Dog Rocks UK began trading in November 2006 selling an Australian product, which prevents pet urine burn patches on lawns, grass and hedges. 10 years on, having established itself in the UK, the company is now selling its goods across Europe and North America. BQ caught up with CEO Carina Evans to see how she made it happen...
Selling initially online, Dog Rocks has since moved on to sell through distributors and retailers in the UK, European and North American pet, vet and gardening markets.
With exports growing by 273% over the past three years and its proportion of overseas to total sales growing from 14.6% to 44%, this is a huge achievement for a company which only employs six members of staff.
“Dog Rocks was launched in 2005 by a team of elite level athletes from different sporting backgrounds – Carina Evans, Nick Evans and Andrew Hine,” Carina told BQ.
“We initially began with Dog Rocks which is an Australian product after the original founder of Dog Rocks wanted to expand into the UK market.
“Our team were the lucky ones to be granted the opportunity. We made it a success in the UK and expanded into Europe and then America. Since then we have taken on several new lines of products too.”
Having cemented its place as a leading UK distributor, the company went on to explore overseas opportunities in 2008 and has never looked back since.
“Dog Rocks UK Distribution Ltd has been exporting for eight years,” added Carina. “We first started in the EU. Our first trade show was in Germany in 2008. We now regularly sell to Italy, France, Switzerland, Belgium and Hungary to name just a few.
“In 2012 we had our first trade show in America and things have simply grown from there. We now ship all over the USA and Canada from a central warehouse. As a result we set up the company Dog Rocks USA LLC.”
Speaking about what initially inspired them to start exporting, she said: ““Honestly, we wanted to spread the love! Attending trade fairs is an important element of our business growth and product innovation.
“We were constantly meeting buyers who wanted our products. It seemed a natural progression to aim to meet the demand. This meant that we had to spend considerable time looking into both the European and North American markets seriously, visiting more trade shows to assess demand and talking to potential distributors and retailers.
“We decided to take the plunge and have not looked back. When we moved to the American market we built the foundations in the same way as we did for the European market. We followed the exact same business model and so far it’s worked.
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"The main factor that persuaded us to take the leap of faith was the fact that North American buyers recognised the uniqueness of our products, saw the gap in the market for them, had faith in them with their strong European sales history and were true to their word and bought!”
Expanding into new markets brings with it challenges for any business and Dog Rocks was no different.
“The challenging factors for overseas trade take several forms. You have to set everything up from scratch again therefore, you have to find ways to ship the product, the cost of shipping, how to overcome the language barrier and dealing with different currencies.
“Furthermore, dealing with things at arm’s length is harder. When moving into the European and American market we had to set up the infrastructure needed in terms of banking, insurance, staff, warehousing and logistics. This all has to be carefully thought through. We have wonderful partners now, especially for logistics and warehousing but we did have teething problems.
“For recruitment purposes it is extremely difficult to find hard working colleagues who share similar work ethics. This is an ongoing problem but one we solved by putting into place targets, KPIs & staff training programmes to enfranchise personnel.”
Luckily Evans was able to seek support to help her overcome the challenges and found funding and advice easy to come by.
“We have been lucky enough to have been awarded several trade show funding grants in September 2014 (Overseas Exhibiting UK Trade Grant and Petquip Grant), May 2013 (Global Pet 2013 Grant) and July 2012 (Interzoo Grant).
“This meant we had extra finance to go and visit our customers to get them on board with our products. It was really beneficial. UKTI have been a great support overall.”
Speaking about what advice she’d give to other businesses looking to explore exporting, she said: “Write a business plan and be prepared to change and adapt according to how things are going in the market and your changing understanding of that market.
“Know the size of your market, understand demand and how the market is serviced, take a long hard look at the products you have, ensure they have sufficient USP to make it in that market and differentiate yourself from competitors.
“We would recommend getting a professional to translate your informationmarketing material and don’t rely on online tools to help.”
As the company continues to grow and expand its global footprint, it is now eyeing new markets as it looks to increase its market share.
Speaking on the company’s expansion plans, she added: “Asia Pacific markets and further penetration into North American market sectors are aims we have in our 3 year plan.
“In addition, we have an excellent infrastructure and I am proud to have put that in place. With this solid foundation I am confident that our path lies in sourcing new and innovative solutions and services to fulfil our mission.”
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