Women of Vision is a series of interviews with business women we admire. Visionary women are accessible and inspirational to others in daily life as mentors, friends, advisers, and role models. As part of our Women of vision series, we want to highlight the professional challenges and career aspirations of the women working here in Ireland. This doesn’t require a certain business title, specific wardrobe, or special permission. Women in Ireland have a strong entrepreneurial spirit: the rate of female early stage entrepreneurs in Ireland is the 5th highest in Europe. The agility and resilience of women in business in recent times has been a testament to their strength and courage.
What prompted you to start your business?
I believe dogs are part of the family and just like other members of the family they need to be given time to do the things that bring them joy. For most dogs that means rolling and sniffing and splashing about outdoors.
But wouldn’t it be great if cleaning up afterwards wasn’t a problem?
That’s why I created DogDry – It’s a super-absorbent drying coat that dries your dog as she wears it and keeps wet dog mess out of your car and home.
DogDry comfortably adjusts to fit dogs of all shapes and sizes – pure breeds, mixed breeds, and no one knows quite what is in the mix breeds so that every dog is happy to wear it as they dry off.
Making your life a little bit easier and getting rid of smelly wet towels.
Tell us a little more about you
I live in county Waterford close to beaches where my family and my dogs love to walk and swim.
I had a long career in marketing and innovation with Diageo and was fortunate to have spent 5 years living and working in Africa.
When my children were growing up, I chose to leave corporate life and work part-time as a marketing consultant balancing client work with family time.
I have launched several successful products in my career but always with a well-resourced team and access to all the funding I needed. Cash flow was managed by a central finance team and I didn’t need to think about it.
Founder life is quite different!!
I chose founder life because I am excited by the challenge of starting a business and now that my family is older, I have the time I need to dedicate to it to make it a success.
And on the days when things aren’t going to plan, it helps to know that DogDry really does have the potential to make the everyday lives of dogs and their owners a little more joyful.
I’m also conscious of the example I set for my two daughters and I want them to know that there are many ways to have a successful career. They don’t have to choose between career and family. They can have it all, but they don’t have to have it all with the same intensity, at the same time. And they certainly don’t need to stop when they reach ‘a certain age’.
I relied on skills I learned during my career leading innovation teams and put the idea for DogDry through independent quantitative research among a representative sample of family dog owners in Ireland before taking the plunge and deciding this would be my business and not a side project.
I know that 65% of dog owners in Ireland are interested in buying a DogDry. That 1 in 4 households has at least 1 dog and that 40% of dogs in Ireland are mixed breeds.
For some families, DogDry may be outside their price range, for others, they may never get to hear about DogDry as reaching a national audience takes time.
But, I am 100% confident that the problem of wet dogs making a mess in the car and house exists, and that DogDry solves the problem in a way that works for the dog and works for the owner.
Fill us in on your female founder journey.
Female networks are fantastic. At almost every event I’ve been to, I see women collaborating and sharing information and men pushing themselves to the front to be first in line to meet the speakers and first to ask questions.
I prefer the honest collaborative style of working but when it comes to raising finance there is a lot to be learned from a more male approach.
You need to be oozing self-belief and ambition to get others to believe in you and invest their money in your business. Otherwise, someone who appears more ambitious than you will probably be the one to get the funding.
I have benefited from great support from LEO Waterford and Enterprise Ireland as well as AwakenHub and have been successful in getting grant aid and seed capital to get to this stage.
The journey so far is going well I’d say!
One of the most important things I need to remember is that rejection is not personal. Grants and investments are given to proposals that meet the objectives of the person with the money. Yes, they have to believe in you and yes, the pitch or application needs to be excellent but it may be just that the timing was wrong, you weren’t exactly what they were looking for or there was someone marginally better than you on the day. So don’t let rejection diminish your resolve, your proposal just wasn’t the right fit at the time and if you keep going, you will find the right fit. I find a walk on the beach with the dogs or a plunge in the sea for a bigger rejection is enough to clear my head and then I’m ready to get back to work.
The same goes for finding customers – you may need to hear many ‘no’s before finding the right ‘yes’. “The persistent bird who listens and learns catches the worm” I am a persistent bird.
What does success look like for you?
In 12 months, the business will be small, operating successfully in Ireland and ready for export growth.
Within 5 years we will be selling into international markets via distributors, retail chains and wholesalers and we will evolve the product design over time – prioritising its functional ability to dry a wet dog quickly and easily, the comfort of the dog while wearing it, and the attractiveness of the appearance.
DogDry will be the best drying coat and the ‘easiest to buy’ drying coat in the world. And we will have several employees at our dog-friendly HQ here in Waterford.
What are your non-negotiables? What do you know for sure? 6 words to live by?
I know for sure that life is generally long (85 years on average if you are a woman) and you can start a business at any age. Being older may be a distinct advantage as the fear of failure seems to diminish with age.
I know that most great brands start with a distinctive product and the ones that endure over decades evolve their distinctive product, keeping it fresh and relevant over time while staying true to the founder’s original vision. The business is called DogDry and we will always design the best drying coats for dogs in the world from our base here in Waterford.
I know for sure that humans have had dogs as companion animals for over 2000 years. And that’s not going to change in the next 20. So, with DogDry, for the next 20 years, I’m going to solve the problem of wet dogs bringing a mess into cars and homes all over the world.
Six words to live by: Do the right thing. Have fun