Our latest Meet The Maker is Caroline, who is not just the face behind DogCo but also high-end dog atelier company Hugo & Otto.
We asked Caroline about her beautiful beds which are all designed and made in Britain.
How did you start DOGCo?
The idea for DogCo was borne from listening and talking to shoppers at trade, outdoor/indoor events and exhibitions that we attended as Hugo & Otto.
I looked at ways to still offer the very best of British but at lower costs. And when a Queen's Award British bedding company asked me to help them design three dog bed products, they introduced me to a supply chain that I knew existed but couldn’t gain entry to. Today, I work closely with that maker, Richard in manufacturing at this lower price point for Dog Company (DogCo for short).
We offer the same design process and British manufacturing and British sourced fabrics all at an attractive price point. There are so many products from our practical and waterproof ranges to super warm dog beds and cushions to gorgeous cosy den dog crate sets. The feedback that is coming back is hugely positive and so it's very exciting, a different Ying to the Yang big sister brand and championing British Design by British Made. Everything remains either sourced or handmade in England and we received our accreditation by Made in Britain® in 2020.
Tell us about your dog/s.
We have our little Miniature Wirehaired Daschund, Ottile Lettuce alongside, Hunter, The BYD (Big Yellow Dog) a beautiful working stock yellow labrador and my North Star who will live in my heart forever, Finnbar MacBrigadoon who sadly passed over his rainbow bridge earlier this year.
Finnbar MacBrigadoon was my constant companion, he stood by my side the day we opened the doors to our beautiful boutique Hugo & Otto. He would excitedly make his way to the door when he saw someone coming in, and he was the stealer of ladies hearts. We spent six very happy years together as companions travelling around England for Hugo & Otto. He was a true Scotsman, he was a character and left his mark wherever we went (shamefully he peed on everything and anything that was on the floor)
Right from the start I wanted to find him a lady furriend and Ottilie Lettuce came home at the end of the first lockdown who is the most beautiful soul and she absolutely adored Finnbar. Ottilie is beautiful inside and out, very much the lady with a soft wire coat and the most beautiful eyes and currently asleep on my toes under the desk as I type.
Hunter, The BYD (he is a very big lab) is handsomely handsome, with the biggest of brown eyes and a soul that melts your heart, he is our loyal, happy and wise old man and my son's best friend ( now 21 and at university). He loves nothing better than roaming the Cheshire countryside with his tail in the air and nose to the ground. His favourite pastime is "fetch" he would play it all day long if he could, closely followed by swimming in the river, he dives in like his life depends to catch sticks and brings them back along with half the river which is why at DogCo we have just released our Waterproof Country and Equestrian Car Dog Beds.
Where do you get the ideas for your new designs?
DogCo brings together decades of design knowledge as an interior designer and my love of exploring new places (I worked with British Airways for 19 years in a previous life). Combined with our British dog bed makers, one of the longest established, we can offer a wide range of dog bed designs that have proven over the decades to offer comfort, vital support, practicality and durability and importantly great customer service.
Seeing an inspiring design on a fabric can be the start of a new collection, I would love to develop our own fabrics and designs to offer even more exclusivity of design. Innovation comes with trial and error and working with new products and suppliers and we are always thinking ahead of what we can offer. But, at the end of the day, a dog bed is simple, it's either round, square, oblong, it is just about understanding the different breed groups and how they like to sleep and their needs for a happy, safe and comfortable bed to call their own happy place.
Because we are a British family owned business, supporting other British suppliers and brands and in particularly right now Brexit, I wanted to celebrate and embrace our Great British heritage. Our designs are mainly inspired by British landscapes we see on our travels (when allowed), walks we have done, places we have visited and Britain’s historical archives – take our Wickenhambreaux Snoozeworthy Scooped Front Dog Bed from our Kent Collection, it is inspired by the beautiful cherry farms of Kent with the luxurious touch of velvet and then there’s our Cornwall Collection inspired by the cottage window curtains of St. Ives.
How has the last 12 months affected DOGCo?
It’s definitely added some challenges to our launch journey!
We launched two weeks before Christmas 2020 after an extremely challenging year for everyone personally and in business. Trying to order sample fabrics, test them and have samples made was a very slow process as of course our makers lost staff.
Covid has also proved challenging to British fabric suppliers they halted production themselves and anything that is imported is proving now very difficult to obtain as there is a huge demand for shipping containers worldwide. People at home took up new hobbies and for a period demand for fabric skyrocketed and larger retailers or furniture manufacturers were buying up any fabric product they could.
Shipping of goods, transportation costs have also become challenging as the increase in demand for online buying through Amazon and food stores has increased.
What are your plans for next 12 months?
Never one to rest on my laurels we have lots of new collections in the making, I really want to add colour and print but in my usual contemporary style, and so we are just about to launch our London Collection for DogCo. This includes two new styles of dog beds handmade in beautiful velvets and in six colourways with a choice of changing the middle sleep cushion with nine different colours. This is as near as you can get to commissioning your very own dog bed at a wonderful price.
We are also introducing floor level dog beds especially for low riders like the Dashing Dachshund, our elder states-dogs who cannot climb into dog beds any longer and indeed those who may be recuperating from surgery. They are also wonderful for dogs with thick heavy or double coats who search for clean fresh air as they get too hot but need a bolster for their head. Available in a choice of six different coloured velvets with our beautiful luxury faux fur to one side of the sleep cushion and a choice of memory foam base or the standard layered polyester fibre padding. Dogs adore faux fur it really calms them down.
And in celebration of all things muddy Labradors and our beautiful BYD we have our first waterproof Country and Equestrian Dog Bed Collections for the back of your car, with a detachable kick plate protector with its own bag. The base can is also reversible for when your dog dries off for the cosier fleece and warm side and you can easily take it out to use in the boot room or garden.
Which other pet businesses do you admire?
There are so many British businesses that I admire and so I would not want to leave anyone out but here are a few:
Dog Food: I helped a raw dog (and now cat) food brand called Poppy's Picnic launch which was a journey to witness Dylan in his indomitable style work his magic in marketing.
Dog Treats: Soopa dog treats they are a great British brand who really care about what goes into the ingredients.
Collars & Leads: We love Reg & Bob for their happy colours and durable easy to live with dog collars and leads and Dogs and Horses. I first met the guys in 2014 and since then they have worked their socks off to get where they are today and developed their leather work to their soft handling and in beautiful styles that are also strong and well made.
Wearables: I really like Equafleece they have so many colours, lengths and sizing.
How do you see the future for Independent UK pet businesses?
Having owned a high street boutique and seen the demise of the high street shops outside cities to online selling of giants like Amazon it is a difficult market.
But, some of us still want to buck the system, some of us still want to offer the personal touch, offer work to our young, create jobs and innovate with design and this is important. We surely must find ways of keeping the independent business alive, without the independents, we will not have our craftsmen and women and we will lose the personal touch. We do need our communities; we need our friends and we need a way of good quality lifestyle. Perhaps we just need to look at it through a different perspective, until then, we will be forever here for you and promise to get out on that road when we can.