Butch & Bess: Jo Amit
Co-founder Jo Amit shares her dream of turning her natural pet grooming products business into a household name
Name: Jo Amit
Company Name: Butch & Bess
Staff numbers: 1
Location: Greater London
Date Launched: 21/11/2013
Tell us what your business does:
We manufacture natural, gorgeously scented pet grooming products that are free from alcohol and harsh chemicals.
Where did the idea for your business come from?
My business partner (Mark Hirschel) and I were already working in the pet industry (Swedish pet food) and we were often asked if we stocked natural shampoos and grooming sprays – which we didn't.
In addition, my own dog would always come back from the groomer and for a few days would be itching, which on occasion led to an expensive vet visit! We decided to look into creating a unique grooming range that would be natural, anti-itch, kind to the skin and coat, be fairly priced, and smell exquisite (not many dog products do!). It was important to us that our brand would have a strong identity, and be colourful, quirky and offer pet owners and groomers quality without being exorbitant.
How did you know there was a market for it?
We spoke to various groomers, pet owners and online stores, many of whom expressed an excitement at what we were trying to achieve and they welcomed a new product in the market. The pet industry is booming, and we can see that new pet companies, especially online businesses, are sprouting up weekly! Although not many develop their own product – they are looking to sell others, like ours.
What were you doing before starting up?
My personal background is in marketing and branding. At the time of the epiphany, I was working in marketing and sales for Mark– my business partner at Butch & Bess – for a Swedish pet food franchise (this venture of his was destined for disaster, and he walked away from the company, but we took with us a network of contacts that we remain in contact with and who are relevant to Butch & Bess.
We have always supported dog rescue charities for example, and one of the charities, All Dogs Matter, who we supported while in the pet food industry, has remained with us; we are enjoying joint ventures with the charity, and offer a voluntary donation at check-out to All Dogs Matter on our website.
Have you always wanted to run your own business?
Yes! But I always needed the right business partner to complement my skills set. Mark is great with numbers and negotiations, and I am the wordy marketeer!
How did you raise the money?
We each invested an equal amount from our personal finances (ouch!).
What challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them?
Our main challenge is to create a big enough demand for Butch & Bess products, so that key players, such as veterinary and pet product wholesalers, start placing substantial orders with us
We do not have an advertising budget, but through our social media channels and our PR agent’s efforts, we have been mentioned in the Sunday Mirror in the Notebook section just before Christmas; The Daily Mail (we were placed number two as the product to look out for at Christmas); Vantage magazine just mentioned our Stinker Belle product in its January issue in its Pet section; our Santa Paws for Him appeared in the Metro … all this just a month after we launched, which has led to sales and demand.
Describe your business model and how you make money:
Butch & Bess products are made for us by UK suppliers, from our scents and formulas, to our bottles, caps, packaging, labels, and graphics designers and so on. We sell through multiple channels, such as our e-commerce website, as well as through retailers and groomers, and we are presently in discussions with distributors in the UK and overseas.
What was your first big breakthrough?
(When my business partner walked away from the pet food industry, allowing us to do this!)
We're waiting for the biggie, in terms of a breakthrough, and hoping to close with a major distributor in the next few weeks – but our first significant flood of orders came after we appeared in the Sunday Mirror in December.
What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?
Have natural curiosity. Listen to what people want, not what you want to create! Be driven. Always think outside of the box. And take the plunge! I will have no regrets no matter what the outcome.
The journey is an incredible learning curve and the plan is to succeed! You can make a few personal cutbacks, and as long as the kids and pets are fed, watered and looked after, short-term sacrifices could result in a long term dream!
Where do you want to be in five years' time?
I want to have a handful of loyal employees who love coming into work each day for Butch & Bess, which has become a UK household name, with overseas agents and distributors. I want us to have increased our range to include other products in our portfolio, not necessarily in the pet grooming department, and who knows, we may even bring our Butch & Bess characters to life one day in the form of a children’s online educational game!
I want to have earned enough that I can support the animal rescue charities that need funds to carry out the work they do. I want Butch & Bess to be a success and a well-loved and respected UK brand.