High-end kennel makers find unique niche

Married couple's company creates personal connection with customers

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Maybe you've never given much thought to dog kennels. Or cared how they looked.

That's OK. Bethany Rathman cares enough for all of us. She found wire kennels — you know, the type of kennel that automatically pops in your mind — to be so unattractive that she decided they were never meant to be inside a home. So her husband, Brody, got to work crafting a kennel out of wood and pieces of metal that looked more like fancy furniture found in a magazine than a place for dogs to hang out.

A photo of that first kennel was shared on social media. It went viral. That was before Brody and Bethany had a name for their business or a website. When they launched B&B Kustom Kennels, their website bbkustomkennels.com crashed from all the views.

“It kind of blew up,” Bethany says.

They were featured on HGTV. The Washington Post called, and so did Country Living.

A TV show was in the works in 2018, but it wasn't good timing. Bethany just found out she was pregnant with their son.

Since launching the business five years ago, the Rathmans have created a world where attractive dog kennels not only exist, but are in high demand around the country. In their world, thousands of followers also believe that “wire kennels are ugly.” In their world, that phrase might have to be in quotes because it's trademarked. And, instead of kennels, they're called “Doggie Dens,” which is another patent.

Made in Larkspur

All of the Doggie Dens are made inside a 2,000-square-foot unmarked shed at the end of a gravel driveway in Larkspur. Bethany's parents live in the house a few steps away.

Inside, there are sounds of sanding and sawing and that “Sunflower” song by Post Malone. It's always busy as Brody and his team of guys, a mix of childhood and college friends, churn out eight or 10 kennels per week.

New orders go on a wait list that's 25 weeks long.

The Doggie Dens come in eight different stains and a range of sizes to fit dogs of all sizes.

Bethany says she isn't sure why the kennels, which start at a price of $899, are so popular.

“I would honestly love to know,” she says with a laugh.

Stephanie Bush, a longtime friend and B&B's social media manager, has an idea.

“It's honestly them as a couple,” Bush said. “People love their story.”

Their story starts at Taylor University in Indiana, which brought together a California girl who played volleyball and a Chicago boy who played baseball. They became best friends. And then they fell in love.

They moved to a small town in Colorado to be close to Bethany's parents. He got a corporate desk job and she started teaching and coaching volleyball at a middle school.

Then, in 2015, the couple adopted 8-month-old Labradoodles named Gracie and Pyper. Since Brody had just renovated their house in Parker, Bethany wanted everything to fit their aesthetic. And wire kennels weren't doing the trick.

“I just thought they were ugly and an eyesore,” Bethany said. “We're the kind of people who ask, `How can we improve this? What's a solution to this problem?'”

Even when people started showing interest in the handcrafted kennels, the husband-and-wife team weren't thinking that big.

“We thought maybe we'd build one a month to help us pay off our student loans,” Bethany said.

Taking the plunge

Soon, Brody was working 20-hour days to keep up with orders on top of working his corporate job. They built kennels in their 450-square-foot garage and invited friends to move in and help.

Then it came time for a huge risk. They sold their house. Sold everything. And moved in with Bethany's parents. All to focus on growing B&B.

“We had something that is doing well, so we thought, `Let's go for it,'” Bethany said.

It paid off.

They've since both quit their other jobs. Brody is B&B's head builder and Bethany handles the business side. Among her duties, she makes a point to call each person who orders a kennel. As a result, most customers know their names. Followers have watched their 2-year-old son grow up.

“I think people like that that they're investing in us and the story,” Brody said.

And he thinks people like that the product is not only made in America, but made by a bunch of guys with beards in a small Colorado town.

Most importantly, the Rathmans invented a product that's highly sought after.

As Bush, the company's social media manager, pointed out, the Doggie Dens seem to have attracted the perfect blend of dog lovers and home decor lovers.

“There are people who want to spoil their dog and then there are people who want their house to be beautiful,” she said. “Both kinds of people want one of these.”

Brody and Bethany, who live in Monument now, say they're focused on keeping up with the business and hopefully moving into a bigger shop soon. They're planning on starting a retail line, too.

Talking to the couple, it's easy to see why a TV show might be in their future.

They often get compared to Chip and Joanna Gaines, the stars of “Fixer Uppers.”

“But I'm more Chip, and he's more Joanna,” Bethany says. “He's the more laid-back one.”

Their followers love their dynamic all the same.

“They're so hardworking and they're so stinkin' cute,” Bush said. “It's really a good marriage.”

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