Posted 2 months ago ago
Lockdown might have been hard for a lot of us, but it hasn’t been all bad - communities have rallied together, human kindness shone through, and many people were inspired to start their own business.
But one person who started her online business in quarantine long before the pandemic was Prestwich dog owner Helen Rogers.
While events might have been a struggle for some to adapt, for Helen, she didn’t see much of a change to her day-to-day life.
When prolonged illness meant she was unable to maintain a normal job and had to spend a lot of time at home, Helen instead decided to work for herself making gifts for what she describes as ‘home and hound’, inspired by her then pet, Border Terrier Whiskey.
Since setting up in 2013 with a felt dog keyring, MisHelenEous has gone from strength to strength selling a whole range of dog-related products, and even shipping to 34 countries.
Helen said: “Getting back to strength and health walking the dog, it gave me the idea of starting a business based around dogs.
“So I thought well I'll just see how it goes and so I started that in June 2013 and it just sort of went from there really.”
Creating handmade gifts was a natural step for Helen to take after coming from an art background and graduating with a BA Hons Degree in Fine Art, Photography & Painting.
“I've always been into craft and my family are very arty crafty so it's pretty much in my genes,” said Helen.
With the help of social media, and the support of other dog owners, Helen’s business grew, also getting requests for custom made gifts.
She told us: “If you send me pictures of your dog, I can make you a keyring, brooch or a bag charm. I work to custom order a lot, that forms a large part of my business.”
With her business growing, Helen then expanded her range and branched out into bandanas and dog toys.
And in 2018, she was recognised by former Dragon Theo Paphitis with a Small Business Sunday Award, something else that gave her a big boost.
But sadly for Helen, poor Whiskey passed away quite suddenly aged just eight with an undiagnosed neck injury.
While upsetting, it has meant she is able to relate to her customers with many ordering gifts as a way of remembering their own pets who have passed.
Helen said “It's mainly people who want to bring representations of their own pet...unfortunately a lot of them are pet memorials. And people want one to either send it to a friend, or they want one for themselves to remember.
“So I do quite a lot of those and obviously I get quite involved with the owners and they tell me the stories so there’s quite a lot more tears involved in the job than I thought there would be.”
She added: “Having been through it ourselves losing our own. You know how other owners are feeling when they lose theirs.”
After the death of Whiskey, Helen decided to get another dog, Border Terrier Heidi.
Heidi became the new face off MisHelenEous, modelling some rather fetching dog bandanas, a product that became a good seller for Helen, until Brexit.
Previously shipping to 34 different countries, accounting for around half of her orders, Helen’s business has been hit particularly hard by Brexit and the added paperwork and regulations that come with posting to the EU.
She said: “It's for small sellers like me who were doing really well overseas, it's just squashed our businesses flat.”
“This is the Brexit reality for a small business.”