How dogs have inspired businesses in Warrington
- Credit: Archant
A love of dogs has inspired two very different businesses in Warrington.
From makers’ markets to the shelves of Selfridges, there really is no stopping Christine and Stephen Ditchfield and their three sidekicks, Pepsi, Mojo and Tutu. The Warrington couple combined their two loves, pugs and gin, to launch their own business, 3 Pugs Gin – which is being met by rave reviews.
‘We still pinch ourselves; we can’t really believe that it’s all happening. From selling our first bottle at the makers’ market in Spinningfields to the demand now has really blown us away,’ said Christine, who came up with the idea of making gin while at a tasting session at Wine Buffs on Crown Street in Warrington town centre. ‘I was a little worse for wear and I said, why not make our own gin? Ste said I was away with the fairies but I was determined to give it a go.’
In November 2015 the couple attended a masterclass at Burleighs Gin in Leicestershire, where helped by master distiller Jamie Baxter they put together their own blends of gin – one of which ultimately became the launch gin for their company.
‘The following year we decided to host a blind gin tasting with friends and family, where each of the blends made at Burleighs were scored. Ste’s blend, originally named Hunkydory, was crowned the winner,’ said Christine. After much deliberation, in May 2016 the coupleofficially launched their craft gin-making business. ‘It was a big decision as we agreed we should really be looking at retirement rather than starting a new business! The initial plan was to set it up as a semi-retirement plan, like a top up to our pension, but it’s completely taken off.’
After applying for a license, Christine and Stephen set up their garden distillery at home and now have two tasty gins: 3 Pugs Signature gin and 3 Pugs Blackcurrant. The former is a classic London dry made from eight botanicals: juniper, coriander, orris, angelica, cardamom, elderflower, basil and orange. The latter is their newer creation which takes the classic gin adding blackcurrant juice to create a powerful sweet and spicy taste.
Available in a 50cl bottle and a mini ‘puglet’, you can buy the gin in Wine Buffs, Hammonds of Knutsford, and Selfridges Trafford Centre, as well as retailers nationally and online. Although the gin is delicious, many customers are just as taken by the quirky bottle which slants to one side and features all three of the couple’s pugs in cartoon format.
‘We have over 100 gins in our collection at home, and for our brand I wanted a bottle that would stand out from the rest. There’s a unique pencil drawing of the pugs on the inside label and they’re all individually hand waxed with a pug stamp and charm.
‘It’s an intense labour of love, especially to come home from our other jobs and then get started on this, but we make a good team.’ www.facebook.com/3PugsGin
Another Warrington business crazy about four-legged-friends is No More Kennels, a luxury dog hotel, spa and resort in Penketh. Owned by dog-lover Rebeckah Vaughan, this is the place to send your pet if you want peace of mind while at work or on holiday.
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Each dog boarding has its own lavish bedroom complete with human size bed, duvet and pillows, comfy throws and deep pile rugs. Every room also has a television, cuddly toys and bedroom furniture to ensuring the dog always feels at home.
‘I don’t want the dogs to know they are somewhere else; I wanted to make it feel as if they were just in another room and it’s just that their mum or dad isn’t there,’ said Rebeckah, who started the company in 2008 initially looking after Chihuahuas at her home. ‘I didn’t want to leave my dog Pucci alone or at kennels when I went on holiday but there was no other option available. I am a genuine dog lover and I thought I could be that person to fill the gap in the market.’
However after opening her home to small dogs for two years, despite Rebeckah’s dedication for the job she decided to close the business as it wasn’t earning enough to pay the bills.
‘It was heartbreaking but I was already juggling another job and also asking my mum to come and help out, to the point where she moved in. For some reason though, I kept my website live so in my mind I must have known I wouldn’t be able to let it go.’
In 2016, Rebeckah was able to restart her dream after selling her house for more equity than first thought. In the years between the two doggie businesses, she had enjoyed a career in television, air hostessing and PR, but wanted to get out of the world that she deemed to be shallow.
‘I just wanted to go for it. It was a total lifestyle change – I went from Louboutin heels to spending my days in wellies and jumpers. The planning permission was difficult to get off the ground; we looked at a lot of different sites before finding the one in Penketh. It took over 12 months to build and so long to get to where we are now but it’s amazing, people love it.’
No More Kennels has been so much of a success that their first summer was booked up and the businesses has turned over £100,000 profit in its inaugural year – something which has shocked Rebeckah: ‘I was told that the number of new businesses that don’t even break even in their first year is huge, so it’s brilliant that we are doing so well. For me though, it’s not about the money, it’s about the dogs.’
The dogs that stay at the hotel and day care centre are probably better looked after and pampered here than their owners who are away on holiday. Dog nannies look after their every whim 24/7, and owners can log onto a CCTV system to see their pets whenever they are missing them. The transparency is crucial, says Rebeckah, as for some people their pets are their children.
‘We have nothing to hide and that’s the way you have to be when you’re looking after someone’s pet. I’ve been offered franchises but I have refused and trademarked the name as I would never allow anyone else to look after the dogs. I live and breathe this; I see and know every dog, what they like to eat and their personal habits.’
‘It’s amazing to think how far we have come. It feels like a dream and I sometimes wake up and expect for it all to be gone. It doesn’t feel like work, I am so lucky.’