Alice talks to Holly Simpson, the brains behind the dog accessories brand that was inspired by her miniature long haired dachshund.

I tried to start a dog brand once, tried and failed I might add. Dog collars I was going to make with a friend, jazzy accessories that could accompany your pet to Ibiza on holiday should you so wish. But it turns out it’s actually a lot harder than you would think to venture into doggy retail, which is why I’ve always looked at Teddy Maximus with a mixture of awe and regret. Where I failed, founder Holly Simpson has succeeded. She’s the owner of a miniature long haired dachshund, Teddy, who inspired the brand, ‘I love to travel,’ Simpson says. ‘I really understand how people love to have their dogs by their sides,’ which is what lead to the creation of their best selling dog carrier. ‘When you see dogs outside shops it’s so worrying. People have actually come to me and said the bag is actually a lifesaver. You can go everywhere.’ I first stumbled across the brand at the Parsons Green Village fete - a high-end take on the traditional summer garden party, where she was manning the Teddy Maximus stall, and noted Simpson’s warm bubbly nature alongside her skilled engagement with customers.

Aside from the seriously aspirational range of leads, scarves, and accessories (there are even now bags for humans), the brand has a very special USP, it is as sustainable as it can be, thanks to its emphasis on British manufacturing and as Simpson puts it, ‘the lack of air miles.’ It’s all about craftsmanship and quality, as evidenced in the handling of the bags themselves. ‘I did a lot of research on suppliers,’ she says, ‘the brass is from one of the last foundries in the UK. The leather is from the London Leather Works… Everything is a bit different. It’s a passion of mine to find those stories from the people we’re working with. It has to be if you’re doing everything 24/7.’

I’m not the only one to have noted the brand’s scalable value. In 2017 Simpson was approached by London’s Mandarin Oriental Hotel to be the official dog partner to their significant rebrand. Now if you visit the hotel with your four legged friend you can expect a Teddy Maximus dog bed in the room and you will also be gifted a neck scarf and dog lead to take home. It’s quite the coup for a brand that only started in 2015. ‘The attention to detail is so beautiful,’ Simpson says.

So how did this entrepreneur come so far so quickly? She worked full time for two years whilst building the brand, and then growth came swiftly when her former employer, Proctor and Gamble, gave her a sabbatical for a year. ‘That was a real gift for a company to be so flexible,’ she says. They also provided much needed support and advice and on hand mentors. ‘I’ve had incredible female bosses, the power of that is huge. My suppliers and craftspeople are also key as they have their own business experience, they have been a great source of support.’

She will readily admit however that the journey has not been without its challenges. ‘It’s been a steep learning curve, a lot of things I have had to teach myself. But it means you know exactly how things work. The best way is hearing from other people so you don’t have to make those mistakes yourself.’

Her mentors include, ‘My Mum and Dad are amazing, they are very practical people and have been key in supporting me alongside James my partner. He encourages me to think bigger and in different ways.’ Teddy himself is also key, ‘the positivity of a dog,’ Simpson says, ‘if people were like their dogs, the world would be a different place.’

Simpson has reams of constructive tips for those hoping to follow in her footsteps. ‘The advice I would give is that I spent time proving that there was a business there before I made the leap. It’s grown over time. Sourcing was really important, visiting factories etc. It really felt real when I got my first samples. Also accept help, there are people out there who really want to help you.’

More practical advice follows: ‘Own and know your brand. It’s about being able to plan ahead very easily. Know exactly how many components of each product you are sourcing. Have a really clear time line of all the different elements and be really on top of how many things you are going to sell. Some things are seasonal of course, so you work backwards, like dog coats for example, ask yourself how many did I sell last year and how many will I sell this year?’

On the social media side of things, it’s hard not to notice how Simpson makes the task look entirely pain free, her posts are full of positive vibes and offer a window into her life out and about with Teddy. It’s clear she lives and breathes her business. ‘I love instagram, and I love dogs so it comes quite naturally to me to spend time on there. Teddy has a better social life than I do,’ she laughs. ‘It’s enjoyable and fun, communicating what the brand is.’ A new range of human bags have joined the range and there is now personalisation available on the doggy products.

As the interview draws to a close I ask Simpson for her favourite quote, ‘many talk the talk,’ she says, ‘few know what they’re talking about and fewer still walk the talk.’ Which says it all really.

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June 2019

By Alice Kahrmann