Combine the love of arts and crafts with the love of business and you get the creator of a dog accessory company here in Ottawa called Scruff Collars.
Breanne Williams, 27, who admits she has “a head for business” is the founder and sole employee of the business. She designs and makes custom makes dog collars, ties, and bow ties, using as much recycled fabrics as possible.
The company began as a need, but has always been fuelled by passion. Williamswas unhappy with the cost of larger dog collars, and decided to try making one herself. She got to work and made a custom dog collar for her dog Denver, a lab, dutch-shepard mix. At the time she used an already made collar and just added her own ribbon to it. A friend of hers saw it and asked her to make another; from there the idea to make them on a larger scale began to grow.
“I basically started really slow,” says Williams.
The first real step was a Facebook page. Almost three years to the date Williams decided to make her hobby-turned business official by creating its page on Facebook.
After that it was a sewing machine. For about $300, which Williams took from her savings, she took the leap, and bought herself the machine. She waited until she felt a high enough demand for her products.
One person who has been with Williams since the beginning is long-time friend Alyssa Fleck.
“I wasn’t really surprised when Breanne went into business. She’s such a creative person with so many talents,” she says.
It also didn’t hurt that Williams has an undergraduate in marketing and her masters in communications.
“With her schooling she has been able to market her products in unique ways and has used social media to gather a large following” adds Fleck.
Williams launched her website about six months ago and has an Instagram account as well.
In terms of cost and revenue, Williams tries to get the most out of her supplies. One regular men’s necktie, typically from a second-hand store, costs about $5, she tries to not spend more than that. That tie then usually yields her one large tie, one small tie and two bowties. Priced together, off of her original $5 tie she makes about $38.
Her biggest decision was to go wholesale (pay about 50 per cent of typical retail price), allowing her to buy more supplies, which then caused her to raise her collar prices some. However she says they will never be higher than they are now.
“I try to keep my costs low because that’s why I started this. All goes back to that. I want to stay true to my roots.”
Starting one’s own business can be hard, and even after three years of growth Williams still pays most of the bills from her job at the Ottawa Hospital. Neither job is full-time but it works.
There are also advantages as well as disadvantages. She is a one-woman show, so it’s all on her.
“It can be time consuming, so it can go both ways,” she says. “You only answer to yourself but at the end of the day you only have yourself to blame.”
In November of 2013 she began to attend local craft fairs to help get the word out about her products. Williams admits she wasn’t a frequent craft fair attendee until she started selling at them. Now she makes the most money either at fairs or during the months of September to December.
“I’m a numbers person,” states Williams, “I can understand the business side. That’s been a huge help.”
Her advice to anyone who wants to start their own business is “to start slow, so many people do it because the love it, but they don’t know the business.”