Featured Dog Shop: Lifesruff

2:35:00 AM

I am starting a new segment on this blog called, Featured Dog Shop for business owners who are dog lovers too.  And I’m very happy to introduce you to Ginny, shop owner of Lifesruff at Etsy. 
Ginny has been an entrepreneur for 25 years but only started selling clothes and accesories for dogs recently.  In this interview, Ginny talks about her experiences, challenges and joys in managing an online business as well as in taking care of her two adorable dogs, Madeline and Jack. She also speaks about pet adoption and gives some tips for those who are considering to adopt a pet.

How old is your shop? 
I just opened my etsy shop Lifesruff on September 7 2011. 

What’s the inspiration behind your shop name?
My 2 dogs lead such a comfortable,content life …oblivious to any negativity. Their day consist of play,nap,snuggle with my husband or I ,fetch toys, nap some more. I sometimes say to them “ you guys have such a rough life. ” So , the name “Lifesruff” seemed fitting for a shop devoted to dog apparel. 

What moved you to start your own dog apparel business?
I had been creating and selling all kinds of items from jewelry to handbags to aprons for 5 years and selling them at crafts shows as well as at the salon I has owned for 25 years. I had been wanting to try selling in an online venue for a couple of years,but knew that I would not have the time while still running my salon business.

Then this past June, life threw me a curve ball when the building I was renting was sold and I only had 2 weeks to move. I decided to catch the ball and run in a different direction with it. I retired from my salon and decided to open the Etsy store and devote my full attention to selling online. 

Focusing on the dog apparel for the store was born out of necessity. The first pup we adopted was born with only 3 legs so a lot of commercially available sweaters and coats did not work for her. I began making coats for her that would work with her disability, so making dog apparel as a creative outlet was a natural progression for me. 

Can you give us a peek on the creative process involved in making clothing and accessories for dogs? 
When I am creating a new item for a dog, I look at the project the same way I do when I create things for people. What colors and fabrics would make eye catching combinations? What little details can I add: hand knit collars, vintage buttons,pockets , trims etc., that will really make that item stand out. I will often spend nearly as much time with this planning part of the process as I do making the item. 

Another important part of the creative process for me is considering the pet’s comfort. Will the item go on and off the dog easily? Will it be comfortable on your pup ? And will it stay on without a struggle? If the item doesn’t meet these requirements, I go back to the drawing board. 

What do you enjoy most about what you do?
Of course it is creating the apparel then having a chance to work with my dogs on modeling the items. Taking the photos is a real challenge and takes a lot of patience, on both my part and my dogs part ! We are all getting better at it. I am finding I am really enjoying this part of the process. 

Is there anything you dislike about what you do?
I do not enjoy the “business” end :accounting, book keeping paper work. I certainly know from my 25 years running my salon that this aspect of any type of business can’t be ignored. You either hire some one to do it for you or learn to do it your self. 

What was the toughest challenge you faced so far? 
That’s easy. It has definitely been trying to learn the ins and outs of online marketing, SEO and using social networking. This has been very difficult for me, especially since I ran a successful B&M business for 25 years with out using any of these tools.

How did you get over it? 
At first, I was resistant to learning all that stuff, particularly the social networking. I realized very quickly that I can have the most gorgeous handmade dog coats,but if people can’t find them online then they are not going to sell. I dove in and began reading everything I could find online, in Etsy Forums and blogs.  At first it was like a foreign language. I am learning but still have a long way to go . I have ventured into Facebook and am actually finding that more fun than I thought it would be.
Name your top 3 favorite picks from your shop:  
My dog cape/bandanas– these are really fun alternatives to the traditional bandanas done in great fabrics like felted wool and silk. 
My fleece lined dog coats with hand knit collars. This was the first item I made for our pup with only 3 legs so I guess I’m partial to those. 

My fleece lined waterproof dog jackets done in tear resistant Gortex. These come in really handy not just for rainy days. In the late spring here in Upstate New York where we have been known to have wet snow through the end of April! 

Can you introduce us to the beautiful dogs who model your clothes?
My 2 models are Jack, a 3 year old Shih Tzu and Madeline a 4 ½ year old Shih Tzu mix. Maddy doesn’t love modeling as much as Jack does. If I give Jack a small treat after each outfit change, he will model all day long. Maddy is not quite so patient. 

Were they adopted? 
Yes, both were adopted from situations where they were not wanted because of being born with a disability. 

Can you tell us more about about them?
Madeline was our first adoption. At 7 weeks , she was about to go to the local pound because she had been born with only 3 legs and no one would take her. I went to just take a look at her, she came hopping over to me on those 3 legs and hopped right in my lap as I sat on the floor. 

Of course, I fell in love with her! I was a little concerned about her getting around but she has adapted and can keep up with other dogs just fine. She was such a joy that about a year later, we decided to look for another pup with a disability.  

We found Jack who was born with only 1 eye. Jack is a bit timid and is afraid of almost any loud noise ( perhaps that is because of his limited vision) but they are both very smart, loving dogs. 

Why did you choose to adopt?
The first adoption was a total fluke. We were not looking for a pup,but when I heard about Maddy, I just had to go see her. We really wanted to give a dog that had been rejected by someone else , a secure loving home. 

Why should people not be afraid to adopt? 
I wish more people would adopt from a shelter or an individual who no longer wants the pet, or a rescue group. I don’t think that people should be afraid of doing this or adopting a pet with a disability because, I truly believe that these pets somehow know that they have been given a second chance. I think there is a special bond created with these special pets and they will love you unconditionally forever. 

What advice can you give to people who are considering pet adoption?
First and foremost is to consider the dog’s needs first. How much time do you have to devote to training the dog? Is it a breed that needs a lot of exercise? Make sure those types if things mesh with you and your family’s life style. 

What tips can you give to other dog owners?
Patience, patience and more patience! Consistent enforcement of training and behavior rules by every member of the household. If you have more than 1 dog, treat them as individuals in the training process. 

I leaned this the hard way when training Jack. I tried to use the exact same techniques on him that were so successful with Maddy. This didn’t work at all. I had to let go of my frustration and use totally different methods with Jack. They are really no different than people with each having their own personalities. 

Businesswise, what tips would you want to share for aspiring home based entrepreneurs like you?
You have to learn to balance your time in a home based business. I am still learning how to do this myself. Some days I literally start at 8am and am still on the computer at 8pm….7 days a week. I have been trying to schedule blocks of time through out the day for myself, my husband, my pets and sometimes even housekeeping! 

By the same token,having your business in your home provides a lot more distractions to the operation of your business. If you have orders to fill and laundry piling up you may have to just let the laundry go another day or two. 

Where else can we find you online? 
Facebook: Lifesruff 

Any message to your customers and the people who support you?
I would love to connect with other owners of pets with disabilities and owners of adopted pets on Facebook. I have posted an open invitation on my page to post your stories and a picture or even a video of your pet.
If you have a dog, please check out Lifesruff. They are offering Free Shipping on everything, just enter the code found on top of this page.  
Thanks so much Ginny! 
Do you sell products for dogs?
Do you love dogs?
If you would like to be featured on this blog, 
email me at squishedbugsmoothie@gmail.com

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