Fourpaws OuterWear make and sell a beautiful range of dog accessories. We spoke to Nikki, the brains and inspiration behind the American brand to find out more.
If you follow us on Instagram, you probably won’t have failed to notice that Poppy is often sporting a rather snazzy bandana.
Being the fashionista that she is, she has a pawdrobe to make every pup in the park green with envy.
I think at the last count she had well over 30 bandanas. The lions share of which are from Fourpaws Outerwear.
Over the years, I’ve got to know Nikki really quite well. We’ve enjoyed many a late-night conversation over Instagram messenger! Nikki lives in Las Vagas, and despite the time difference, we often find time to catch up and chat about all things dog!
I caught up with Nikki to find out a bit more about her fabulous dog accessories brand. As always, I also saw it as a good excuse to share some favourite photos of my girls.
When did you decide to start your own business making dog accessories, and what gave you the inspiration?
After getting a college degree in economics, I embarked on a couple of graduate degrees and pursued a few jobs in my degree field. I realised the only way I was going to find stable employment was to become my own boss.
The prospect at first seemed a little daunting and intimidating because it’s all on your shoulders to create, produce and market everything.
As for the logistics of running a business, I was able to hit the ground running because of my previous work experience. I was already knowledgeable about shipping, product presentation and pricing products for the market you’re appealing to.
My Mom has also been my rock throughout all this. Collaborating on ideas and assisting me financially. I couldn’t truly have done this without her. I don’t believe anyone can do something like this completely on their own.
Your bandanas and dog accessories are most definitely a cut above the rest. They are always such a perfect fit and beautifully made. What do you do differently?
I always try to pick out fabric and thread that’s of good quality, that’s the most important part. Often cotton fabrics can be thin or the print is of poor quality, so they won’t last over time. Quality threads are also important, some thread is so cheap, it shouldn’t be called thread. You might be able to use it for floss and that’s it!
For me, going to the fabric store is very important. I need to be able to touch it, feel it, look and think, would I put this on my pets?
I did a lot of research on pet sizes too. Trying to find out what the average neck and body size would be depending on the breed. Then, with that research in mind, I created patterns where each size can fit a range of neck sizes. This was a process that took me a while. It didn’t happen overnight, but if you’re persistent, you can usually figure out a way to find the answers you need. Those little things called search engines also help!
You also make the most adorable doggy jumpers, leads and collars. What do you enjoy making the most and why?
The jumpers or sweaters are probably my favourite. I love the pattern creation that’s involved initially in the process. I get an idea, sketch out the pattern on graph paper and see if it works. Sometimes I wind up working with five or six different yarns to create a fair isle pattern, so it’s always rewarding when everything comes together the way you envisage it.
To be honest, though, I never really know if a pattern will look good on a sweater until I’m halfway through. Then I can stand back, look at the work and see if the pattern makes sense where I’ve placed it on the jumper or sweater. If it doesn’t, I make the necessary corrections.
I also love the creative process that comes together when choosing colours for the jumpers or sweaters. Considering what would look good for male or female. What colours blend well together, are in at the moment and what’s the current season.
Sometimes I go through several combinations before I get a colour scheme that I think will work. I do this before I knit as I don’t want to regret the initial colour choices and loose the work I just completed.
You’ve said before that most of your customers are based here in the U.K. How do you think us Brits treat our dogs differently from the Americans?
Brits have definitely integrated pets into their lives more than Americans. That’s not to say that pets are important here. We don’t have the restaurant, shopping and entertainment cohabiting that Brits do.
You still have to call to find out if your pets can be accepted at a hotel, entertainment venue or if the restaurant or shop allows pets. The other confusing part is that some places do accept pets, but there is no clear stated policy out front of the store/restaurant/hotel etc.
I think though, it’s becoming an underserved market here. For those of us Generation X and Millennials who didn’t have children, our pets have become our children. Often people won’t go to a place, stay at a hotel etc. without their pets.
I’ve read articles where it’s affected the home buying process here is the U.S. If they can’t purchase a home where the pets get their own room, a decent yard (garden) or both, they’ll walk away from the deal. So hopefully this underserved market is realised, as it would be nice to have your pets along side you when you go out.
You have two dogs of your own, can you tell me a bit more about them?
Jack and Hank are two wonderful and sometimes crazy dogs that I rescued from a shelter about five years ago. I had just lost Bobby, my Great Dane, and it felt like a piece of me went with him. About a month after I lost him, I realised I can’t do this anymore. I needed a purpose in life.
Jack is a chihuahua who has a mind of his own. He likes to ride in the car and go on shopping trips to the grocery store. He won’t pose for any modelling pictures! As soon as I go to snap the picture, he turns his head or walks away. I’ve only been able to get him to pose a few times, using treats, but then he figured out how to game the system!
I’ve tried modelling with Hank too, but if you put any clothing on him, he starts turning in circles because he thinks he’s going somewhere!
Hank is a Min Pin, Basenji, Chihuahua combo. He was so crazy when I first met him at the shelter, he had to be walked around six times before he settled down. As soon as I sat down and he jumped up on my legs, I knew he was coming home with us.
He had been returned to the shelter three times in nine months, so I knew he needed a good home. His boundless energy can be a bit much for Jack at times, but he’s starting to mellow more in his older age.
What do you like the most about running your own dog accessories business?
More than being my own boss or setting my own schedule, I like not having a supervisor breathing down my neck wanting instant results.
I like the freedom that if there’s a mistake or something happens, I can solve it myself without having all the drama and the pressure to fix it.
I also like the creativity control that comes with running your own business as well. You can decide the direction your business will pursue. Whether it’s a particular product line or marketing campaign, you decide the course of action. For me, that makes it all worthwhile.
A huge thank you to Nikki for taking the time to tell us more about her business. We have lots of dog accessories and gifts for dog-loving humans listed on our website.
Why not have a little pawruse and sniff out the perfect gift for your pup? Oh, and don’t forget to let us know if you buy anything.
Woofs and Wags
Kate, Pops and Gertie