We had the good fortune of connecting with Lea Barkley and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Lea, how do you think about risk?
I started DogFish Design back in 2012 when I found myself with out a job and I needed to do something to pay my bills. I worked at it full time. I had gotten into a handful of stores and did the local greenmarket and some events. Unfortunately it wasn’t enough. I had to put it on the back burn and go back to a 9-5 job. It always stayed with me. That feeling of “What If?”. Fast forward to 2019, I was working for the largest insurance company, had gotten all my insurance licenses and I was miserable. That “What if” was still there. So I woke up one morning, called my family and talked to them. I asked them if they would support me following this dream. They all said YES! I knew that if I just attempted to do DogFish part-time, that I would never get it to where I dreamed it could be. I put in my 2 week notice and came up with a plan to get things going. I had 3 months to be prepared for the greenmarket fall opening. There were a few months that were tough financially, but I never stopped. And then Covid hit…. Covid shut down my largest selling venue. It forced me to really look at new ways of getting out there. I started a second company. Mermaid Bungalow, an online e-commerce store. This helped me make up some of that lost money. Then Christmas started to approach and one of the stores that sold my ornaments in 2019 challenged me. He asked me to paint the little lighthouse charm that I put inside my Sandy Ball ornament. Painting that little charm red has changed my life. That little store went from selling 24 of my ornaments in 2019 to selling over 350 in 2020. In 2021, I came out with an entire line of Christmas ornaments and am currently in over 25 stores nation wide.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
Part of what has helped me grow DogFish to where it is today, is that I have over 25 years of retail management experience. I have worked for some top companies. Everyone of them taught me more about the retail aspect of business. I learned what to do and what NOT to do. I only left retail, because I was tired of working hard selling someone else’s items. I wanted to sell my items. Also, every company I have worked left me with amazing friends. Friends that support me today and are truly excited for me to be out there on my own making this happen. Hopefully I will be able to hire some of them to work for me as we have now grown to needing to hire a team.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Whenever we have people come to town, there are always a few places we must go. Guanabanas in Jupiter is top on that list. They are what people expect Florida to be like. Outdoor dinning, waterfalls, tiki huts… It is the perfect atmosphere. We also have to have dinner at Reef Grill. It is a hidden gem and only the locals know about it. Go early to avoid the long wait. Seriously the best and freshest seafood around. Lastly, everyone has to go to Loggerhead Marinelife Center. They always have giant sea turtles that are needing rehab and waiting to be released. It’s amazing to see the size of them.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I have met a lot of great people on this journey, but one is really special. Darlene O’Donnell, owner of Tide and Table in Tequesta, has helped my business in so many ways. She started off just selling our Sandy Ball over Christmas, and now carries the largest selection of DogFish Design 13. Her store is just a perfect fit for my items. I have created large mirrors and other seashell home decor pieces just for them. They also had a huge part in creating our entire Christmas line. Her entire team supports my business and is constantly fielding ideas to me that they get from customers.