Louise Smith, a retail manager from Riverside in Tamworth, England, was looking for a fun accessory for her first dog almost two years ago.
Despite an allergy to dogs, 26-year-old Smith, a mother to six-year-old Jake, ended up buying her pug George when she fell in love with his “character, charm and crazy personality.”
Yet when Smith went to find a fun accessory to fit her “baby’s” personality, she and George were unhappy with the choice of doggie t-shirt.
She decided that a simple bandana would do the trick instead, but she came up empty after trying to find a suitable one online.
A few weeks later, however, Smith discovered a fabric stall in her local market and decided to try making her own doggie accessories.
“I bought a few meters of different fabrics, dusted off my sewing machine, took some measurements and I was away,” she said.
Once Smith posted pictures of George in his custom dog bandanas to Twitter and Facebook, friends and fellow dog owners began sending her requests to make accessories for their own pups.
As a result, Smith created Bandana Boutique, which now has its own website, Facebook, and Twitter feed.
Smith invested £100 in fabric and made templates of dogs’ neck sizes to begin designing her bandanas.
Over the past few months, Smith has expanded to more than 30 different styles of bandanas and has also begun creating collars, leashes and harnesses.
Her business’s growth, she said, is due to networking, using Twitter and vending at dog shows.
Although Smith is still working her day job, she dreams to one day have her own shop in Tamworth to sell her dog accessories.
But business is booming: her website receives between 50 and 100 new hits per day, and she’s busy processing between 30 and 50 orders per week.
Though she acknowledged that this isn’t too high of a volume just yet, “Websites take time,” she said, “and I work hard by myself to improve the site’s Google ranking through self-taught SEO — that’s a full time job in itself. On top of this I provide trade orders to pet boutiques and retailers all over the country, some local, and others further afield.”
Her vision to create “unique, funky and quirky” items not normally found in pet shops earned her a “Mumpreneur” award from Mumpreneur UK, which helps parents with small businesses.
Now Smith is currently in negotiations with a pet superstore chain to sell her products. Her current clients include the PDSA charity (which provides free veterinary care and pet health advice), the Retired West Midlands Police Dog Benevolent Fund and several dog rescues in the UK.
Meanwhile, George, who hasn’t given Smith any allergic side effects after all, still serves as her model… for the fee of a malted milk biscuit.
Smith’s advice to other entrepreneurs and wannabe “Mumpreneurs”? “Go for it.”
“No matter how crazy your idea is, or how low your start up budget, hard work, determination, research and sensible spending can pay off,” said Smith.