In January 2016 Rovernighter was selected as the Virgin StartUp of the Week. Here, courtesy of VirginStartUp.org, is their article:
Many of the greatest ideas come from frustration and a subsequent spark of an idea. That’s the case for the brilliantly-named Rovernighter - a bag that doubles up as a dog bed, allowing you to travel with your canine companion in way that’s convenient for you, and reassuring for your pet. Rovernighter is supported by our delivery partners Airedale Enterprise Services. We caught up with founder Ruth over a cuppa.
Business name: Rovernighter Ltd
Founder(s) name: Ruth Lucas
Loan funds received: £25,000
Based in: Sheffield, Yorkshire
1. Explain your business in the time it would take the kettle to boil
The Rovernighter is a travel bag for dogs (with pockets for all their things) that converts to a comfortable bed in less than 20 seconds. The bag saves people time (as all the pets stuff is there at hand), and reduces dog travelling stress by providing them with a familiar environment and their toys. It also provides them with all they need for a getaway, or time with the sitter. In summary – ‘the smart dog travels lighter with the Rovernighter’.
2. Where are you based and why is it a good location for your business?
Rovernighter is based in Sheffield, South Yorkshire. I love Sheffield as it’s great for dog walkers, being officially the greenest city in England, with lots of parks and access to the Peak District. So there is a great dog community here, which enables me to get lots of feedback from people who know and own dogs on our products and services. As my business is also online I can sell to anywhere in the world.
3. How did you come up with the idea?
The Rovernighter was inspired by Bronwyn (my Welsh Terrier). I was working on a contract and was due to work on Christmas Eve before travelling 200 miles to spend Christmas with my family. I asked if Bron could come in with me so I could leave straight from the office as I was due to finish work at 6pm on that day. If I had her with me I could leave at 6pm and get back to my Mum’s at around 10pm, which wouldn’t have been too bad. However, if I had to go home and then pack the car etc I would have ended up leaving about 8pm and then getting home at midnight on Christmas Eve (which wouldn’t be great). I was thinking about what I could do with her when she was in the office. A colleague jokingly said “Just put her in a bag and bring her in!” I thought: what if there was a bag that converted to a bed? And the idea was born.
Initially I looked for a bag that did this and couldn’t find anything, just holdalls and some cheap-looking barrel bags with what looked like a thin, not-very-warm blanket in it. I also travelled with Bron a few more times and was spending 20 minutes getting her stuff together and wasting time doing it, so I came back to the bag/bed idea. I worked with a luxury bespoke bag company to make my design into a reality and created a high quality prototype.
4. What’s the business model?
The strategy for year one is to sell at high-end events, such as Crufts, other major dog shows, major national horse events and large country fairs, whilst also promoting the online sales side. My intention is to move into supplying high-end department stores and bespoke pet boutiques in year two, whilst increasing the online sales and presence at events. After that I intend to expand into overseas sales, which I see as a huge market for me.
5. Who are your competitors?
There isn’t another product like the Rovernighter in the market at the moment, so I believe that I will be able to make the most of our first mover advantage. I have positioned Rovernighter in the mid- to high-end of the market and hope to develop a prestige range with a high-end handbag or luggage company. In this market my major competition is the high-end dog bed suppliers and those which make portable travel crates for dogs.
6. What’s unique about your business?
The product itself is unique, as is the vision. I have placed the needs of the pet at the centre of our business. My own dog is the Canine Chief Officer (or CCO). She provides product feedback and even does PR for us – Bronwyn has her own Twitter account, @bron_lucas, ‘writes’ blogs, and is the inspiration for our branding. She is the model for the logo, and our branding expert even pantoned our logo to her ear colours.
If our CCO approves I know it will work! I am passionate about animals (I am a qualified riding instructor) and love making things that work for them. I have also been a professional public sector manager and worked in customer-facing services, so appreciate the importance of making our service great. I want my business to provide quality from start to finish, but as a pet retail company I don’t have to be stuffy – people love their pets and want to have fun with them, so that’s what I aim to achieve.
7. What stage was your business at when you applied for the Start Up Loan?
I had tested the idea, developed the prototype and the business model when I applied for the Start Up Loan and was in the process of testing the prototype with our user group for feedback. I had also begun developing our brand concept, had registered the company, captured the domains and was investigating how we could protect the idea intellectually.
8. How have you used it to grow your business?
The loan has allowed me to create the branding, has enabled me to do an initial order run and is paying for all the legal work needed (such as Intellectual Property and insurance). It has also meant that I have been able to book our first set of major shows this year. Without the funding I would be a long way from being able to attend any major events and creating sales.
9. Who is your mentor and how have they helped you?
David Wilkin (Non Exec Director) at Real Life Options.
This is a recent match so we are developing this relationship, but already he has advised me with how you organise yourself for major trade shows and with information on how I can strengthen our Intellectual Property protection.
10. Who is your regional delivery partner and how did they help you get a Virgin StartUp loan?
David Gagen from Airedale Enterprise Services in Keighley West Yorkshire worked with me to get my application approved. David helped to get the business plan into shape, and addressed all the questions I had about how the process worked and how it would move forward. He supported me to make sure that the plan was up to speed, so that when it went for assessment all the possible questions that Virgin Start Up could possibly have asked had been answered, and the process went through smoothly from there.
11. What’s your biggest achievement so far?
There have been two major achievements so far. I have managed to get media coverage, which has even lead to me being approached by a television production company to find out more about me as they’re looking for entrepreneurs for a programme they’re making. I’ve also launched the company and have been running pre-order.
12. What’s next for your business?
The first batch of bags is arriving in the next few weeks and will be dispatched to customers. I’m also excited to have secured a trade stand to exhibit at Crufts on 10-13th March, so am busily getting organised for that!