Digital technology has transformed my business making customised dog coats. When I was nineteen, fresh out of school and working part time in the equine industry, my family supported me to buy my first business, Fair Dinkum Dog Coats. The business comprised an industrial sewing machine, patterns, and two rolls of oilskin and lining, all of which I relocated to an empty shed on my grandparent’s property on the outskirts of Castlemaine.
It was a nice little part-time venture, with a good number of wholesale customers – primarily pet shops – in every state of Australia. But even sewing for months in advance, I couldn’t avoid the high demand for sales during winter, and I found myself working long hours to the point where I really didn’t want to continue anymore, especially once I married and started a family.
Then came my light-bulb moment. Despite everyone telling me I was crazy, I wrote to my wholesale customers and told them that I would no longer be supplying them with coats. Instead I took my business totally online and started selling direct to customers. I invested in a website and established myself on social media to promote sales, which has been the best decision I’ve ever made, for me and for my customers. I am doing less work and, despite selling fewer coats, I get a higher return by selling direct to the public. Before, I was making large quantities and selling them at a lower price to pet stores, who would add their profit margin. Now all the profit comes directly to me. My accountant is happy and so am I.
Another benefit to moving the business online has been the ability to cater to individual customers’ needs. Instead of make up large orders of generic, off-the-rack sizes, I can now make a coat to each dog’s unique measurements. Sizing has long been a challenge for owners of unusual and mixed breed dogs. Recently I added a new range of coats especially designed for greyhounds and whippets – they are booming! I have a steady flow of individual orders, including many customers from rural areas and overseas.
When people talk about how bad shopping online is for rural businesses, I remind them that a rural business can also be online. Because of the internet, I’m able to live and work where I love, while having more time for my family and bringing up my beautiful two girls. What’s bad about that?
To find out more about Elise’s customised dog coats, go to: