Today I want to talk about integrity in business. A quality that is very important to me, one I have always had for myself, my suppliers and my customers. I have it in my designs, my social media content and when I meet customers. I am the first to say that I will make a made to measure item because I can see that a standard size is just not quite right!
I don’t ever try to be someone I am not. I have on several occasions told customers with hairy dogs that they don’t need a coat for them!
I started Redhound when I was in my late 40’s and I seriously doubted that decision on more than one occasion! I was signing up to working many hours a week, lots of weekends, having to build a business from scratch knowing it could take up to 7 years to get going and that financially it would most likely be a bit of a strain. Afterall I had been through all of that with my Wedding Dress business - see previous blog Bridalwear to Dogwear if you want to know why!
But, I believed in my vision, to fill a gap - producing well fitting dog attire that was practical and stylish.
Over the last 7 years we have had 4 websites, attended many retail and trade shows, and in so doing, I have learnt what our customers need. While we still do coats for non hound breeds the bulk of our sales are for hounds, mostly whippets. This has been achieved by taking inspiration from the needs of shivering short haired breeds and by what Bruno told me he wanted! I rarely look at what other companies are doing – who has time to do that, and why would I? But sadly this is not the case for everyone.
In this age of information at our fingertips, with some knowledge of sewing and how to use Facebook, there are people who have no qualms about copying what others are doing. In fact I have made this rather easy for some by supplying our sewing patterns – a product developed from a love of sewing and a desire to let other sewers get the same joy making a coat for their dog as I do. While the majority of customers do just that, a few do not, thinking nothing of the breach of copyright and contract law they enter into when they make up my dog coat patterns to sell on FB or on a DIY website - that can be purchased for free! Bypassing all the hard work that goes into designing, producing, and presenting that product to the public that I have done.
I even had one such person copy our images and post them onto their page advertising that they are making and selling them - having put in an order for one of my patterns! Luckily one of my loyal customers spotted it, we got the images taken down and did not supply her with any patterns. These people don’t have any integrity. I have learnt the hard way how to stop getting upset by them. My mantra is to strive for the best I can and to not let these experiences zap my creativity and belief in what I do.
What the copiers don’t realise is that they won’t ever be able to keep up with those who have the ability to come up with new ideas, who have spend many years building the loyalty of customers. I think their story would go something like this:
‘Oh, I have a dog, and I just love sewing, so I Googled ‘Dog coat pattern’ and purchased this great one from Redhound for Dogs. I decided to ignore the copyright warning on it – what is copyright btw? – I made some, took a few photos on my phone and set up a Facebook page to sell them on. I don’t actually know if I am making any money, not too sure how I should cost them, but I am thinking of getting an Etsy shop’
Running a successful business is so very much more than being able to sew! I have had to learn many skills. I am often spinning mulitple plates so that I can provide the very best for my customers and where at all possible exceed their expectations, sometimes to my detriment! I still work at home in the evenings and in our crazy time from October to the end of December, when my ladies can’t keep up, I often take work home to sew on my vintage Brother machine! But I do all of this willingly because my good name and reputation is everything to me.
Some of you already follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter and in all of these platforms I get a chance to tell my story, to show you what we do and sometimes to go behind the scenes. I know that for the right customer this all matters. I am proud that I have a story to tell, that is true and I have never stolen anyone’s design or idea. I get all the inspiration I need from living and working in the countryside, I don’t need to Google ‘whippet coats’ to get ideas, mine come from ownership of such dogs and from the feedback of my lovely customers and from years and years of making clothing for people and dogs.
So, please know that when you purchase a Redhound coat you are getting something original that is worthy of the label it carries and it will never be available on Ebay!
Integrity wins for me every time. I believe that loyalty to those who matter will bring great reward. In our 7th year I am seeing these rewards and thoroughly loving what I do. I am so excited about our new designs and catalogue that is due to go out to customers in September because I know you are going to love them too, because they have been designed with your dog in mind! Message me on any of our social media platforms if you would like to receive one - if you have previously ordered you will automatically get one, because you are already classed as a loyal customer.