Pawsome Paws Boutique: Meet the woman behind the Leeds-based dog fashion firm that's a big hit with owners
Pawsome Paws Boutique saw sales explode during the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic, with "dog mums" desperate to pamper their beloved pooches during lockdown.
Sophie Chesman, 30, set up the business back in 2017, fitting it in alongside her job in car sales, before being able to go full time with the business after just four months.
"It was a bit of an accident, really," she said. "I started off hand-making a lot of dog-related products, stuff like personalised dog lead hooks, I made them as presents for family, then people would start asking me for them when I posted them on Facebook.
"It got to the point where it got really busy with the handmade products. I was sewing dog collars and bandanas and stuff like that, until the early hours of the morning. That's when I quit my job. Then about two years in, we went down the process of getting our products manufactured."
Sophie said that after the start of the pandemic, the business started getting around "20 times" the number of orders. This led to husband Jay also giving up his job at an engineering firm to help out with the business, while the two rented out a warehouse in Leeds, and took on eight members of staff.
So what does Sophie think has been driving all the interest in their products?
"We have gone down the road of doing a lot of 'dog mum' stuff, like dog walking leggings to match the dog accessories, dog walking bags and phone cases, so all the dog mums can match their dogs.
"I feel a lot of people are obsessed with their dogs. I used to think it was women who haven't yet had children, but it is also women whose kids have left home who are obsessed with their dogs again.
"Since lockdown, so many people treat dogs as part of the family. When I was younger, your dog would have a bed and a collar, and sleep downstairs, but a lot of people treat their dogs like little humans now.
"Sales went through the roof during the pandemic, due to the fact that everyone was getting dogs, everyone was off work and the only thing we could actually do was walk our dogs. That is when it kicked off and got busier."
So what's the secret to the business's success?
"I think people like our harnesses because the only other thing on the market is really boring stuff that is really plain, whereas we do really fun patterns.
"Dogs have such big personalities, but they are often expected to wear these really boring accessories."
Sophie has two dogs herself: Reuben, seven, is a cavalier crossed with a poodle, while Betsy, six, is a cocker spaniel crossed with a poodle.
"They inspired me to set up the business," said Sophie. "I was forever spending so much money on them, spoiling them absolutely rotten, but at the time there wasn't that much you could really buy for them, so they inspired me to make all my own products.
"They come to work with us every day, and they are very badly behaved!"