• Alison Price

House of Henry’s story so far: where it all began and where it is now…

Way back in the depths of time (June 2017 to be precise) I had a bright idea to start making personalised products for dog owners. At that point I had been a Graphic Designer for more than 19 years so I knew how to design things, but did I know how to make them? Not really... but as a bit of a crafter and an avid 'researcher', I set about compiling a list of equipment I would need and began 'adding to cart'.

During the course of the first year, House of Henry was falling flat on its face in a quite spectacular way. Having spent many years in front of my Mac serving my merry band of (non-pet-related) graphic design clients, I was totally out of my depth. I hadn't been on social media for more than a decade and even when I was they were personal accounts, so I didn't have a clue what I was doing with a business, nor did I know how to go about finding my ideal customer. 'People who have dogs or like dogs' was a bit of a wide net to cast as I discovered! Just as the panic started to set in, I began to notice that I was getting more interest from pet businesses than I was consumers. Ok... so what if I started making products aimed at pet businesses, to help with their marketing? I had been in the world of advertising, marketing and design for years, so I had a head start there. Right... let's give this a go and see what happens.

What followed can only be described as a complete 180! In July 2018 I changed the business from B2C (business-to-consumer) to a B2B company (business-to-business) and from that point I worked at a somewhat frantic pace for the following almost three years. The processes involved in running an end-to-end design, printing and production business pretty much single-handedly are both wide-ranging and mammoth! I worked like the clappers – early mornings, late nights, weekends, barely any time off or holidays – but I was so chuffed with what I was achieving with the business that it didn't matter how much I worked! Except in the end it did. As the number of customers grew and grew, and the sheer number of products within each order did the same, it was still just little old me here desperately trying to keep up.

So, what to do... take someone on? If I did that I'd have to rent a unit because there certainly wasn't space in my little home office for two people. How would I be able to afford a unit and a member of staff? I'd have to put my prices up. Hmm. I didn't want to do that. My niche as a business wasn't just pet businesses, it was being able to create goo

d quality products in short runs at prices within reach of the one- or two-person business. I had hit a glass ceiling. Cutting a very long decision-making process short, early in 2021 it was with a heavy heart that I decided to wind that side of the business down. I had already been doing graphic design for my House of Henry customers alongside the product-making, so it was time to return to my roots and concentrate on that again.

It's been three months now and wow, what a three months it has been! More about that here...

When I announced that I was closing down the product business, I felt a genuine sense of loss not only for myself but for the small businesses that I had been solving a problem for for the past three years. The support I received via messages, emails and comments was overwhelming, but tinged with sadness that they would have to find someone else to bridge the gap for them. I still get at least four or five messages a week asking whether I have any pet tags left or do I know where to buy alternatives (the answer being no and no I'm afraid).

I am so proud of what I achieved with the business though, I spotted a niche and went for it all guns blazing! I had more than 1500 separate businesses through my order book and made tens of thousands of products over the three years. To everyone who has supported me throughout my journey, a huge thank you! From the smallest orders up to the crazy-big ones, I was grateful for every single one.

I can definitely tick 'running a retail business' off my list now. It hasn't put me off starting another one at some stage but I don't think it would involve the level of personalisation that House of Henry offered. How refreshing it would be to receive an order, go to a shelf and pop something in a box! Mind you... that doesn't sound like quite so much fun...

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