When Michelle Burgess started a pet blog, Scruffy Little Terrier, so she could share her life as a new dog mum, she never imagined it would grow into a business.
That was back in 2014 and she’d just adopted Border Terrier pup Barney and in that time it’s grown from a hobby to a full time business.
Michelle sells amazing products for terrier owners from clothing to items for the home and she also has treats and goodies for terriers too.
She shares how she overcame the many hurdles that were in her way to launch a successful brand and how media coverage really helped her business grow.
Michelle has been on TV, on BBC Radio, had her products featured in Coast magazine TWICE and won Theo Paphitis Small Business Sunday.
In this podcast episode we cover her journey from having a blog that she started on a whim to an award winning pet brand and you can listen in on the player link below.
Plus there’s a blog post where you can read the key topics covered.
Hi Michelle, tell me about how you started Scruffy Little Terrier?
Eight years ago I was signed off from my job of 19 years, where I worked as an executive PA for a bank in London, with a condition called ME commonly known as chronic fatigue syndrome.
There was no way I could do that job anymore because of my symptoms.
After always wanting a dog in 2014 we brought home 11 week old Terrier Barney from Battersea dogs home and six months after that I started my blog.
I started the blog because I love reading and writing and it gave me something to do that had no pressure and took my mind off my symptoms. The blog helped me find my voice again.
What prompted you to start making products?
I joined a creative Facebook group which was all about expanding your business. It inspired me to play around with taking photographs of Barney and using Canva to edit them.
One was like an Andy Warhol style picture of him – the one with the four coloured squares and I put it on Facebook.
A friend who was a proper artist commented and said ‘You should sell these’ and it planted a seed in my mind!
From there I looked into selling my own products and I created a shop through a printer’s website, and started to promote on Instagram.
I felt like a fraud because I have no graphic design qualifications but I love doing it and after I started promoting on my Instagram I slowly started to get sales.
How did your audience for the Scruffy Little Terrier blog grow?
At the beginning I had no clue about SEO, I just started writing and getting a feel for it.
Because Barney was my first dog, everything I was learning gave me a lot of content to write about.
I would share the blogs on my Facebook page and then slowly started to build my Instagram.
And this grew from a blog to the Scruffy Little Terrier business?
Yes, about three and a half years ago it dawned on me that having a separate website for my products, which was hosted on the printers website I was using, and blog meant that I was getting none of the traffic from my sales.
So I decided to teach myself WordPress and combine the two.
This was a lot of work and I didn’t feel it was as professional as it could be.
Then I worked with Rosie from Wuf Design who helped me with branding and to find the real niche of what I was offering.
She set up a completely integrated website which I was so proud of!
When you started to look at raising your profile, how did you feel about approaching the media?
I would’ve never approached the media if it hadn’t been for the get your pet business in the press programme.
I joined in 2019 and I was completely clueless at first! I felt really out of my depth, like I didn’t have a story or that no one would be interested.
But I took my time learning and growing my confidence and it really helped me to feel comfortable and supported and grow my knowledge.
Did you have titles on your ‘wishlist’ where you really wanted to appear?
When I did it last January I put on my wishlist coverage in local magazines like Kent Messenger and Kent Live and then Your Dog for my products.
My biggest dream was to be in Coast Magazine because they have two pages dedicated to dogs called Sea Dogs.
Then a few months later after pitching them my T-shirts and sending a follow up email I got a confirmation and was featured in their August magazine, I was over the moon!
A few months later they contacted me again about being a Coast Character, which was a full two page feature, I couldn’t believe it.
What’s been the impact of being in local and national press for your business?
People are really recognising Scruffy Little Terrier more so my brand is growing.
This year I’ve been featured twice on Kent Online and also on Kent Messenger TV online,
I’ve been spotted many times in the local community which is new because I moved there during lockdown so didn’t get the chance to meet many people.
After I was featured in the Mail on Sunday a lady stopped me and started to chat after recognising me from there!
My sales have also increased from last year, despite COVID-19, thanks to the increased brand awareness.
More than anything doing the programme has helped with my confidence which has helped me to grow incredibly.
What would you say to anyone who, like you, has a blog and a community that they’ve built, and are thinking of the next step and turning it into a business?
My advice would be to go at your own pace, my pace was dictated by my health but I have grown my business and achieved things I never thought were possible.
I would also say don’t compare yourself to other people, all pet businesses are at different stages! There’s no such thing as overnight success.
So I started my blog in 2014 and things have only really just started to happen this year in 2021 so it’s a long journey but it’s worth it.
Also, join a community, the pet business community for me has been so important to me because we all help to lift each other up and it is so helpful.
It can be lonely sitting at your desk all day so having people who understand around you is so worthwhile.
What’s next for you and Scruffy Little Terrier?
Christmas has started already! I have two new designs for Christmas which are a play on my two most popular designs.
I’m also hoping to launch more new designs throughout next year and in January I’ll be on the hunt for a new charity of the year and looking to get some new brand ambassadors.
Then of course the second National Terrier Day on March 27th which will keep me busy!
I’m also hoping to do some more PR!
Where to find out more about Michelle and Scruffy Little Terrier
Visit her website: www.scruffylittleterrier.com
Find her on Facebook: www.facebook.com/ScruffyLittleTerrier
Follow her on Twitter: www.twitter.com/MichelleSLT
Check out Barney and Sandy on Instagram: www.instagram.com/scruffylittleterrier
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