Just nine months ago Kate Brown decided to ditch her former career and launch a new business selling bespoke dog beds and accessories. Here, she talks about how she’s made it such a success...
A year ago Kate Brown was working as a cake decorator, struggling to finish orders before the early hours of the morning and spend enough time with her three young children. But when she adopted two puppies, her life totally changed.
“I adopted Mackie, a Chocolate Labrador, and Henley, a Hungarian Vizsla,” says Brown. “I wanted to spoil them with gorgeous collars and new beds, but was shocked at the lack of beautiful dog accessories available. I was at a crossroads career-wise, and had always had a passion for supporting rescue animals; launching Henley & Co in September 2017 became the perfect solution to all of the above.”
Keen to offer good quality, practical and beautiful products for dogs, Brown set about designing products, such as the cave comforter bed, the ombre rope collars and the rose gold collars which her children helped her design.
“I wanted to run a business I could involve my children with,” she says. “They’re animal lovers, too, so I sat them down and got them drawing. I’ve loved watching them take an interest in how ‘their’ collars are selling, and watching the business grow.”
These initial products have all remained best-sellers. “I credit the unexpected and sudden growth of Henley & Co to being spot on with the products we started with,” says Brown. Her sense of humour has also stood her in good stead with the Haute Diggity Dog range proving extremely popular, especially with Insta-famous pooches.
“We consider ourselves a boutique store with boutique products, but when it comes to pets, I don’t know if you can really take it all that seriously,” she says.
Kate Brown attributes the sudden growth of her boutique dog accessories brand to being spot on with her products, such as Henley & Co's oversized dog sofa bed.
Brown started off dispatching products from her living room, but when orders started overtaking her house, she hired a small warehouse to work from. “It’s grown beyond anything I ever imagined,” she says.
“It’s been wonderful in one sense and extremely stressful in another. Feeling overwhelmed and under-prepared really threw me, initially. But I’m lucky to have a supportive and dedicated team behind me, as well as fabulous family and friends who have supported me.”
The success of the business has meant Brown has been able to fulfil another of her passions – charity work. “I think if you’re fortunate enough to be in a position to help others, then you should,” she says.
“I’ve always been passionate about helping abandoned or homeless animals, and since launching the business we have donated more than 600 dog beds, blankets, and bowls to the RSPCA, which is a retail price in excess of $250,000. We’ve also donated to smaller charities such as Second Chance Animal Rescue, Save A Dog Scheme, Australian Working Dog Rescue (AWDRI) and the Australian Animal Protection Society. We’re also very proud to be corporate sponsors of RSPCA Victoria.”
The success of Henley & Co has meant that Brown can fulfill her passion for charity work. Her dog accessories brand has so far donated over 600 dog beds, blankets and bowls to the RSPCA!
Brown’s day revolves around Henley & Co and her children. “Like most mums with school-age children I feel I’ve already completed a day’s work by 8.30am! That’s the hard part of my day over though, and after the school drop-off most of the day is spent responding to emails, dealing with suppliers, shipping agents, doing dispatches and marketing for the business.
I pick the kids up at 3.30pm and apart from maybe having to get a few urgent orders out, the afternoon is dedicated to them, with some spare time, cooking dinner together, homework, baths, reading and bed. Once they’re asleep at 9pm I get back into business mode and design and research until early hours of the morning.”
Brown has big plans for the future. “We’re about to launch a cat range. I’d love to see Henley & Co stockists worldwide, and expand our Rescue affiliations worldwide, too.” But for now she’s enjoying the ride.
“I ventured into Henley & Co completely blind,” she says. “My ambition and drive - coupled with impatience - had me launching possibly earlier than I was prepared for. But maybe sometimes you just have to jump in at the deep end. There have definitely been challenges, and it’s been a huge investment and risk, but also one I’m hoping will continue to pay off. If nothing else, I’m very grateful to be doing something I love every day.”
We love our boutique designers at The Myer Market. Thanks to Kate Brown, owner of bespoke dog accessories brand Henley & Co for chatting with us!
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