When Arlene Millar was told by the bank her business idea was not feasible, she put every penny she had into opening it anyway.
The Arbroath woman had been a vet nurse for 15 years when she in 2017 launched her own brand of organic dog shampoo, Henry and Co.
While still working as the local vets’ nurse and dog groomer she sold her increasingly popular products in local shops and at fairs.
Henry and Co soon became so big Arlene decided to leave the vets to open her own salon and boutique.
She invested all her money in the Allan Street salon when the bank rejected her for a loan.
“It was really scary going from wages to nothing at all, but I was lucky to have a big clientele from the vets, as they weren’t going to offer dog grooming after I left,” Arlene says.
“I took on two girls straight away and asked them to chair rent, because I didn’t have any money to pay them.
“I invested all the money I had, but I can proudly say I’ve got staff now.”
Henry and Co finds fame in Arbroath
The inspiration for her business came from her six-year-old cockapoo Henry.
Arlene switched to organic dog shampoo to make his coat stay shiny, but struggled to find locally sourced products.
The Henry and Co range now includes shampoos, conditioners, fragrance sprays, dematting sprays, dog balm and a new ear cleaner.
The dog groomer says: ” Every year I’ve tried to launch something different.
“Our organic ear cleaner was a little outside the comfort zone of the company that makes my products.
“Within the first six months it launched, we won two awards for it. It’s now our top seller.
“I’ve had to make bigger bottles of it as a lot of dog groomers are using it and go through it fast.”
Arlene wanted Henry to be at the centre of the range and his face is on every bottle.
This, as well as videos the pair made over lockdown, has made the cockapoo somewhat of a celebrity in Arbroath.
“When walking Henry people say hello to him and I don’t even know who they are,” laughs Arlene.
“We also had a woman come into the shop and recognise us from the videos.
“She was very excited to meet him.”
New treat range in the works
While Henry might seem the star of the show, Arlene’s other dog Cooper is about to be heading up his own range.
She is currently creating dog donuts to sell in the shop along with shampoos and toys.
After four years in the Arbroath salon, she has built up a solid clientele from Aberdeen to London.
This means Henry and Co is fully booked from now and into the new year.
“We can’t even squeeze a hamster in now, it’s that busy,” says Arlene.
“I think people enjoy coming here because we use our own products in the salon.
“We also offer a pick-up service in Angus with Dukes Dog Walking for those who can’t take their dog themselves.”
Even with the books full six weeks in advance, a new salon is not on the horizon.
Instead, Arlene’s next goal is to get her products out as far and wide as she can.
“I’m really proud to see my products and Henry’s face among all the big brands on the shelves.”