Tell us about your business and how it all started.
Frenchie Bulldog is a leading pet accessories brand and the creator of the first-ever reversible harness.My sister came home with a baby Frenchie one year at Christmas and I was obsessed. I knew I wanted to start a brand around this adorable breed and incorporate my lifetime passion for fashion. Upon spending time with my sisters new puppy and looking for one to adopt myself, I realized all other dog harnesses on the market did not fit properly and the options as far as prints and styles went were slim to none. I began designing my own harness specific to the Frenchie build and invented the first ever reversible harness design. We have since expanded to cater to all small to medium sized dog breeds and we pride ourselves on having the most playful and design-forward prints!
Take us through the process of idea to execution. What advice would you give someone that is waiting to start?
Starting the Instagram page was the first thing I did. I began building an audience before I had any products. I did quite a bit of research before starting the production process. I would meet up with as many French Bulldogs and small dogs as I could and measure them. Once I had a number of measurements for different sizes I put together a rough pattern of the harness with measurements. I found a factory overseas that would make the harnesses for me and then started selling them and advertising them solely through our instagram page.
If I could give someone advice wanting to start their own business I would say, number 1, make sure you are original. Originality sticks, has longevity, and stands apart from the rest.
2. JUST START. Perfection is not real, it doesn't actually exist. When I came out with my first line of harnesses they were far from perfect. But I was the first to the market with this idea and our products have come such a long way since the very beginning. Each time, you have the opportunity to grow and improve your products and your business. Don't put so much pressure on being perfect. Life AND business is all about the journey, never the destination.
3, Don't think that you need to have experience, schooling, connections, or a bunch of money to start. I had none of these things. If you want to make something happen, you will find that way. At the end of the day, what you do with your life is up to YOU, no one else. If you are really terrified of starting, write down the worst case scenario. Then write down the best case scenario. I am a huge believer in writing things down. If you write it down, IT WILL HAPPEN.
4. Consistency is KEY. Nothing is overnight. True and lasting success and results comes from being consistent.
What does community mean to you and how can someone build it around a brand?
Community means friends and family to me. I treat everyone like a friend or family member. This means going out of your way to encourage someone when they might need it, always building people up and giving love, being kind. Everyone has worth and everyone can use more love. I think we have done such an amazing job at creating a community as part of our brand. It's as much about community as it is a brand, they are interchangeable. Our community started because we all had something in common. This something was our dogs. We were all obsessed with them and would do anything for them. Finding your commonality with your audience or while forming an audience/brand will bind you and make your brand AND community stronger. Our community started on Instagram and then during my first year of business I started to host meetups in different cities to bring our community offline. People can meet their friends they have been following in real life and person-to-person / dog-to-dog connection is so important. Humans and dogs were not meant to live behind a screen, we are meant to be together.
What is your favorite thing about your business?
So many things! I love giving back to our community. At least once a month we donate a portion of our sales to a different charity/rescue/shelter. This has been the goal since the very beginning and nothing feels better than giving in my opinion. I love designing new print ideas because I truly love creating and love to incorporate my love for fashion into the prints. I love hosting meetups around the world. I get to meet all of our customers/followers and their dogs around the world. This is so special and really makes us such a unique brand and community.
If you ever doubted yourself in the process, how did you push through?
I remember when I was trying to build the @frenchie_bulldog instagram account/audience. I was trying SO HARD. I spent all day and all night on the app. I would like, comment, send DM's, and constantly be searching for other people/dogs to reach out to and build a relationship with. It didn't happen overnight. I feel like that was the hardest part was being patient. But consistency is KEY. It's just like getting in shape. It doesn't happen overnight, though that would be great! You have to eat healthy, you have to exercise, you have to meditate. It takes being consistent to get results.
What advice do you have for someone just getting started on a budget?
I would say there is always a way. Think about the things you need to spend money on, only the critical things that you absolutely cannot do yourself. I spent $5k to start my own business. It was a bank loan to pay for the products because I had no idea how to sew. The rest of the costs I used my own credit cards for. You will make it work if you really want it. I think that learning all the beginning and small tasks is also important for you to fully understand your business and your customers. When I started I was doing it all - Instagram, photography, up keep with the site, customer service, packaging and shipping, marketing, designing - literally everything. Then once I was at a place where I could afford help I outsourced the things that were taking up most of my time that I could teach someone.
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