It is a wonderful sight to behold: the business that puts its consumers first, but what happens when your end user is a step removed from your consuming buyer? Today on the blog we want to share the story of Margaret Reynolds, owner of Dogrobes, the business whose success is based on the wellbeing of their end user - your dog.
Join Margaret and Stephen as they gain an insight into what it is like to own a business and to navigate the successes and the lessons to be learned along the way.
Meet Margaret Reynolds, owner of Dogrobes
Margaret, tell us about your business, Dogrobes.
I took over Dogrobes in 2013 from my friend Ann, who was retiring. At the time my daughter, Nicola, was off to college and like most parents I felt I would be left with a void in my life. When another friend, Diane, asked me about it, I thought, “What am I going to do?”
Diane mentioned Ann’s business and how it might be a good fit. Ann was retiring and I was in need of a new direction. It felt like a great fit and after speaking with Ann I realised I could start by making Dogrobes myself at home.
My background is in marketing and because I don’t do things by halves, I started by really looking at the brand and sprucing up the marketing, because the product was already there and it went from strength to strength. Initially I thought the business income was going to be a bit of ‘pin money’, so I could go to London and treat Nicola, but I ended up holding on to the reins of this horse that was at a much faster gallop!
Dogrobes are an award winning three-in-one dog drying coat, made in Britain - it dries your dog, keeps them warm and comforts them. They also protect surroundings from wet and muddy shake off and they stop that wet dog smell. The secret to our success is our own super absorbent fabric, which is exclusively ours - it absorbs moisture quickly, traps the dog’s body heat and dries your dog in around thirty minutes.
Wet dogs will shake off 70% of the moisture themselves, but it’s the 30% that gets stuck in the dog’s coat, which causes the odour associated with ‘wet dog smell’. If you dry your dog quickly, you can eliminate the odour.
Dogrobes are made in Britain, to last and they are the easy way to dry your dog. We are also the sustainable choice over fast dog fashion and our product is purposefully made with your dog’s wellbeing in mind.
We started with plain Dogrobes initially, but after prompting by customers we have included more coat designs. One in particular is our own exclusive, registered tartan, which we worked on with a tartan designer to encapsulate our brand colours.
You can now buy an exclusive range of patterned Dogrobes, each with a unique twist that encapsulates either our brand colours or our brand paw design. We also have a bigger range of accessories: snoods and gauntlets - making dogrobes the complete dog drying solution for owners. Our full offer benefits dog breeds that particularly feel the cold, when they are wet and can be used at home, or while you are away.
Our main goal is not just to dry the dog in the moment, but also to help avoid problems later in life, from long spells of being wet and possibly cold. We want dogs to be dogs, splash around in rivers, jump in muddy puddles, but we also want to help deal with the after effects of that, when they get back home. And the dogs love it… being snuggled and warm is calming and peaceful.
We sell online on our website, through stockists located worldwide and at events.
What is your biggest frustration in your industry? And how do you solve that?
My biggest frustration is how dogs are treated by humans.
I’ve been lucky enough to meet some amazing search and rescue, medical detection and assistance dogs and these dogs are just so clever.
It is heartbreaking to see cruelty, or mistreatment. Neglect as well. We have a real issue with increased puppy farming (Lucy’s Law and vet Marc Abraham are doing an amazing job here, but there is still work to be done) and now from overflowing shelters too; partly from Covid fallout, and also partly from owners not understanding the full responsibility and commitment of taking on a dog.
What happens to these dogs? It is just heartbreaking to think.
When we think about the origins of Dogrobes, it was founded by my friend Ann who was a working dog trainer and in 2004 when she designed the robe and started out, it was done purely for the animals' benefit and well being. She was so focused on her dogs and intuitive to their needs. She knew that keeping their muscles warm after a long wet walk and before a later walk was crucial to their well being and happiness. That’s all that mattered. That sentiment remains today, “the dog comes first”.
We work with a vet specifically to advise us on what we put out, in terms of dialogue about the product and what it does for the dogs themselves.
We also help tackle dog welfare issues through donations and have donated nearly £13k to dog charities since 2013. This is something we are incredibly proud of. We feel a sense of duty working in this industry, so our efforts are about stepping up and showing that we put the dogs first.
As humans, generally, we haven’t always taken the time to understand our dogs and what they really need, or what a breed needs and that’s our focus, here at Dogrobes - to help educate owners about an area of dog welfare, whilst solving a human problem with our product. That’s also why we give back to charities that support other areas of dog needs, health and wellbeing. There is a mountain of work to be done and we want to support those doing their bit.
If you could go back to the beginning of your business, what would be the one piece of advice you would tell yourself?
Enjoy the ride, because time flies!
Time has flown since I took over this business and it’s been a real rollercoaster. I’ve met great people, great dogs, been to lots of great places and learned so much! My advice would be to stop worrying so much and just enjoy the ride.
How did Covid affect your business?
When we were told to close down at the end of March 2020 we did what I thought was the best thing, the safest thing. We closed, even as an online business and we were shut for four months.
Getting into August 2020, I was getting increasingly frantic calls from stockists for more stock… “We are still open and we need supply”, they said. As a business we were realising, just as everyone else, that Covid was a long term thing. For us generally summer is a quieter time, but it wasn’t fair for our stockists who do have sales during this period, to remain closed.
We decided to work from home and so took everything we needed out of the office and brought it to team members' homes. This allowed us to continue to work safely with our manufacture and supply chain. We officially reopened in August 2020 and we haven’t looked back.
Tell us about your proudest moment as a business owner
We have won business awards, product awards and been featured in press and on television (BBC Scotland), but our biggest sense of achievement is when my inbox pings with another happy dog photo, or video from a customer. Especially the look on the dogs’ faces: the sheer joy of wearing our robes is a beautiful thing. That’s when you know you are doing something meaningful.
We have hundreds and hundreds of 5 star reviews, and very occasionally you will see the same names pop up and it’s because our products last, so those buyers are either buying a second robe, or one for another dog. This is also a proud moment, because our values on quality are so important to us.
What would your advice be to someone starting out as a new business owner?
You are going to make mistakes and it’s a rollercoaster of a journey, but trust your gut instinct and go with the flow.
One of the biggest learning moments for us has come out of manufacturing exclusively in Britain and that’s the advantage of a shorter supply chain. You can turn designs around quickly, you aren’t waiting for extended periods for products, and your stock can be replenished (in our case) in as little as a week. This allows us to react more quickly to market trends and demands. This has meant that we’ve found social and political events like Brexit haven’t been too much of an issue. In fact, Brexit actually worked in our favour, because stockists are looking for new supply because competitor prices may have gone up, or stock is stuck at ports, or they are looking to include products which have a UK origin, which is of increasing consumer importance.
So, remember that your learning curve is part of your journey.
A final word
Margaret Reynolds is the owner of Dogrobes, a passionate business providing an easy drying solution for dog owners and a firm favourite for happy and healthy dogs.
You can find Dogrobes at dogrobes.co.uk