Our 2021 Highlights
It is very tempting to dismiss 2021 an a non-event because there were so many restrictions, disappointments and cancellations. Things just weren’t normal were they. We missed our family and friends and couldn't do the things we loved for yet another year. Socialising was impossible and craft fairs were definitely a thing of the past!
I am by nature a glass half empty person but after reading an inspirational post by Michelle at Scruffy Little Terrier and rising to the challenge set by Rachel Spencer, I sat down to review the 2021.
Accounts were the only thing on my mind in January as I had to I submit my very first tax return to HMRC as a fully fledged business! That was a job and a half and I can’t quite believe I’m about to do it again.
I was absolutely delighted to be chosen as a Challenge Ambassador for Rachel’s Get Publicity for your Pet Business Challenge and enjoyed seeing so many successes during the 5 days of activities on Facebook.
A personal highlight each quarter is donating funds to Spaniel Aid UK. We sent them an extra £150 in January to get the year off to a good start.
I joined K9 Nation as an ambassador and love being part of this group. The app is so cool and has lots of info for dog owners, from walk suggestions to informative articles on lots of topics to everything you need for your dog in the marketplace.
Early in the year Leo was struggling with reactivity towards other dogs which was a nightmare for me too, so we started one to one sessions with the wonderful Claire Lawrence at High Peak Dogs in Buxton. She has improved my confidence and helped us to manage our problems better. He’s still reactive but I’m less of a wreck and he’s much calmer. We were outdoors in all weather socially distanced and covid safe.
New products were planned for introduction through the year. A stylish washable dog toy box was added to our range of product this month.
When you work alone in a small business it is so valuable to network and chat with other small business owners. So in early March I took part in Rachel Spencer’s Awareness Day Masterclass and had a real lightbulb moment when I came up with the idea for Twin With Your Dog Day whilst we were chatting. It also led to several new products for owners being added to our range of accessories. More on that later!
March saw my first collaboration with another small pet business. Celia from For Dogs Sake Treats makes tasty healthy treays for dogs. We had a few discussions and came up with an Easter Treat Boxes containing yummy dog treats with an Easter Bow Tie. It was so much fun to work with another small business!
This month I decided to enter Theo Paphitis' weekly #SmallBusinessSunday competition by sending him a tweet about my business. Charley also tweeted Theo’s dog Gladys who is a gorgeous brown Spaniel. To my absolute amazement I was one of the 6 small businesses chosen to join his SBS business group on the following Monday night. Twitter went nuts and I gained hundreds of connections within hours!
Little did I know that great things were set to continue all week as we celebrated Leo’s 6th birthday and then won the Animal Star Award for Best Pet Related Business. It was a WOW moment for me!
I still don’t know who nominated me but I am extremely grateful! This resulted in some lovely press coverage in local press and interest from Good Housekeeping Magazine.
This month we donated £225 to Spaniel Aid UK from our first quarter. I know they are grateful for every penny.
Adopting Charley raised my awareness of the problems that rescue dogs can face when they are adopted so I wrote a new blog post which was “A Guide To Adopting Your First Rescue Dog”. It has been one of the most visited blog posts on my website and was shared by Spaniel Aid UK and viewed hundreds of times.
In April I decided that I needed some guidance with the planning for Twin With Your Dog Day so I had a fabulous power hour with Rachel and we created a detailed plan of action. It was one of the best investments I made in my business this year.
I was also delighted to be interviewed for the High Peak Dogs Podcast talking about Leo’s reactivity and the story behind our problems and the road we have travelled trying to get him help.
This month I decided to be really bold and enter a competition run by Theo Paphitis and SBS. The prize for 6 lucky winners was to be sponsored to exhibit their wares at the NEC Autumn Fair which is the biggest trade fair in the UK. I filled in the application form and promptly forgot about it as I thought it would be extremely unlikely that my tiny spare bedroom business would be of interest or would be the sort of business that would be considered for such a prestigious show.
Also this month I was so pleased to be interviewed by a journalist for a feature in Good Housekeeping Magazine about women in retirement who do something completely different to their original career. After the lengthy phone interview I was invited to go to a covid secure photo shoot at studio in London. A posh taxi collected me and my daughter and took us into the city for the shoot and I had a absolute blast trying on all the clothes and accessories. Stylists did my hair and makeup and we had a fabulous gluten free lunch. I was even gifted one of the outfits to bring home. It was quite a day!
I launched our Summer Collection adding three new fabrics to our growing website and made a bespoke mascot for a canicross team, K9 Trail Time.
I was totally shocked when I was notified that I had made he shortlist for the Autumn Fair and found myself competing with some pretty amazing business in the last 18.
At the end of the month a surprise email from the set director of a new TV drama made a special request asking me to recreate a collar, lead and bandana for a drama which will be broadcast in the Spring, featuring Dilyn the Downing Street Dog.
Another quarterly donation of £150 was sent off to Spaniel Aid UK.
Charley is the inspiration behind my business so she was featured as Star of the week in the Daily Star in recognition of the donations we make to SAUK.
Then, to my complete astonishment, I had a phone call congratulating me on winning the #SBS competition. Being a bit slow on the uptake I thought the gentleman on the phone was referring to the #SBS Twitter competition on Sundays. So when it finally dawned on me that he meant the Autumn Fair competition I was absolutely stunned! Once he was off the phone i was running round the house like a mad thing squealing and in a total panic! I had no idea what was to come!
August was filled with a lot of crazy!!
1. Crazy mad planning my stand for the Fair.
2. Crazy mad sewing stock to display, hats and scrunchies for owners were added to the matching masks already featuring on the website.
3. Crazy mad shopping for mannequins and shelving for the display and lots of photo tiles of customers dogs wearing our products.
I was already committed to taking my stall to the two day Staffordshire County Show … my first big fair in over 18 months. So I made a lot of new stock and took it all to the show wearing my mask and distanced as much as possible. Lots of dogs visited for free biscuits on National Dog Day and a record numbers of tweed bow ties were sold. Staffordshire dogs are very dapper!
The Autumn Fair at the beginning of September was a complete game changer for me.
Examples of all my collections were made in all the possible sizes plus samples of the brand new Autumn Collection prior to release on my website. Incredibly by the end of day 2 I had sold it all as well as everything I could make for the next three months. It was just phenomenal!! It also helped me identify which retailers I'd like to supply…. tiny specialist dog boutiques and specialist gift shops that seem to be the best fit. I now have 4 amazing customers who bought up almost everything and left me with a waiting list of 8 more buyers who want to know when my order book opens again in the Spring with some exciting collaborations ahead.
I was thrilled to chat to Theo Paphitis when he visited all he small businesses that he had sponsored and he was pretty happy to learn that I had sold all my Autumn Collection and took away a gift of collar, lead and bandana for Gladys his chocolate brown Spaniel.
There was just about time to take a week off to go on holiday to Anglesey with all the family and dogs to celebrate my 60th birthday.
It was a glorious break with lovely weather. I so enjoyed time with those I love most and had a much needed break before returning to constant crazy sewing.
In September The Good Housekeeping article was published which was fabulous coverage for me and my tiny business!
My new National Day was officially registered in September too so it was full steam ahead preparing for Twin With Your Dog Day.
October was a mad crazy month of sewing day and night to make deadlines before Christmas! I even had to cancel a two day Christmas Fair I was due to attend in November as I was too busy sewing orders to make extra supplies for the fair! How crazy is that!
There was a lot of activity for Twin With Your Dog Day. Dozens of pitches were sent off to try to get the day seen by dog owners country wide.
Thank goodness for Riki Sullivan and Alison Price who helped me with captions and graphics for the day. Together we addressed the plan I created with Rachel Spencer earlier in the year. I was so busy sewing I couldn’t have done the day without them!
It’s so worth getting experts involved with your business for special projects as it leaves you to do what you do best, knowing everything else is in good hands.
Incredibly in the run up to the day the Daily Mail mentioned me as an expert in Twinning With Your Dog! How did that happen!!
Charley celebrated her 5th birthday on Twin With Your Dog Day.
The pitches I sent off in October and November resulted in some great coverage about the day in our local paper, Daily Mirror, Daily Star, Take a Break Pets Magazine, Real People Magazine twice, there was online coverage in Dog Desk News, the SBS Newsletter, Puppy Post and In Your Area. Quite a haul really which I’m incredibly grateful for.
Amazingly Twin With Your Dog Day ran so smoothly. 12 hours on social media gave me numb thumbs though! I was so happy to see people join in and post pics of themselves twinning with their dogs. I was told the day had a reach of over 1.1 million which was mind blowing, but only happened because I had some amazing pet businesses helping to spread the word, cheering me on and tweeting on the day!
We featured in the Vita Canis and K9 Nation festive gift guides and I managed to attend two local Christmas Fairs in early December.
It was lovely to be out and about meeting up with new and returning customers again even though we were back to masks and trying to maintain social distancing.
The year was finished off with a two week much needed break. Covid scuppered our Christmas plans as some of the family couldn’t come home as they caught the Omicron variant but we celebrated together by video call.
The last act of the year was to send off our final donation to Spaniel Aid UK. This last one was for £500 taking our total for the year to £1225.
So despite thinking that 2021 was a year of restrictions and difficulties, reading the month by month review I can see that all my hard work paid off. There was an awful lot to be thankful for with huge unexpected steps forward for the business.
I’ve had several incredible opportunities come my way which have resulted in some amazing moments that have helped me get wonderful press coverage, meet lots of new customers and donate more funds to Spaniel Aid UK.
I’m not sure how I’m going to top this in 2022 but I’m going to give it a go!