England-born New Zealander Jane Boyd discusses demand for pet treats made in her home kitchen, selling those to cafes in Auckland and how her business - inspired by her pet dogs Louis and Phoebe - is tapping into a growing market.
What does your business do?
Louis & Phoebe sources unique and good quality pet accessories, mainly from brands, from overseas; product with a point of difference. I have two small stores; in a Remuera veterinary clinic and another in Kohimarama, and an online store. I also sell wholesale, and I've been in business for a year and a half.
What was the motivation for starting it?
I was a little frustrated with some of the products that you could buy for dogs and cats in New Zealand. I went out to buy a collar and lead for my dogs and found that it was expensive, there wasn't a lot of variety and the quality wasn't very good, so that set me on a path to find some products. Pet shops in New Zealand all seem to have the same thing and also I'm a dog lover so that was the other reason I decided to go down this route.
What's your background?
I'm from England, but have been here 34 years. I've always worked for companies in sales and marketing roles. Owning my own business has always been something I've wanted to do but I never found the right thing to delve into. It got to a point in my career where I felt I didn't want to work for anyone else anymore and so I started Louis & Phoebe.
How big is your team?
Me and I have a part-timer who works in the Kohimarama shop. With the shop in the vets, I look after the store and they look after the sales - they get a sale commission.
You were originally baking pet treats in your home kitchen and selling them to cafes - how long did you do that for, and why did you recently stop doing that?
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From last week that is no longer a core part of my business. It was one of the things I started off with, I was selling the treats to cafes and in the shop, but it has become quite time consuming, and I feel that really I should be focusing on the actual products I'm importing. I made and sold the pet treats for a year and a half, ever since I started the brand. There is demand for them but there is also a lot of competition.
I'm in Las Vegas at the moment, I'm going to a pet expo on Tuesday called Super Zoo, I'm here to look for new products to import. I'm also looking for environmentally-friendly products, that's what I want to focus on.
How much opportunity is there in the pet care and accessory space?
There's a big opportunity - if you have the right products. These days people have dogs and cats but they're not just pets anymore, they are family members, and people want to do the best for them. There's about 93,000 registered dogs in Auckland alone and people are always coming into the store looking for supplies for new puppies, so there's a lot of opportunity.
Why did you step away from making homemade pet treats despite demand?
Just to make a couple of batches, it takes a whole day - it was taking me away from other areas of the business that I could make more money out of. I do feel that there is a lack of products with a point of difference with quality, so I feel that is where I should be concentrating my efforts.
What are you long term plans for the business?
I want to continue to grow the Louis & Phoebe brand and open more retail outlets. I also want to increase my wholesale and website sales so I have three streams of revenue coming in. I find that Canada and the United States are really good places to buy good quality product from, so I want to source more product from there. Next year I'd like to open another store in Auckland, and focus on my website because my shops are in Auckland but with the website people can buy from all across New Zealand.
What advice do you give others thinking about starting their own business?
Surround yourself with good people. Be prepared for the highs and lows, and celebrate your successes along the way as they happen. You've got to be passionate about what you're doing and work hard because it's not easy running your own business.