The Penny Lou Story - How did you start your business?


Penny Lou UK | Funky Dog Collars, Leads and Accessories | Our Story

If you’d have asked me 2 years ago, what I’d be doing now, I guarantee the words “Penny Lou” or “Dog Accessory” business would be pretty far down the list of possibilities!

You see, I am a Mechanical Engineer according to my degree certificate and started out my career as a civil engineer working for our local council before moving onto a private consultancy firm.  Slightly different, right?

Now don’t get me wrong, I loved my job in engineering, and thrived in a bustling office environment, working on numerous projects, where I really made a difference on a daily basis.  I met some genuine friends and most importantly, I met Jon, my partner, without whom I definitely wouldn’t be where I am today!

But life changes, the world around changes and when I had my daughter back in 2013, life literally did flip upside down for me and my priorities totally changed.  After returning from maternity leave I started a new job and was commuting in and out of Liverpool city centre on a daily basis.  With Jon doing the same but travelling into Manchester, between us we were struggling to be at home for any quality time with our daughter.  Something had to give!

Moving on - Why I started my own business.

I was in the lucky position, where I had an amazing partner who supported me and encouraged me to step back when I started to struggle with anxiety and stress, and after a period of being signed off by the doctor, I stepped away from my career to concentrate on myself and my family.  But for me, it wasn’t enough, I wasn’t contributing like I had been before, and it really bothered me. 

Penny Lou UK | Funky Dog Collars, Leads and Accessories - How it all began, Lord Sugar
Alana and Lord Sugar celebrating her win on BBC's The Apprentice - 2016
So the cogs began to turn and the light bulb moment came from an unlikely place!  A tweet from Lord Sugar, of BBC’s The Apprentice fame!  He was looking for people to become Ambassadors for his latest investment, Ridiculously Rich by Alana, that he co-owned with the then winner Alana Spencer.  Jon suggested that I apply, what did I have to lose right?  So I did!  Although I put it off until the closing day to submit my application through sheer fear and total anxiety breakdown!
 
Penny Lou UK | Funky Dog Collars, Leads and Accessories
Myself and Alana after I was accepted as a Franchisee for her business Ridiculously Rich by Alana

But boy am I glad I did…I was invited for an interview with Alana and she offered me a position.  Within a week I was the owner of my own little franchise business and off I went into the world.  I would attend festivals and markets around Merseyside selling these sumptuous cakes and brownies and I did it successfully for 3 years…it built up my confidence and showed me that if I got out there I could make a success of myself, just in a different way!

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My last real event was in January of 2020, because we all know what happened next…yes…COVID!

Penny Lou UK | Dog Collars, Leads and Accessories - How it all began, Market
Me - out and about on my stall selling to eager customers

Coronavirus literally decimated the markets and there was no way festivals were going to go ahead for a very long time.  I quickly realised that I wasn’t going to be able to get out selling to people face to face anymore and to make things worse, as I am a type 1 diabetic, I had to shield under the new lockdown guidelines!  Things were looking grim!  But with my renewed energy and lust for success I began to think about what I could do next…or at least in the meantime. 

Time for something new - How entrepreneurs spot a business opportunity!

Penny Lou UK | Dog Collars, Leads and Accessories - How it all began, Penny and Me
The day I first met Penny and fell in love!

They say that the best ideas come from your own problems…and I can honestly say that worked for me.  We welcomed Penny our beautiful Cockapoo into our family on 27th December 2019 just before the pandemic took hold, and I remember when I was looking for cute, gorgeous and OTT collars in preparation for her arrival how underwhelmed I was with what was out there.

I had met up with Penny a few times and her cheeky personality was coming through even then, and there was nothing I could find to reflect that other than pale pink, plain and boring!

I made the decision to learn how to make my own and found some amazing tutorials over on YouTube for free.  Dusted off my sewing machine (an impulse buy from Aldi Special Buys – OMG I only went in for bread!) and started sewing.  Now don’t get me wrong, the first few attempts weren’t perfect but I loved them because Penny was the only one who had them…they were individual and chosen by me and that made me proud.

Penny Lou UK | Dog Collars, Leads and Accessories - How it all began, Penny
Penny modelling our Unicorn Print Dog Collar and Lead Set

It wasn’t long before mums at the school gate started to comment on them and ask “where did you get that collar from…” or “that lead is amazing!” and friends started to request them for their own dogs that I thought…I may be onto something here!

Penny Lou is born

It took me about six months to get everything to where I was happy to launch, but I was so excited to get stuck into something again.  Something that was mine, where I could let my creativity out – something I hadn’t been able to do properly for so long!  My inner crafter had escaped and there was nothing stopping her now!

My family have been so supportive throughout my journey and are there to help me every step of the way.  They see how happy it makes me to have my own business and to see that it makes my soul shine to be able to let my creative streak loose.  My anxiety is under control and the stress has all but disappeared, (rising slightly at the moment, homeschooling a 7 year old)!

Penny Lou UK | Funky Dog Collars, Leads and Accessories - How it all began, Penny
Penny - the inspiration behind starting my own funky dog collar business

Having Penny in our family has just been the best decision I ever made – in so many ways – but she is my best friend, and she never leaves my side.  I genuinely don’t know what I’d do without her.  So being able to create a business around her is just a gift. 

Another great part is seeing all of the other pups and pooches wearing our collars, you guys are amazing and I genuinely mean it when I say that it makes my day to see your amazing pictures, and to hear how happy you are to have found us.  I will never tire of hearing your wonderful reviews and comments on how amazing our Pizza Print Dog Collar is or how cute the Unicorn Print is or how smart your dog looks in his Fox Print collar, it really is the best.

Penny Lou UK | Funky Dog Collars, Leads and Accessories - How it all began, Dog Model
One of our amazing pooches wearing our Rainbow Check Dog Collar and Bowtie
I am creating a brand, a place for all those pups with personality to come to show their true colours, to break from the norm and stand out from the crowd – and I hope you come along with us for the ride, I’d love to have you there!

 

You can see our amazing collection of dog collars for pups with personality here.

 



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