academy in Gilbert.
She loved being amongst her pupils, watching their eyes light up as they learned something new. But like several others in the teaching profession, Barzee got burned out by the long hours and low pay.
She had already been honing her crafting skills for years and thought maybe she could turn her hobby into a business.
Over one summer break, she started selling dog-themed items online and at craft fairs. The response she got from buyers gave Barzee the confidence to not return to the classroom and devote herself full-time to sewing.
She now has her products on display at Mesa’s Moon Dust Farms and tries to cultivate new customers through her website.
With the help of her husband, Mike, Barzee continues to market new ideas and gifts – they recently rolled out a cat-shaped ornament to hang off doorframes.
But getting the word out is not as easy as posting some pictures on Facebook, she said, because all entrepreneurs have to compete for attention on the World Wide Web.
It’s why craft fairs are still Barzee’s biggest source for sales.
And she loves being out and among the people; hearing their dog stories and seeing them pick out new accessories for their pets.
It’s important for owners to spoil their pets, Barzee said, because these animals give so much unconditional love and can brighten anyone’s day.
“When they give us love, we want to give something back to them,” she said.