Baker’s late grandmother, Phyllis Freed, was the first female sports agent to work in the NBA, and she launched her career representing Otis Thorpe. Baker’s mother and aunt owned and ran a truck manufacturing business near Youngstown. “I have very, very large shoes to fill,” Baker says.
When it came time to launch her own business, Baker knew she had to be passionate about the endeavor for it to be successful. The choice was obvious. “I took my love for the beach and love for dogs and fused them together,” she says. The online store Muttgarita Hut (muttgaritahut.com) was officially launched in January of this year.
“It’s directed to dog owners who love the beach, love to party and love to have fun,” she says.
On the website, you’ll find margarita-scented shampoo and spritzers ($12.99 each) to make your mutt smell good. There are squeaky toys shaped like conch shells ($11), plush toys shaped like beer bottles ($7), hand-woven collars ($24) in Rastafarian and bohemian styles and a nice selection of treats, including Coconut Banana Crunchers ($6), Doggi Vitamin Water ($2) and Island Chicken Treats ($3.75).
Kaya, a shepherd-lab mix that Baker has had for seven years, is the inspiration for the business. “She is basically the joy of my life,” Baker says. “I rescued her when she was 6 weeks old.”
Baker graduated from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, Pa., in 2006 with a degree in communication specializing in marketing and advertising.” She worked for a few years at agencies in Pittsburgh and then “took a big leap of faith” and moved to Washington, D.C. She got a job working at Living Social just as it was launching. When she started there in 2010, there were 40 employees. When she left in 2013, there were 5,000.
As much as she enjoyed her job, it was LivingSocial co-founder and CEO Tim O’Shaughnessy who gave her the confidence she needed to leave it. “He just brought this incredible entrepreneurial thinking,” she says. “He inspired me in every way to finally take this big plunge.”
Baker ended up in Avon Lake after her then-fiancé’s job was transferred last March. (She was married in August and vacationed, naturally, on the beach in Jamaica.) She lives two blocks from Lake Erie and takes Kaya for frequent walks along the shore.
Her grand idea is to open a brick-and-mortar store. “I don’t just picture this as a small boutique storefront,” she says. “It’s going to be a destination for dogs.” That might mean an indoor dog park with a pool and a bar for dogs — and for their owners. Like the products she sells, it will offer an escape.
As always, what drives her is the gumption she inherited from her mother, aunt and grandmother. “Nothing ventured, nothing gained,” she says. “If I didn’t try this, I’d always have this regret in life.”