Patriotic pooches in diamond dog wear and gear
By Ceidiog Hughes
Patriotic pooches can get into the swing of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee party in their very own sparkly bling. Every canine connoisseur will want to be seen at the year’s biggest social event dressed in a sequined Union Jack hoodie designed especially to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the monarch’s reign. Or for the more casual, how about putting one’s best paw forward in a red T-shirt complete with a Union Jack in a heart design? And for really energetic hounds getting readyfor London 2012, you can even kit them out in Olympics inspired gear.
The celebratory outfits are the latest must-haves from a new award-winning North Wales business, Canine and Co, an online dog accessory store for people who love to spoil their pets. It was launched last year by husband and wife team Paul and Donna Condliffe, dog lovers who turned their back on highly successful careers in finance and banking, to live the good life in Maerdy near Corwen.
Conwy Rural Business Support (CRBS) have provided “invaluable” help in establishing their successful new business. CRBS is funded through the Rural Development Plan which is financed by the EU and the Welsh Government. They provide free services to micro businesses, employing 10 or less people, offering advice, marketing opportunities and practical guidance on how to secure funding.
Recently, Canine and Co was named New Business of the Year at the Conwy Rural Business Awards and was a finalist in two other categories, E-commerce Business of the Year with Donna shorlisted in the Woman in Business category. Donna, 42, said: “I was a little girl during the Silver Jubilee in 1977, but I can remember everyone pulling together, what was particularly nice was the sense of community and how people wanted to join together to celebrate the Jubilee. Let’s face it a Diamond Jubilee does not come around too often. Our pets are part of the family and this is one way of letting them join in the celebrations. The line is selling because people like to be patriotic and people are proud of the UK. I want to make sure people are happy and we put a smile of their face, and make sure the pets are comfortable. All our products are fashion with a purpose and nothing is restrictive or uncomfortable for the dogs.”
Donna is also encouraging dog owners to get their pets into the Olympic spirit with Olympic-style jackets for the pet which wants to join in the celebrations for the 2012 London Olympics. Paul and Donna lived in Cheshire where she worked for Britannia Building Society and Paul was an area manager for Barclays Bank. For 20 years Donna covered different branches in Cheshire, Staffordshire and North Wales and picked up a string of awards for her work in a senior managerial role.
A looming merger gave Donna the option of promotion or redundancy and to everyone’s surprise she chose redundancy. “As luck would have it just at that time Paul was thinking of leaving the bank when they were about to close one of its investment arms and he was able to take redundancy too so it worked perfectly and seemed like this was meant to be,” said Donna. “I worked for 20 years in finance and absolutely loved it. I was responsible for customer strategy and I loved working with people, but I have no regrets at all. It’s only when you leave the commercial sector that you realise that life is about enjoying life and not working 12 hours a day and going from meeting to meeting. You don’t get the pay cheque but you get a different style of life. My background was my grandparents were farmers and we had always lived a semi-rural life so coming here was a no-brainer. It’s really beautiful here, I have to pinch myself when I look out at he views. And the people have been wonderfully welcoming and accepted us into the village and are going to teach us some Welsh, including a few swear words!”
Now Donna and Paul have a three-quarter acre garden where some rescued ex-battery hens are also living the “good life” along with rescue dogs Chocky and Champers (the “two nicest things in life”) two cross-Collies about 10 and 11 years old. “Coming from a business background with a degree in finance and business, I knew I wanted to work from home, I loved dogs and I did a lot of research. We tend to be about five years behind the USA and I found there that the pet industry, even during recession, was still growing. Pets are being treated more and more as part of the family and there are eight million dogs owners in the UK alone. People like to buy their dogs presents and you will always need dog collars, leads and beds. It’s a growth industry,” said Donna.
Living in rural Wales, however, Donna also has a focus on products for working dogs. Being an on-line business is also an advantage since on-line sales are growing and it fits in with the modern lifestyle. “Conwy Rural Business Support has been a great support, they really have, when I was setting up last year they were invaluable. Only a couple of weeks we attended a business day in Llandudno Junction where we networked in the morning and attended seminars in the afternoon where we could hear about marketing, using social media, it was great,” she said.
Anna Openshaw, the Project Officer for Conwy Rural Business Support, is delighted at the success of Canine and Co. She said: “We are very proud of the part we have played in helping Canine and Co to be on the front foot. They are proof positive that you can establish and run a successful business from rural Conwy while enjoying the benefits of the spectacular surroundings.”
For more information about the support and advice that’s available to small businesses in rural Conwy contact Anna Openshaw either by emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org or ringing 01492 643159.
Click for more information on Canine and Co or call 0843 2898098.