Designer pet-wear has become something of a national pastime of late with pampered pets seen clad in anything from a padded combat-style coat to a pink fleece, and why not? Our four-legged friends should surely have the right to look stylish when they step out and for one lady, spotting this gap in the market early on has certainly seen her business grow with its own designer style.
Mary Whitlock set up Moggy & Pooch Designer Petwear almost a year ago when she became fed up with the rat race and had the urge to develop a passion into a viable business “I always wanted to create a business of my own but lacked the courage as I felt that employed work offered security which would be lacking in my own company”, she said. Mary decided to take life-coaching lessons courtesy of her local BusinessLink and this changed her view: “The life coach pointed out that in an employed situation someone else was making important decisions that could affect my life and I had no control so was therefore not secure … for the first time I saw that employed was not necessarily secure.” Moggy & Pooch was subsequently born.
Although Mary’s main intention was to set up and run a successful internet business she decided that although she had extensive retail and wholesale experience, she lacked knowledge in the petwear industry. Believing that research and getting to know your industry is vitally important she took the step of first launching her business through a retail outlet in Central Milton Keynes. This proved to be hugely beneficial as she tapped into a whole new section of passing customers who didn’t even know that pet clothing existed. She had plenty of opportunity to talk to people about what they like, don’t like and what they want to see. Essentially, what Mary did was proactively create a market rather than just reacting to those already aware of the market and with the unit being centrally placed in a prominent shopping centre it also gave Moggy & Pooch huge brand awareness. Once Moggy & Pooch had built up a reputation and a solid customer base, Mary then also launched it on the web.
If you are thinking of setting up a business that is internet-based then you really need to address all the costs that you will need to outlay. Mary said: “the actual spend can be as much or as little as you want it to be but remember you only get what you pay for.” You need to think about your .com name (s) and buy them and then find yourself a good web designer and a copywriter if you are not comfortable with writing the content yourself. Remember, it is not just the design that sells, it is also the words and if you have those wrong, your business will suffer. You also need to consider that if your business is a shop then there is going to be a constant need for it to be updated with new products so ensure you get a Service Level Agreement for the hosting of the site and consider a design that allows you to make textual changes and upload pictures.
When Mary was looking for a designer she trawled the internet for sites she liked and contacted the designers directly. She said: “I briefed several companies with my requirements and got back a diverse range of quotes for the same work from between £500 and £20,000. It was an interesting process and I did learn a lot.” What this shows is that you need to shop around and never just ask and accept one quote.
Your other big outlay will be stock and again, you really need to research your options and compare prices to ensure you get the best deal. Due to the legalities of importing and exporting Mary decided that for the first phase of her business she would just buy from UK suppliers who did the importing. When deciding which wholesalers to use she looked for good prices, good quality and excellent customer services and then approached those she was interested in before comparing them on a spreadsheet and finally making her choices. She also found out about trade exhibitions that she could buy from and then visited armed with a questionnaire “I asked about lead times, trading terms, whether they offered sale or return and what their RRP was as well as any other relevant details.” After all this research Mary decided to do a minimum order with her favourites so that she could get a real feel for their service and drop any that didn’t come up to scratch and invest in those who provided the best service.
Positioning Moggy & Pooch in one of the largest UK shopping centres gave Mary’s business huge brand awareness and combined with leaflets, marketing and PR assistance from professionals she is now closing her retail outlet to focus fully on the internet business. Her aim? To become the market leader in providing puffas and pullovers for pampered pets!