Barking up the right tree

Barking up the right tree

Natural pet care brand HOWND is looking to set tails wagging across the globe after already cementing its place as one of the UK’s leading pet care brands.

Mark Hirschel and Jo Amit, the entrepreneurs behind natural pet care brand HOWND, have been on quite an adventure to reach where they are today.

Back in 2012, the dog-loving duo from Borehamwood spotted a niche in the UK pet industry for natural dog grooming sprays and shampoos.

In addition, the seasoned pet product professionals noticed that their own dogs - Roxy and Laila - often returned from the groomers with itchy and irritated skin.

After a few expensive trips to the vet, both Mark and Jo knew there must be a better way to care for their pets - and HOWND was born.

“Our original dog grooming brand, Butch & Bess, was inspired by our first-hand experience of existing dog grooming products,” explains Jo.

“The happiness and well-being of our pets is absolutely paramount, so we decided to create an anti-itch and fairly priced range that had fantastic scents.

“Once we launched our products, we built a loyal following of dog grooming professionals who loved working with our conditioning shampoos, coat sprays, ‘Keep Calm’ and ‘Yup You Stink’, and a range of natural pet perfumes ‘Peach Bum’ and ‘Butch Leather’.”

After a period of steady growth, Jo and Mark decided to have a go at pitching their business to Peter Jones, Duncan Bannatyne, Deborah Meaden, Kelly Hoppen and Piers Linney of popular BBC show Dragons’ Den in a bid to further grow the business.

Despite not receiving investment, the pair received some positive feedback about the fragrance and application of their products, plus some useful advice about future branding for the company.

This experience, in addition to opinions gathered from respected industry professionals, led to Jo and Mark rebranding Butch & Bess as HOWND, under a new parent company called Power Pet Brands Ltd.

Jo told BQ: “The company has grown more than threefold since we rebranded. Prior to the rebrand, we offered pretty much a niche line of products.

“We decided we needed to offer the same quality formula in our grooming range with a more commercial look that would appeal to the mass market. Our sales have since tripled in size.”

The decision to completely overhaul the brand proved to be a shrewd one and before they knew it, demand for their produce started to soar.

“We secured a purchase order from Pets at Home as soon as we rebranded.  We by-passed the need for store trials and went straight into all 400 stores nationwide with 10 product SKUs as the chain’s go-to premium brand on shelf.

“For a freshly launched brand like HOWND, this represented a major coup and shows the belief the sales team had in us as brand owners as well as our products.”

The deal with Pets at Home proved a major success and the duo started to receive enquiries from retailers across the UK ranging from independently owned pet salons to high street retailers.

It also spurred the duo on to explore new product lines and the company has since introduced doggy perfume and cologne as well as specially designed doggy wet wipes to their range of shampoo's and body mist's.

“We now have around 1,000 stockists dotted around the UK who have the option of buying direct from us or alternatively from several leading pet product wholesalers we supply,” Jo added.

“This includes leading professional grooming salons who use our 25:1 Professional range in their salons and who also stock our consumer range.

“Our largest retailer though remains Pets at Home where HOWND is sold in all 400 stores nationwide, and other large online retailers include Amazon, Waitrose Pet, Ocado, Fetch, and Pets Pyjamas.”

After a year of solid growth and with its portfolio of stockists continuing to grow, the duo are expecting another solid year ahead as they continue to grow the business and bring new products to market.

Mark added: “This year we are hoping our sales will be close to four times what we achieved in 2015. Along with building sales and brand exposure through powerful marketing and social media channels, new product development is very important for us.

“Our company strap line of ‘Ethical Products for Happy Hounds’ clearly defines us as a company and it’s important that all new products we bring to market adhere to this.”

And it doesn’t stop there. As well as strengthening the company’s position in the domestic market, the duo also have their eye on overseas markets.

“We are just starting our export journey and currently have a few distributors in Eastern Europe with growing interest in different regions,” said Mark.

“There is growing interest for our brand in America and we are considering a few options to make sure our sales strategy is handled correctly.

“We are also in the final stages of entering the premium Chinese market in a deal that should significantly improve our cash flow and allow us to produce higher volumes to meet growing demand.”

Asked where she sees the brand in three years time, she concluded: “HOWND will be the leading ethical brand for health oriented dog products.

“We take great pride in developing products that redefine existing product categories and increase the happiness and well-being of all dogs.

“The brand will be well established in the UK, Europe, China, and America with a larger product portfolio covering multiple categories. Hopefully our ambition, creativity and hard work will pay off!”