Why did you start your business?I lost my job during Covid-19 and also due to personal reasons I had to move from the Sunshine Coast to Brisbane's Bayside and there were very limited job positions available at the time. While I was looking for work during lockdown, I found myself with too much spare time on my hands, so I decided to buy a sewing machine and have a go at making my puppy Pepper a jacket for winter. I have always been artsy and crafty, so it was good to get back into it again and unleash my creativity and imagination. Sometimes the daily grind of everyday life can wear you down and you lose touch with what brings you joy and happiness. So I fell in love with sewing again and next minute I found myself designing and creating bandanas for Pepper and even snuffle mats. A few friends of mine suggested selling my products at the local markets and that got me thinking. I have always been interested in starting my own business, since I was in my early 20's, so the time was now! It was the perfect time to start planning and starting up an online business, since I had extra time on my hands. I have always had a love of creating things and of course, dogs, in fact I love them more than most people haha! Looking at the dog bandana market on Instagram and online, I struggled to find a dog bandana that I liked, I wasn't a fan of the over the collar bandanas. Pepper is a kelpie and rarely sits still, so trying to get her collar off and then place a bandana over her collar was a real struggle. So I designed my own pattern and created my own range of tie up bandanas suitable for those active and wriggle doggos, puppies and dogs of every age and size. The bandana is also very wide and curved, instead of being a thin pointy triangle, I didn't like that look, I preferred a more soft curve than harsh straight lines and points. I know, I'm picky! But the main reason I started the business is purely because I love sewing and creating a product for all those gorgeous puppers out there. Every doggo deserves to be spoilt and there is something adorable about a dog wearing a cute bandana, I just love it!
How long ago, and how?I have only just started my online small business venture, it took me a few months to come up with my own pattern, sizes and finding the right materials. Once I had the products, I had to start on the website and creating a business, which was all very new to me. I hand drew my logo on my mobile phone, as you can see it is a silhouette of Peppers head. I named the business after Pepper as well, I like the sound of Black Pepper. I did a lot of research into how to start a business and soon found myself loving the creative side of it, making a logo, finding my brand colours etc. I'm keen to study marketing now! I finally launched my website on the 31st of October, halloween, it was a scary time and I was a bit stressed but everything went smoothly. I also started an Instagram and Facebook account as the dog community has a big presence on social media, especially Instagram. I soon found myself scrolling through pictures of gorgeous puppies and doggos on Instagram, they always make my day, especially if I was stressed or just having a ruff day. Dogs just make everything better.
What do you sell?I sell gorgeous puppy & dog bandanas, but I will be branching out to include bow ties (because they are adorable) and also my own range of snuffle mats, which I designed myself. Firstly I start by cutting out the patterns on a length of material. You have to think about pattern placement as some fabrics have to stay the right way up and other fabrics, you can place the pattern anyway you want on the fabric. I then go onto sewing on the ties and then sewing around the bandana, but I have to also sew an additional zig zag stitch onto the ties and around the bandana. This is to prevent the material from fraying and also offers an extra strong double stitch, just incase a dog was to pull on it! haha! The bandana is then turned out, so that the right side of the fabric is now on the outside. I give them a gentle iron so that they are nice and flat and crinkle free. I then sew a top stitch around the bandana, as it gives it a nice look and also is an additional stitch to ensure the bandana is sturdy. Lastly I sew on the Black Pepper label on the bottom right of the bandana and it is ready to be wrapped in tissue paper, sealed with our sticker and placed in a mail box to be delivered straight to your door.
Where do you sell?I sell my products online only at this stage. I'm only a small business so we are not large enough to have a physical bricks and mortar store. You can find our products on our website, or if you happen to follow us on Facebook: @Blackpepperdogwear or Instagram: @Black_pepper_dogwear, you can click our website links on our social pages, which will lead you straight to our online store. Eventually I would like to have a market stall at the local markets in my area Redland City, Queensland.
Tell me about your own dogs - and are they involved in the business?At this stage I only have one dog, Pepper my black kelpie pup. She is definitely the Chief operations manager, she always oversees what I am doing, how I'm going, inspecting the bandanas to make sure they are up to her high standards and also making sure I take plenty of breaks during the day to play with her and feed her treaties! She has to be involved since the business Black Pepper is named after her. She also likes to model some of the bandanas for me, but only when she feels like it! She rarely sits still enough for me to take a decent photo, even when bribing her with food! That's why I encourage everyone who buys a bandana to take a photo and tag us, or use the hashtags so I can feature them on my social platforms. Pepper is a hard model to work with haha!
What's the best thing about what you do?The best thing has to be seeing the photos of the gorgeous dogs and puppies wearing my bandanas, which I created. Just seeing your product, which you put so much effort into, being enjoyed and loved by fellow dog lovers and their pooches is the best feeling in the world. I also like to give away some bandanas to people I know who have been struggling and just the smile on their face when they receive it and just knowing you made their day that much better (even if it's just a little) is so heartwarming. I just know what it's like to be struggling and I always like to let everyone know, I'm here if you ever need to talk about anything!
What was the last song that got stuck in your head?Hmmm I always get those annoying catchy songs stuck in my head, but I must have heard this song while on the radio or something, I'm so embarrassed! I have that old song from 'The Ting Tings - Thats not my name' stuck in my head right now and was singing it to Pepper yesterday.
What's the most recent photo on your phone?Ok this is a funny one, I was completing an order, but my Kmart iron decided to blow up, had sparks, smoke, you name it! Scared me so much I dropped the iron on a bandana and it burnt it! I was so annoyed! I worked so hard on this bandana all day. So the iron is now in the bin and I think I'll go with a better iron this time! I had to send a photo to my sisters and they just laughed, even though I could have been seriously hurt.....sibling love right there!
Tea or coffee?
I love Dilmah tea, but I have only just started drinking coffee recently. I always hated the taste of coffee for most my life, I know, I'm weird! haha!
Thanks Kim, such a great insight into your business. I must be really weird, I hate coffee!! If your doggo needs a bandana - they probably do lol - then head over to Black Pepper Dogwear to check out Kim's range.