Music was meant for everyone. The Woofer, an invention by East-Passyunk-Avenue-and-Dickinson-Street resident Matthew Baron, helps to make sure that everyone can hear it.
“I would say it started about five years ago. I had the idea to make something called a Boom Coat,” Baron said. “You would take a tux jacket and take off the lapels and put in lapels that had speakers built-in and you could plug the iPod into the pocket.”
The next generation of the Boom Coat is the Woofer, a canine jacket with built-in speakers that, as the inventor says, “turns your dog in to a boom box.”
“People loved [the Boom Coat]. People really responded to it when I’d wear it out on the town. That gave way to the Woofer,” he said.
Baron, who has a background in marketing and advertising, believed he had stumbled on a product that would sell itself. Though he had no training in electronics or apparel, the entrepreneur put everything into bringing his idea to market.
“I had no experience whatsoever. The only thing that I had was passion, which we talk about in the [Philly] Startup Leaders,” Baron, 32, said of the group that hones technology-based entrepreneurs. “That will drive the company: Passion. More so than anything else, if you are the one with the vision, you will be the one to bring it to the market.
“You have to really love it. There is so much rejection. Whether talking to get investors, money or sales, selling it to people you get so many ‘nos’ before you get ‘yeses.’”
At the start, Baron couldn’t find money or investors, but passion he had, so he decided to work on it himself. From the speakers to the amplifiers to the coat, The Woofer creator discovered how to make the item from top to bottom.
“I can say [I learned] from a lot of failure … I had a wall that was all Woofers — all my previous failures,” Baron said. “Field testing some of my materials was fun.”
Baron assembles and sells his dog couture out of his Passyunk Square home. After perfecting his design and putting it on sale a little more than four months ago, Baron has put his skill set to good work and began promotion.
“I’ve been busy right now. I’m doing an homage to the movie, ‘Say Anything.’ I’m holding the dog up above my head, like the boom box,” Baron said. “I found an identical car and backdrop and a woman to play the Ione Skye part. It’s going to be one of the online videos I have [on my website].”
Baron spent his formative years at Eighth and South streets, attending school at Beginnings, 620 S. 10th St., then the Philadelphia School, 2501 Lombard St. He later went on to a preparatory school in Rosemont en route to studying marketing and advertisement production at Boston-based Northeastern University.
“I was part of a co-op program where I worked in a few ad agencies. I spent some time at RSA Films,” Baron said of his post-university jobs. “I worked on the BMW Films’ campaign. It was a bunch of online videos, short five-minute online videos. It was extremely popular in advertising circles. It was great to work on that.”
The advertising guru was afforded the opportunity to work on campaigns across the nation, in places such as Austin, Texas; Phoenix; Philadelphia and New York. After spending time in Los Angeles, Baron decided it was time to put down roots where it all started.
“I would say [I moved back] to be with family. [My family is] spread throughout the city. I just enjoy Philadelphia. I just enjoy my friends and family here,” he said. “Once I started this company the city and the people really opened up to me. What I’ve found from doing it, I ended up as a person in the music scene. Even though I’m so tangentially in the music scene. Then, in the dog scene and in the small-business scene.”
As a proud member of the small-business movement, Baron joined the Philly Startup Leaders, where he trades insights and best practices with locals in niche companies, such as IT or motorcycle gear.
“My first few products were sold because the people trusted me and saw me behind the product and I would guarantee the product and that it would work. And any problems that occurred I would fix it,” he said. “That’s part of the allure — locally-made products. People are encouraged by that.”
Fitting dogs between 20 and 100 pounds, the coats — that Baron assembles personally by hand in seven hours — are available through his website. As people continue suiting their dogs up for the cold weather, each new wearer is also a walking advertisement for the Woofer.
“The idea is that the product would sell itself, so the more you walk down the street using it and more owners you have, people look at it and say, ‘Is that speakers on the dog?’” Baron said. “It sells just by the concept.” SPR