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This ‘RUFF’ stuff is ideal for pups
Becoming a puppy parent is exciting but can be stressful, as Julie Galinas knows only too well.
Three years ago, when the digital marketer adopted Maltese Shih Tzu pup Raven, she “didn’t know what I was getting myself into”. Like any new parent, she felt overwhelmed.
“It was only when I went to puppy school that I realised everyone else was going through the same thing,” Julie says. “Getting a puppy is like having a child.”
Julie’s work colleague, Jeyda Erdogan, adopted her Beaglier, Cookie, the same year. The good friends soon discovered that there were plenty of pet products on the market but few practical offerings for those embarking on puppy parenthood.
Sniffing a gap in the market, they researched and developed RUFF, a small business that delivers stress-busting puppy packs to your door. The Australian-first concept also supports local businesses that supply the contents.
Melbourne-based RUFF sells reasonably priced packs online and posts them Australia-wide for free. Inclusions range from teething and squeaky toys to hygiene products, food, treats, anti-chew spray and dog accessory vouchers.
The ‘Halp’ boxes cost just $39 (Lil Halp Box), $69 (Halp Box) and $99 (Much Halp Box).
As Digital Producers in the advertising industry, Jeyda and Julie cleverly produced their own marketing material using Cookie and Raven’s images.
A helping hand
However, despite being experienced marketers, neither had run a business.
Enter SBMS mentor Kellie Coff, who provided online and in-person support over 18 months (or 10 dog years) while Jeyda and Julie developed RUFF, which was launched in February 2020.
Kellie has a wealth of experience managing and owning small businesses. She is undertaking her PhD after successfully completed her Master of Business Administration with La Trobe University and her Graduate Certificate in Professional Accounting with Swinburne.
The trio used Skype and email, and Kellie visited Melbourne from regional Victoria, which was “a fantastic experience to be able to meet Jeyda and Julie in person”.
Throughout, Kellie helped ensure that RUFF was set up properly and avoided pitfalls like potential suppliers trying to usurp their intellectual property.
They also covered business structure and plans, market analysis, marketing plans, capital funding. grant applications, supply chain management, distribution, employing staff, social media marketing, business registrations, training, launch, insurance, supplier selection and contract management.
What impressed Jeyda and Julie most, apart from the great advice, was the fact Kellie volunteers her time as an SBMS mentor and the service only involves a small administrative fee.
“When I explained how much corporate consultations and business improvement services usually cost, they were so pleased that a service like SBMS existed,” Kellie says.
While Kellie is often fully booked, the SBMS has more than 150 mentors just like Kellie willing to help entrepreneurs of all ages and abilities to turn their ideas into reality, like Jeyda and Julie have.
A smooth start for RUFF
The RUFF team went from no experience, business plan or marketing plan to being ready to launch their product on an attractive and engaging website.
Kellie says Jeyda and Julie’s personal and professional development has been phenomenal, and they are great role models for other young people thinking about starting their own business.
“Before SBMS, they had not even registered for an ABN number or registered a business name,” Kellie says. “Now they have launched and have a spectacular online presence. They really have … gone from zero to heroes in just 18 months.
“Their business acumen has developed rapidly, and they are well on their way to turning their little idea into profitable and sustainable business. They’re also trying to make it easier for pet owners to be responsible right from the start. It’s a really good example of getting everything right.”
Julie and Jeyda hope their unique product and dogged determination will pay off.
Julie says Kellie was brilliant and reassured them that they were on the right path. Without her advice, things would have been much harder. “Kellie has been such a great support,” Julie says.
The response so far has been “amazing”. If all goes well, RUFF hopes to expand into products such as birthday packs and hampers for older dogs. That’s also good news for local suppliers.
“The clever thing about our business structure is we’re supporting brands within the pet industry in Australia by stocking our ‘Halp’ boxes with their products,” Jeyda says. “This has allowed us to make amazing connections and receive unbelievable support in return from these brands.”
The Small Business Mentoring Service (SBMS) is a non-government, non-profit organisation of volunteer expert mentors who give their time and experience to help small business. It is supported by Small Business Victoria, which refers clients to it. Website: www.sbms.org.au
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