Surfdog Australia Story
My friends really liked my idea and I made them Drying Coats too. They made them smile a lot … Suddenly I saw an opportunity.
But if I was going to sell them they had to be good. A wise man once told me "there is no more room in the world for stuff, products should be good looking but have a purpose" this is always in the back of mind in my business.
It took months to find the best fabric (I thought they would have to be beautiful cotton but this got so heavy when wet). I learnt about weaves and absorbency. (They had to be the best they could be.) Captain started to stand still whenever I appeared in the room with a piece of fabric and he would patiently stand whilst I pinned fabric around him.
I played with with the shape and added the tail hole as I knew dogs were not happy if they could not display their tails. They had to fit and be comfortable and not too fiddly as I had a bad back and couldn't bend over for long! I then started to make just yellow in large.
And so Surfdog was created.
Within 6 months I was looking for manufacturers to help me. I was devastated to find that I could not manufacture in Australia. I contacted just about every textile company, towelling brand, and clothing company, including all those well known Australian Brands that make towels. I learnt a lot about the industry. I applied for a small businesses grant ... haha! well that never happened. I learnt the difference between retailing manufacturers that create their own designs (like me!) who retain their own intellectual integrity but have to manufacture overseas to exist, and those that simply buy from overseas with no intellectual interest in products but sell them as their own. A big difference being that those that create their own products (like me!) bring revenue to Australia, whereas the latter make a huge amount for overseas companies.
Looking back Im not sure how I managed it? But I have always been a bit of a terrier and will not give up easily. I had no choice but to look overseas. I had done some costings for making them here with a small workshop but the finished cost per drying coat came out at about $350. I contacted numerous overseas manufacturers, in Turkey, China and India (all who had an impressive client list and good practices) and started a dialogue with them. After about 6 months of sampling and discussion I was able to select one that just cared a bit more about making my products well and who understood my patterns and specifications. The first time I manufactured it was for Yellow Coats in medium and large.
This was before the days of Instagram so getting your brand out there needed different ideas to get new customers.
I invested in a really cool Chevy Ute which drew a lot of attention! I roamed around the beaches of Perth to show off my products and Captain was a fabulous ambassador. I also did a lot of markets and met a lot of dog owners. I enjoyed seeing how they loved my coats and listened to their suggestions and ideas and also had an opportunity to see them on dogs of all shapes and sizes.
Here is Captain in my Ute parked at Port Beach in Fremantle where he received lots of compliments. Wearing my now famous Yellow Large, which continues to be my top seller.
For my first few years I wholesaled my coats. But in the past 10 years the pet industry has sadly changed so much with arrival of the pet mega stores and the demise of many of the boutique pet shops. So these days I just sell direct from my home in Western Australia.
I am passionate about quality. I am also obsessive about service. My customers must be happy.
Here's me at work with little Mouse.
I am grateful to all my customers for sending me photos, not just to use on my website but to help me to continue to improve. I use these images to check the shape, size and design of everything I make. I am humbled by the wonderful messages and time they take to send me photos of their dogs and feel like I know all of the dogs that wear my coats personally.
Sadly my beautiful boy Captain left me in 2018 at the age of 17. Little Tinkerbell left me in 2021 also 17. Both such gentle spirited souls who loved nothing more than to run on the beach.
I still have little 'Mouse' who is the face on my logo. One ear up and one ear down. She came into our lives to mend a broken heart and ended up staying. She is a beach lover too and full of attitude so she became our logo.
I was fortunate to find a new chief Surfdog, and soul mate in my Groodle girl 'India' who is now my chief model at Surfdog. She too loves the beach and her coat is even more high maintenance. I do not know how I could cope without my Drying Coats.
I take great pleasure in making you and your dogs happy.
Captain is always with me. Every time I sell a robe it is great way of celebrating his life. I include a secret hug in each robe... and the dogs seem to know it.
Sara, Mouse, India and always with me.... Captain and Tinkerbell x