Q & A: Led & Collared
Introducing Led & Collared, a newly launched pet accessory brand with a unique, fully customisable product range.
We caught up with founder Lorna Brennan on what made her want to start her company, tips on launching a successful online store and the importance of well-produced product photography for her unique ‘design your own’ offering.
What made you want to launch a pet accessory brand?
I have always aspired to start my own small company and I am totally obsessed with dogs (like totally obsessed) and I was looking for an opportunity to centre my work around dogs. When I was shopping for collars and leads for my own dogs I could never find exactly what I wanted, so I decided to create my own – and then share it with others.
What was essential to get right in developing the online store and what role did product photography play?
The ‘create your own’ concept came from the desire to make the shopping experience fun and to provide real transparency around the individual pieces of the finished product.
The critical parts of website development were brand and visual design, photography, and the technical build. Product photography was particularly important since each product required not only clear and crisp product images but also images of all the individual components – of which there were many!
You’re based in Wellington and the Asset Factory team is in Auckland. How did you go about using the Drop & Run service and what were the benefits?
The Drop & Run service was awesome! It allowed me to box up and send batches of product to the Asset Factory team as I produced it.
The team did test shots for each product type so we could agree on how each product type should be presented. Once we’d agreed on the presentation, I just kept sending product and they simply got on and produced the images. I really valued the flexibility, convenience and quick turnaround of this service.
What’s the Led & Collared point of difference to other pet gear offerings on the market?
Customisation and quality: nearly all our gear can be customised, which means customers can essentially design their own.
When it comes to quality, we design and create nearly all products ourselves. This means we spend more time on production and pay close attention to detail and finishing. As a result, our products are functional, durable and look great – we stand behind the quality of our products and offer a guarantee on materials and construction.
With the range of options and number of configurations available there must be quite a process in fulfilling an order. Who makes the products?
I make all the products myself – a sucker for punishment!
While there is certainly complexity in offering a wide variety and customised products, I have designed and set up the production process to be as streamlined as possible – and to make the most of system automation.
My online store is integrated with my inventory management system, which makes technical order fulfilment and inventory tracking seamless. When it comes to the actual production, the Led & Collared ‘factory’ is well organised, and I’ve developed processes and templates to make production as repeatable as possible.
What challenges have you faced getting your online store up and running?
The customised nature of our products introduced a major technical challenge around inventory management. The challenge arose as it is near impossible to define a unique product SKU for every possible combination as there would be hundreds of thousands. This was certainly a mind-bending challenge that kept me awake at night.
Another challenge has been sourcing quality components. I buy components from all over the world, and can’t field test them prior to purchase. I’ve chosen to abandon some product that didn’t meet my quality requirements after field testing. This is upsetting, but I am not willing to offer my customers a substandard product, so I’ve had to accept this financial loss as part of the learning process and finding good suppliers.
Do you have advice or tips for others in the process of launching a new brand and online store?
Before committing to an idea, do your homework.
Design, develop and set-up your business as though you plan to sell it. Identify, use, and leverage digital automation as much as possible. This is especially important if you are a small operator – you want to spend as little time on administration as possible.
Use professionals for the things you can’t do yourself; or for the things that set you apart from competitors. I used professionals for brand design, photography, and the technical website build.
Your website and social pages feature a fantastic line up of dog and cat models – what are the behind the scenes secrets to get them to be such good boys and girls?
Hahaha! Isn’t there a saying that one should never work with children or animals?! For us, this couldn’t be further from the truth. All the dog and cat models are the wonderful ‘fur children’ of family and friends. With the help of Wellington pet photographer, Jo Moore, we organised a series of pet photography days.
The dogs were easy. We arranged a series of ‘doggie play days’ where we got a whole bunch of dogs together for a few hours to play. For them, the secret was to ensure the dogs were happy, relaxed and having fun.
The cats were trickier. To ensure the cats weren’t stressed – or annoyed! – we went to the home of each cat (and human owner). Some of our models were none too pleased about being asked to wear unaccustomed gear. Our success hinged on patience, treats and acceptance that you cannot force cats to do something they don’t want to do – so know when to accept defeat!