These Inspiring Women Turned their Love for Animals into Booming Business

Today marks International Women’s Day, and we can’t think of any better way to celebrate than to shine a spotlight on some of the most inspiring, passionate and hard-working women in the pet business.

Without exception, every single one started out with a love for animals and the desire to create something unique that they couldn’t find anywhere else. Then they threw in a good dose of creativity, a huge helping of hard work and a large dollop of optimism, and suddenly what started as a nice little side hustle turned into a thriving and successful business.

To all the women out there thinking about starting your own business in the pet space, or anywhere for that matter, we hope these inspiring women give you the courage to take the leap for yourself!

Sonja and her feline ‘mews’ Percy. Image: Rachel Oates

Sonja Farrell, Founder of Cheshire & Wain

Sonja Farrell had a successful career in advertising and never planned to start a cat business, but then a handsome little kitten called Percy entered her life. Now her brand Cheshire & Wain is stocked in some of the most iconic retailers around the world, including London’s beloved Conran Shop.

Caspian luxury cat collar Cheshire Wain
Caspian Leather Cat Collar by Cheshire & Wain

ST: Tell us about your designer cat brand Cheshire & Wain

SF: Cheshire & Wain is a luxury pet accessories brand exclusively for cats. We specialise in high quality safety release collars made from Italian leather in a wide range of colours and designs and also stock handmade organic catnip toys, sheepskins rugs, cat collar charms and offer an ID tag engraving service as well as personalisation on the collars themselves.

ST: Why did you launch your business? 

SF: I launched Cheshire & Wain shortly after acquiring my own cat and feline ‘mews’ Mr Percy Peter Wells. I was working at an advertising agency at the time and I took a week off to settle Percy into his new home. I quickly fell in love with that little ball of joy and wanted to spoil him rotten but I found very little in the way of high quality, beautifully designed products for cats and more specifically – found it impossible to find an aesthetically pleasing collar that was also safe; all the leather collars that I came across had elastic instead of the vet recommended breakaway catch. I wanted to change that, so I wrote a business plan and handed my notice in at work. It was a hard decision to leave the security of a set career path but I’m happy I took the leap.

pastel cat collars cheshire and wain
Strawberries and Cream Cat Collar and Shell Catnip Toy by Cheshire & Wain

ST: What’s the best thing about running your pet business? 

SF: There’s a famous Charles Dickens quote – “What greater gift than the love of a cat?” and that is the sentiment that Cheshire & Wain is built upon. Our pets mean the world to us, they are a member of the family and we want the very best for them. Having a hands-on approach to the running of Cheshire & Wain has allowed me to connect with like-minded cat lovers all over the world – with our common bond – the sheer love for our cats! When I receive an email or a message on social media from a happy customer with a picture of their cat ‘meowdelling’ one of our products it really makes my day.

Running a business is hard and it can be easy to get bogged down with all the day to day running of the company, the admin that you don’t want to face and the constant need to learn, innovate and stay ahead – you often feel like you’re swimming against the current and it’s easy to lose sight of the very reasons you started your business in the first place. Knowing that the products I have designed and made are fulfilling a need in the pet products market and bringing joy to cats and their owners is a wonderful feeling and it makes it all worthwhile.  

garnet car collar charm cheshire and wain
Garnet Cat Collar Charm by Cheshire & Wain

ST: What’s your proudest achievement in business? 

SF: That has to be at the end of last year when we got some of our products stocked by The Conran Shop in London and Paris. It’s my favourite store and when I saw my collars and catnip toys in their Christmas window display it was such a proud moment! You set so many goals when you start your business, some of them you reach, some only part way and some are never achieved at all. When you achieve a dream that you wished from the very start it means a lot and it gives you fresh drive to move forward and set even bigger goals!

ST: Can you reveal anything about your plans for Cheshire & Wain in 2019? 

SF: The aim for this year to grow our product range and introduce a collection of designer cat furniture. I’d also like to grow the team and bring someone on board to help with product development, and someone that can help pursue export opportunities to take Cheshire & Wain to the next level.

Find out more about Cheshire & Wain at www.cheshireandwain.com and shop their collection in our online shop www.store.styletails.com.

Annelie and Bobi

Annelie Rosencrantz, Founder of Vackertass Supply Co.

Annelie Rosencrantz, along with her two dogs Bobi and Baxi, launched Vackertass Supply Co. in 2016. After taking a break from her job as a photographer, Annelie turned her hand to creating designer goods for dogs with a Scandi twist. The name Vackertass means ‘pretty paw’ in Swedish and her products have become so popular that they are now stocked in stores all over the world.

vackertass designer dog bed
Doze bed by Vackertass

ST: Tell us about your designer doggie brand Vackertass?

AR: Vackertass is a modern luxury lifestyle brand for pet owners that embodies the Scandinavian minimalism. Everything from our beds to collars and leads are handmade in our small studio in East London, focusing on a lot of natural materials and clean simple design, created with both hound and home in mind.

ST: Why did you launch your business?

AR: When we got out first dog I struggled to find the right bed for him and our home. At the time I was taking a break from my job as a photographer so I started sewing some beds and collars at home, trying out different designs. After getting some positive feedback on the beds, I decided to try it as a business.

Leather Hound Collar by Vackertass
Classic Leather Dog Collars by Vackertass
Classic Leather Dog Collars by Vackertass

ST: What’s the best thing about running your own pet business? 

AR: I’ve always been my own boss and it’s great to be able to work from home with my dogs Bobi and Baxi. It’s also nice to be able to set your own times and rules, although running your own business also means working a lot on weekends and bank holidays. I really enjoy this though because I love what I do.

ST: What’s your proudest achievement in business?

AR: It was a very special feeling seeing my beds at Åhléns City in Stockholm. It is Sweden’s biggest department store and I grew up shopping at that very same store. I could never have imaged that something that I’ve created would be on show on the shelves there 10-15 years later.

ST: What can you tell us about your plans for 2019?

AR: I have a new bed design launching as well as a couple of new colours – I just need to find the time to shoot everything for launch! The downside with running your own business is that things always seem to take much longer than you want. 2018 was an amazing year for Vackertass so I’m excited to see what 2019 will bring!

Find out more about Vackertass at www.vackertass.coand shop the collection in our online shop www.store.styletails.com.

Genesta and Taneale. Image George Baxter for Wunderdog

Genesta Gunn & Taneale Hrymakowski, Co-Founders of Fetch & Follow

Friends and fellow dog lovers Genesta and Taneale started out making natural dog treats. Since then, Fetch & Follow has grown into a fully fledged dog lifestyle brand, featuring seasonal capsule collections for the devoted dog lover.

fetch and follow dog coat
Fleece Dog Coat by Fetch & Follow
Reversible Jacket Pink
Reversible Dog Jacket by Fetch & Follow

ST: Tell us about Fetch & Follow?

GG: We set out to create a brand which not only reflected the personalities of our dogs but also made people smile. As Fetch & Follow has grown it has become much more about the lifestyle of owning a dog and the joy this brings.

ST: Why did you launch Fetch & Follow

GG: At the time we both struggled to find natural, healthy dog treats which our dogs enjoyed and didn’t make them ill. Shortly after we launched our treats, we started designing collars that were simple yet classic in design and made to last. The brand just grew from there and now we make dog coats and jackets, bowls, beds and leads.

Ink splatter dog bowl by Fetch & Follow
Green Leather Dog Collars by Fetch & Follow

ST: What’s the best thing about running your pet business?

GG: Getting to meet amazing dogs and their owners and hearing about their stories together. 

ST: What’s your proudest achievement in business? 

GG: For us, it’s the little things like going to the park and noticing a dog running around in one of our Fetch & Follow collars.

ST: Can you tell us about your plans for 2019?

GG: We have some new products launching in the next month along with a year packed with events.

Find out more about Fetch & Follow at www.fetchandfollow.co.uk and shop the collection in our online shop www.store.styletails.com.

charley chau designer dog beds
Christine and Jenny Chau

Christine & Jenny Chau, Co-Founders of Charley Chau

Sisters in life and in business, Christine and Jenny Chau launched their dog bed brand Charley Chau in 2010. Their beds became so popular that their side-hustle soon became a full-time job, and the rest as they say, is history!

snuggle bed by charley chau
Snuggle Bed by Charley Chau

ST: Tell us about Charley Chau?  

We design beautiful bedding for dogs that look gorgeous in your home; luxury dog beds and blankets that are super cosy, stylish and practical. First and foremost, when designing a product, we consider the comfort of the dog. Then we make sure it will blend seamlessly into your interior and that it is made to the highest standard. As dog owners, we know all about mess – so everything also has to be machine washable and easy to care for.

ST: Why did you launch your business?

CC: Charley Chau started as an accidental hobby. I’d searched high and low for a bed for my Italian Greyhounds, Charley and Anna, but I always ended up with sub-standard dog bed purchases that quickly made their way to the bin.

Ducky Donut Bed by Charley Chau
charley chau deeply dishy dog bed
Velour Deeply Dishy Bed by Charley Chau

One afternoon I decided to make a Snuggle Bed and shared a photo of it on Facebook. I was inundated with messages, which led to my sister Jenny and I setting up Charley Chau. Two years later and no longer able to manage the demand for Charley Chau around evenings and weekends, we had to decide if this hobby that we knew had potential was worth quitting the comfort of our city salaries for. Thankfully we took the leap in the direction of dogs.

ST: What’s the best thing about running your pet business? 

CC: Dogs! It has always been and always will be about dogs. They are our original inspiration and they inspire us every day. We love meeting dogs (and their owners) at shows and seeing photos of our four-legged fans enjoying the comfort of their Charley Chau beds or blankets.

Faux Fur Dog Blanket by Charley Chau

ST: What’s your proudest achievement in business?

The rollercoaster we’ve been riding – from making a bed on the sitting floor, to having to customers in 60 countries worldwide to having recently been named UK Family Business Entrepreneurs of the Year 2018 in the NatWest Great British Entrepreneur Awards in London.

ST: What exciting plans and goals do you have in the works for 2019?

We are the final test stages for a new bed that has been in development for seven years. Yes, we are that fiendishly obsessive when it comes to designing dog beds!

Sara White and George. Image: Chris Chen

Sara White, Founder of StyleTails

A feature about women in the pet business wouldn’t be complete without a little bit of shameless self promotion! Aside from an ardent love of talking about herself in the third person, Sara White is also the Founder and Editor of StyleTails. What started out as a little blog about stylish pet lovers has grown into a complete lifestyle destination for modern pet parents.

ST: Tell us about StyleTails?

SW: StyleTails is quite simply the home of modern pet lovers. Back in 2012 when I was working for a design trend forecaster, I had the seed of an idea – I envisaged a place for design-conscious pet lovers where they could share their love (ok, obsession) with their pets in a stylish and undecidedly ‘crazy’ way. And so StyleTails was born. First it was a blog featuring the latest designer products for dogs and cats, then it evolved into an online magazine, designer shop and a little black book of pet friendly venues for today’s pet parent.

ST: Why did you launch StyleTails?

SW: I had an enduring love for animals and a creative spark that simply wouldn’t quit. I noticed an ever expanding array of incredible products for pets but nowhere to showcase them. Pet blogs at that time were focussed almost exclusively on pet care, but no one showcased beautiful products in an editorial way and talked about pet lifestyle. I saw an opportunity to create something new and inspiring so I leapt at the chance.

ST: What’s your proudest achievement?

SW: I love connecting with our readers. We often get emails out of the blue from pet lovers who just want to send us pictures of their furry friends and tell us incredible stories about them. I have also been so lucky to be profiled by some amazing publications like Elle Decoration and Sunday Times Style Magazine, which really validated the direction I was going in (a I lot of people looked at me blankly when I told them I was launching a designer and lifestyle blog for pet lovers!) and went someway to dispelling the ‘imposter syndrome’ so many women seem to suffer from.

Carol & Koko

Carol Tai, Founder of Hoop n Loop

Carol Tai and her canine sidekick Koko are the brains and fur behind Hoop n Loop, a personalised pet embroidery brand based in East London. Their crafty creations have become the must-have item for pet parents and the perfect gift for anyone who loves their fur-bae more than……well, anything.

ST: Tell us about Hoop & Loop?

CT: Hoop n Loop is a hand-drawn personalised pet embroidery brand, creating fun pet portrait embroidery for people who truly adore their pets. Each piece is hand-drawn and made by myself in East London. The unique embroidery is then stitched onto clothing or accessories for their proud owners to wear with pride.

personalised dog cushion hoop n loop
Personalised embroidered cushion by Hoop n Loop

ST: Why did you launch your business?

CT: Originally pet embroidery was only a hobby and something I made in my spare time for friends and family. After being bombarded with requests, I released there was a gap in the market to create more personalised gifts, so I decided to launch Hoop n Loop.

ST: What’s the best thing about running your pet business?

CT: The best thing about running my own pet business is that I can manage my time more efficiently. This allows me to spend more time with my dog ‘Koko’ in Scotland.

I am also able to participate in lots of interesting markets around London, often meeting other passionate and like-minded pet business owners. Many of which I have made friends with and exchange ideas.

custom embroidered pet sweater
Custom embroidered sweater by Hoop n Loop
Personalised embroidered t-shirt by Hoop n Loop
Personalised embroidered t-shirt by Hoop n Loop

ST: What’s your proudest achievement in business?

CT: When a lady got in touch to thank me after receiving a Hoop n Loop gift of her dog (who sadly passed away). She was extremely complementary and told me it was the most special present she has ever received. She then went on to praised what a wonderful service I was providing and to keep up this good work. This really touched me and was definitely one of my proudest achievements.

ST: What do you have planned for 2019?

CT: This year I will be launching a ready-to-wear collection as well as home wear featuring unique designs of pets for non-pet owners.

Find out more about Hoop & Loop at hoopnloop.co.uk.

Caroline and Frida

Caroline Denyer, Founder of Growlmama & Growlees

Decidedly un-delighted by the endless parade of paw prints, Paris Hilton-esque bling, and country ‘twee’, which were in her words “not suitable for a maniacal, bone-collecting half-Griffon, half Frenchie with attitude,” Caroline Denyer and her dog Frida took matters quite literally into their own hands and created Growlmama.

Growlmama camel lead

ST: Why did you launch Growlmama?

CD: When my ‘daughter-in-a-dogsuit’, Frida arrived I couldn’t find accessories that matched my personal style, or hers for that matter. Everything was either decidedly ‘doggy’ (covered in bones and paw prints), overtly ‘blingy’, or very country ‘twee’ and often very girly (all pastels and soft knits). So with this in mind, I set out to create products that were simple, beautiful and functional, that even non-dog owners might covet.

ST: What’s the best thing about running your pet business?

CD: Being able to spend all day with my dog and to meet so many others.

ST: What’s your proudest achievement in business?

Growlmama Nero dog collar

CD: Just getting it launched. It has a been a four year journey!

ST: What do you have planned for 2019?

CD: Some exciting collabs are in the works – watch this space!

Find out more about Growlmama at growlmama.com and shop the collection in our online shop www.store.styletails.com.

Do you dream of starting your own pet business? Tell us in the comments below!

Sara is the Founder & Editor of StyleTails. A writer, design-lover and long-time animal-hugger, Sara launched StyleTails in 2012 to inspire people live a more beautiful life with their four-legged friends. Along with her canine sidekick George, a rescue Yorkie with a big attitude, Sara regularly commentates on luxury pet product and lifestyle trends and has been featured in Elle Decoration, BBC Radio, and is also an expert contributor to WGSN, the leading design trend forecaster.

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