Grooming a Business Creates a Barking Success
DOGUE CEO – Margaret Hennessy talks to Inside Small Business about how DOGUE started as a single retail store in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs and expanded into 10 grooming salons nationwide.
ISB: Please elaborate briefly on the idea behind Simone initially founding DOGUE.
MH: The business was originally conceived in 1998 by Simone Kingston, who was inspired by her fash-hound Gulliver. She identified a major gap in the Australian market when looking for unique and stylish ways to accessorise Gulliver and his pals. The concept was fresh, fun and fashionable. It was the first dog boutique of its kind in Australia, which attracted a great deal of media attention and created the basis for our outstanding brand recognition.
ISB: What was the biggest challenge you faced in getting the venture off the ground?
MH: The biggest challenge when I joined DOGUE was the declining revenue of our single retail outlet. We had to think creatively to turn the situation around, so we decided to introduce a new core service offering – grooming and play time. This was followed by a move to larger premises, and once we had the capital available, we were set to face another challenge, sourcing suitable new sites to set up more stores. This continues to be a challenge for our network as we continue to expand.
ISB: Tell us a little about the reasons behind you coming on board and how that changed the business.
MH: A number of factors converged in 2005. I had returned from consulting in Asia and was looking for a new challenge. Simone had decided she wanted to focus on product design and not the retail side of DOGUE, so as a passionate dog lover I joined the business and took over DOGUE Retail. Originally, DOGUE was purely a retail business, and it was starting to struggle. When I came on board, we started experimenting with additional revenue streams, introducing grooming and later, play time, which are both offerings we have across all our stores today. Today Simone is focused on developing DOGUE Wholesale and building our brand through DOGUE products, with our goal to have these sold throughout stockists across Australia.
ISB: How did you go about building a following when you took the business online?
MH: Digital forums have always been an important aspect of our marketing strategy. We understood the power of platforms like Google Ads and social media to build brand presence and connect with current and potential customers. Currently, digital marketing accounts for more than 80 per cent of our direct-marketing spend. When we started our online community, we started from nothing. It wasn’t easy, and it took time, but we had a clear and focused content strategy that reflected the DOGUE experience. We want all our communications to convey our brand values – style, confidence, fun and care.
ISB: In recent times you have grown your bricks and mortar presence – how did you fund and manage that expansion?
MH: We are expanding the network through a combination of new franchises and corporate stores. We are also looking to extend our service offerings. Franchised stores do not require any upfront capital commitment from us – and we actually see a capital injection in the form of upfront fees. We fund the corporate store roll-out using profits from our existing stores which also includes the DOGUE Country Retreat.
ISB: Finally, what advice can you give to those with a passion they’d like to turn into a business?
MH: Starting your own business is very personal, there are no pre-requisites, specific paths to follow or a five easy-step process for success. Never underestimate the value of your experiences – even if a specific avenue does not seem to be steering you towards pursuing your passion, there are always lessons to be learnt and skills developed. These are so important for building your confidence, judgement and resilience, so that when you do find your passion, you are in a better place to make it succeed.
Source: Inside Small Business