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I love hearing the advice successful entrepreneurs have for those starting out. They’ve been there. They’ve faced the tough times, made the mistakes, and grown into established brands.
And that’s what Behind the Brand is all about. Hearing their stories. Learning from their mistakes. Being inspired by their journey.
Today’s BTB is no different. For Australian brand, IdPet, moving into personalised pet products was a no-brainer.
Company founder, Katrina Thomson, had already established a popular personalised clothing brand for people; yet it was the love for her dog that led her to expand into pet products. At IdPet you can really tell dogs are valued as part of the family, and through their brightly coloured range of products from collars and beds to bowls and placemats.
Pretty Fluffy took a sneak peek inside their Melbourne studio to hear all about their story…
Name: Katrina Thomson & Max the Spoodle
Title & Company: Founder, and CEO IdPet Australia
Age: 37 & 6 years (42 dog years)
Location: Melbourne, Victoria
Before IdPet, there was IdTee, a personalised clothing brand for people. How did you get started and what made you move into the pet world?
Ten years ago, I began IdTee as a hobby. I had just had my first daughter and just like any proud, first time mum, I wanted to celebrate my daughter’s unique personality by creating something that was special and cool, just for her. I couldn’t find anything that I was happy with in store on online, so I decided to create a custom T-shirt with her name on the front. I then started to get a lot of interest in the T-shirts. I had many request from friends, family and strangers wanting me to make custom made T-shirts for their kids.
From there the idea grew and I realised it could be more than just a hobby. In the beginning I sold the personalised children’s clothing through craft markets and boutique children’s stores and then went live online in 2007. Moving to an online store allowed me to turn my hobby and passion into a real business, whilst still being able to be at home to raise my two daughters.
IdPet was a natural progression. I realised that, just like many pets, our dog, Max, is an important member of our family. Max enriches our lives in so many ways, so it was logical for me to start creating custom made products just for him and his unique personality. Two years ago, we launched IdPet in Australia and now have an online store for personalised pet products and accessories with a difference. Social media has helped get the message out about IdPet. We’ve been able to connect with a lot of pet owners around the world who love their pets just as much as we love Max and want something special just for them.
Lots of entrepreneurs start their businesses at their kitchen table. Was this the case for you?
It was more like the take over the of spare room, which turned into the whole house. It was when our hallways was overtaken with stock that I realised the business had outgrown our home, literally, and needed to be moved into a business premises.
Moving into our IdTee/IdPet HQ two years ago meant that we could buy more equipment and print more in-house. It also gave me more drive and commitment to the brands that had previously just been a hobby.
Tell us about the dog behind the inspiration of IdPet.
I’ve always had a dog in my life, but it wasn’t until Max, my cheeky Spoodle and IdPet’s CEO, that I became an obsessed dog mum.
Max is my fur-baby. He is a playful and excitable canine that is so used to being on camera because of the number of times I’ve had him model a new top, collar or neckerchief. Max isn’t just a pet to our family. He has a different personality to other dogs at the dog park and that’s what makes him, ‘him’. His nose nudges and ‘puppy eyes’ expressions (which he knows always gets him what he wants) gave me an understanding that our pets are our companions and sometimes human- like.
So Max was definitely the inspiration behind IdPet because I realised that if others loved their pet as much as we love Max, then there was definitely a market out there for personalised pet products.
You have a huge range of personalised designs at IdPet – how much are you involved in the design process?
I am totally involved in the design process. I love creating new designs and seeing new ideas from conception through to printing.
We also like to get our customers involved as well. They have a big say in what we produce. We are all about a personalised experience and are open to, and encourage, customer suggestions for new designs, text and slogans.
We also have a ‘design your own’ section on certain products to let our customers be involved in the creative process because choosing your pet’s accessories is such a personal process for everyone.
IdPet prides itself on its fast five day turn around for orders. How are you able to achieve this great feat of customer service?
We run all of our print production locally in-house, from our Melbourne office, so we’re not waiting for outside printers to deliver. All of our orders are processed Monday to Friday and can be dispatched quickly from our HQ to meet that five working day turn around.
We have a great team who care about the business and our customers as much as I do and meticulously go through orders to make sure customers receive top quality.
What’s your best selling product? Why do you think it’s so popular?
Our personalised collars are by far are our best selling product. Collars are so important for pets to have. It’s great for collars to be fun and striking with vibrant colours and designs, but they also serve a practical purpose by having owner’s contact details printed on them, in the case that a pet gets lost.
When I started IdPet, there weren’t any pet products on the market that had a full graphic print. I think this differentiates our collars and makes them more appealing to pet owners. I also believe that offering a range of sizes to suit a variety of breeds and the snap fastening buckle means the collar is comfortable for pets and easy to fasten and remove. Having the option to match the collars with other accessories, such as a lead, I think also makes the collar range appealing.
During seasonal periods, such as Christmas, our personalised gift packs are always popular and our blankets are top sellers during winter.
Do you have a pet friendly workplace?
Absolutely. Max is the CEO of the business and is always at the office. He is the first to greet people at the door with a toy and takes his place on someone’s lap for a pat during business meetings.
He loves to try out all of our products and is always up for a photo session or a Puppaciono. There are always toys to play with and treats for him and usually he has a fur friend that comes to visit. It really is a place for the dogs.
If you could go back in time and give yourself one piece of advice when starting out what would you say?
Firstly, I would say ‘don’t be afraid to ask for help’.
And secondly, I would say to ‘remember to write it down!’ Sometimes the best ideas come at 3am in the morning and you don’t want to lose those gems.
Does IdPet have any celebrity fans you know of?
All of our customers are celebrities in our eyes.
If you could have lunch with three people who inspire you creatively and professionally, who would you invite and why?
For humans, it would have been great to delve into the mind of Steve Jobs, the founder and CEO of Apple, to get an insight into idea development and promotion.
But if I could have lunch with inspirations from the canine world, then I would love to have lunch with Boo, the cutest dog on the internet. He is a celebrity pup and I could learn a thing or two about social marketing from this guy!
Other people who inspire me are those who are not afraid to take risks and follow their dreams. The people who create something from nothing. Those who dare to try and give things a go. Those that choose to do things differently. Positive people inspire me and I would choose these people for lunch any day.
What advice do you have for other aspiring entrepreneurs?
Surround yourself with positive people who elevate and inspire you to try harder and bring out your best self.
Find a good mentor. Someone who understands your business and has ‘been there’ and can assist you along the way.
Give things a go and believe in your brand. Remember, you are your brand, be passionate and make things happen.
Invest in good staff even if you can’t afford it in the beginning, because this will allow you to step away and look at growing your business rather than being stuck in the day to day running of things.
IdPet supports giving back to pets and supporting animal charities. How do you balance business and philanthropy?
We don’t have to balance philanthropy, it is something that is organically part of our business model. We believe in giving back and supporting those that support others within the pet industry.
We are able to give back through our Personalised Love Program to nominated pet related charities and organisations where 10% of our sales are donated quarterly to a participating partner (which changes quarterly). We also have a Fundraising ID Tag program where 50% of the sale price goes directly to the nominated pet or animal charity or organisation. We currently have ID Tags raising funds for Oscar’s Law and every October we support Assistance Dogs Australia’s, Dogtober, by selling and promoting Dogtober ID tags.
We’re always on the lookout to partner with new charities and organisations and welcome anyone to get in touch.
You’ve conquered personalised people and pet goods – what’s next for IdPet?
There is still so much we want to achieve within IdPet. Our focus now is establishing an interactive customer experience online and growing our expanding personalised pet range.
We don’t see ourselves going into other market categories just yet, but never say never.
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