Owning It (Part II): 8 Red Hot Entrepreneurs

Farrell Freeman and Roe Astuto
Owners, Lush Puppy

The plush, colorful and sleek interiors of Las Vegas’ Mandalay Place mall store Lush Puppy can make fashionable pet owners a little envious. With blonde wood furnishings and industrial lighting, it’s styled like an upscale clothing boutique—a far cry from your local PetSmart. Owner Roe Astuto says, “We merchandise like a women’s fashion store cleanly and attractively.” Pets are greeted by two canine receptionists and are free to roam as their owners shop for fancy fur shampoos, $600 carrier bags, and $125 metallic bomber jackets (with faux fur collars). Astuto and partner Farrel Freeman are pure-bred businesswomen themselves. Astuto spent the last 20 years as a marketing executive for E! network and Us Weekly magazine (among others) and Freeman ran her own children’s boutique and floral design shop. “We studied the economics of Vegas and realized that there was nothing like this on the strip,” says Astuto. “So we started pitching hotels with our concept.” With dogged determination and a shared love for their four dogs and cats, the couple constructed a careful business plan and unleashed their Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino store in 2005. Lush Puppy carries adorable high-end name brand products like Sniffany & Co., and Chewy Vuitton and Furrari, that help keep posh L.A.-types flocking to the store (recent visitors include Jennifer Aniston, Will & Grace’s Megan Mullally and Barry Manilow). Their high paw traffic is a testament to the ever-growing $10 billion pet goods industry. Lush Puppy’s geographical reach grew by leaps and hounds when Astuto, who handles marketing and finances, and Freeman, the buyer and merchandiser, put business online in 2006, courting customers from far-flung England, Scotland, and Tokyo.

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