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Louise Russell Wins Businessperson of the Year Award

Biz whizzes recognized with UMD Labovitz awards

By: Andy Greder, Duluth News Tribune
Published April 22 2009

Louise Russell, the owner of dogbooties.com and maker of durable footwear to help dogs traverse nasty weather, won the Businessperson of the Year Award presented by the University of Minnesota Duluth Labovitz School of Business andLouise Russell Economics on Tuesday at the DECC.

Louise Russell (right), owner of dogbooties.com, smiles as she passes around her award for employee Therese Jordan to enjoy. Russell won the Businessperson of the Year award Tuesday at the Joel Labovitz Entrepreneurial Success Awards luncheon presentation at the DECC. Bob King / rking@duluthnews.com

Sled dog mushers have raved about her products for years. On Tuesday, business leaders raved about her company.

Louise Russell, the owner of dogbooties.com and maker of durable footwear to help dogs traverse nasty weather, won the Businessperson of the Year Award presented by the University of Minnesota Duluth Labovitz School of Business and Economics on Tuesday at the DECC.

“She saw something that other people didn’t see and that is an act of entrepreneurship,” said Kjell Knudsen, dean of the business school. “She went where no one else has gone and made a success of it.”

Russell began stitching booties about 12 years ago after a clamoring from mushers to help protect the dogs’ feet on ice and snow. The company on Garfield Avenue has seen a tenfold growth in nine years to about 200,000 booties sold in the past year, Russell said.

Mushers Matt Rossi and John Stetson use the booties to push their huskies in races such as the John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon.

“They are the best dog booties in the world, I think, and she’s local, so it’s win-win,” said Stetson, of Duluth. “And I try to win dog races, so I hope it’s win-win-win.”

Rossi, of Herbster, Wis., added, “Her booties go farther. The material is tougher and they stay on. I use them when conditions are tough. Other manufacturers’ booties are shot after one run. These go two, three, four runs. You get more miles out of them.”

Avid mushers, who use more than 2,000 booties per year, credit Russell’s attentive customer service.

“She knows her products and she listens,” Stetson said. “You can call her up anytime.”

Russell, who started Arrowhead Fabric Outlet in 1993, said the best part of being an entrepreneur is the opportunity to do a little of everything.

“We brainstorm together,” said Russell of her eight employees. “We say, ‘What about this?’ ‘We should give this a try.’ We kind of get ideas off each other and decide if we want to try something or not.”

On top of its product line of harnesses, jackets and collars, dogbooties.com will roll out a new shiny sled bag set to be used in Alaska’s Iditarod. Russell described it as “blingy.”

Russell’s award capped a luncheon of honoring small businesses in the Northland at the 17th Joel Labovitz Entrepreneurial Success Awards.

Other award winners are listed below.

Micro Entrepreneur: Ablaze Custom Cleaning, Don Liimatinen Jr. of Cloquet
Emerging Entrepreneur: Monaco Air Duluth, Don Monaco of Duluth
Established Entrepreneur: World Block, Dan Stocke and Rod Johnson of Duluth
Mature Entrepreneur: Positively Third Street Cooperative Bakery, Andrea Wood, Michael Latsch and other partners of Duluth
Innovative Entrepreneur: Clearly Superior, Doug Stetzer, Dan Krisak and James Colborn of Superior
Entrepreneurial Vision: Hometown Focus, Jeff Asbach and Scott Asbach of Virginia
Entrepreneurial Achievement: Magnetation, Larry Lehtinen of Nashwauk


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