An interview with Alison from House of Henry

What did you do before you started your business? Or still do if your business is a hobby? 

I have been a graphic designer for around 18 years, working in advertising, marketing and design agencies mainly on print-based artwork. I started my own freelance graphic design business around 12 years ago, which I run alongside House of Henry.

Who or what was the inspiration behind you getting started?

I always knew that I wanted to do something more with the skills that I had acquired over the years, another business or vocation that would be my own creation. After falling in love with our cockapoo puppy Henry (now coming up for two years old), and looking back and realising how much ‘dog stuff’ we had bought since we brought him home, I realised that this was the path I wanted to take in some fashion. My partner Jason is also a designer but with a lot more experience in the print production and manufacturing side of the industry. So with a lot of help and guidance from him, I invested in the equipment I needed to create the products you see on the website today.


How did you come up with the business name?

As anyone starting a business will know, this is such a tricky decision. It has to be something that you love, and will still love a few years down the line. We knew it had to incorporate Henry in some way since he was the inspiration behind starting the business, plus I had a rough idea of my product range and so something involving home or homewares was important. ‘House of Henry’ just came to me suddenly and luckily everything I needed was available… from the web domain, to social media usernames etc.


How long have you been running the business and who runs it with you/helps you out?

After securing all of the names we needed, I then started to work on gathering possible suppliers and ordering samples for testing. This happened over a couple of months in early spring of this year, and after building the website myself it went live at the end of June. My other half has been a godsend with the production side especially, he saved me a lot of stress when testing the samples. I was used to designing artwork that could be amended easily as many times as necessary (apple + Z!) before going off to print. Now that I also do the production part of the process too, if you make a mistake or something doesn’t work as expected it has a financial implication to it which has to be taken into consideration.


How did you decide what services to offer? 

There are so many wonderful dog-related online retail businesses out there, so I knew I needed to offer something a little bit different in order to stand out. My design skills had led me to this point and so being able to use those had to be the most important factor. Personalisation on products is very popular, and because I do the design and artwork by hand I can be flexible with what customers require. I am always delighted to help customers who would like something a little ‘off menu’. I have a keen interest in interior design too, nothing fancy however, just choosing and putting inexpensive items together to create a look with personality. I feel I have a keen eye for colour matching and style given my career background, and I have tried to show that through my product range. Hopefully I have provided ideas on how to incorporate a person’s love of our four-legged friends with a minimalist and contemporary set of products for the home and outdoors. The colour palette of the products is consistent throughout the collections with soft muted greys, creams, pinks and blues etc. no primary colours. The aim was for anyone to be able to visit the site and find something that would easily suit their home, or the ability to choose a gift for a friend or family member that would fit any style. There are a few products for dogs too, the bandanas and toys, the former being an opportunity to have a bit of fun and inject some humour into the designs.


In one sentence describe what is the best thing about running your business?

House of Henry has given me the freedom and creativity to develop something from the seed of an idea right through to a tangible product that you can hold in your hands.


What’s an average day-in-the-life of your business?

Running a small online business is non-stop. Whilst I manage to keep a pretty good work-life balance, I am always thinking about and researching new products. An average day involves upkeep of the website, checking stock levels and reordering if necessary, receiving stock that has been delivered and making sure it’s what was ordered and in the right quantity, trying out new designs, fulfilling orders, going to the post office and a lot of social media! The latter is something I wasn’t quite prepared for, but there are many tools and apps I have discovered to help me keep on top of everything. It’s a great way to connect to potential customers, and hopefully my Twitter and Instagram feeds provide a light-hearted insight into the company. Instagram stories are really fun, I love creating our own and watching other people’s!


What do you love most about what you do?

I love being able to create products that will mean something special to the recipient. The margins are incredibly low in small creative businesses as many will understand, so it’s really important to hear how happy someone is with the item you have produced for them. That makes the time, effort and dedication worthwhile. I am always excited when a notification comes through that a customer has placed an order… the first thing I do is see what they have chosen and from which collection. It’s such a nice feeling to know that someone likes what you’ve created. We also received a special acknowledgement of our efforts at the end of August when we were lucky enough to be chosen by ex-Dragon’s Den Theo Paphitis to be one of his Small Business Sunday winners via Twitter. Bowled over is an understatement, it gave us a spring in our step for sure. It was confirmation that we were heading down the right track with our business. This was shortly followed by being chosen to be #QueenOf dog bandanas, a really fun social media accolade!


What challenges do you face?

As mentioned, low margins are a challenge along with postage and courier costs. There are so many parts of the process that have to be considered when it comes to finances, I have many a spreadsheet on my computer! All in, it has to be a fair price to the customer but also reflect the care and attention that each item has been given when being designed and made. It’s also nerve-racking sending out orders, I am always anxious to know whether they have received them safely and that they like them!


What has a customer said or done to make you smile? 

I love seeing our products posted on social media alongside a customer’s dog or two! A customer recently posted a photo of one of our ‘nickname’ framed fabrics on Twitter and it resulted in over 150 interactions by way of likes and retweets etc. I was humbled and very grateful. And then there’s the secret ones…the other day there were almost 50 visitors to the website before 10am all because someone (unknown) had shared our toy storage bag on Facebook. I was over the moon! Thank you whoever you are! Little shares here and there really do go a long way.


Do you have any pets? If so we’d love to know more about them

Of course there’s Henry the cockapoo, he’s half working cocker spaniel, half miniature apricot poodle. He’s bonkers, funny, clever, cheeky, affectionate, loyal, friendly, and polite in equal measure and we adore him. Henry and I prefer to let our products do the talking on social media and online, but our feet appear now and again. And then there’s Bailey our ten year old house cat. He’s in charge, we’re all just staff. He adores Henry and loves to snuggle under Henry’s long warm curly ears, but you didn’t hear that from me.




Twitter: houseofhenryuk 
Instagram: houseofhenryuk