Welsh Terrier Bronwyn may have a perfect pedigree, but it’s her owner gunning for a place at Crufts…
Former government lobbyist Ruth Lucas, now a self-employed public sector management consultant, has invented a luxury pet product – and plans to take it to the world’s largest dog show in March.
Inspired by Bronwyn, Ruth believes she has created the ultimate in pet portability.
The Rovernighter is a cleverly designed two-in-one. A travel holdall with pockets specially designed to carry pet food, bowls and other necessities, in seconds it converts into a cosy dog bed.
Straplined ‘The smart dog travels lighter with the Rovernighter’, the neat idea came to Ruth one Christmas as she was preparing to take her dog to work in a Sheffield client’s office, then drive to family in Cardiff.
“I searched the internet for a holdall that converted into a dog bed, realised there was a gap in the market and decided I could fill it,” she explained.
Ruth officially launched the Rovernighter at an event in Ecclesall Woods yesterday – her terrier’s fifth birthday – after spending £5,000 and two years of her life on it.
Bespoke orders have already been received at www.rovernighter.co.uk for £180 and £195 versions of the product and Ruth has applied for a £25,000 loan with Richard Branson’s not-for-profit enterprise Virgin Start-up to cover initial costs and a manufacturing run of 200.
Her design and trademark have been registered and Ruth anticipates sales of 1,000 bags in the first year. She aims to sell at Chatsworth Country Fair, the Great Yorkshire Show, Bakewell’s Dogs Unleashed event and Crufts.
“Crufts is the largest single dog show in the world. It’s the best great exposure for my unique product,” said Ruth, aged 45, of Greystones. “Everyone there is passionate about doggy welfare.”
Self-employment was the key to Ruth becoming a dog-owner. She had worked as an MP’s researcher in Parliament, then for the Local Government Association as a lobbyist in London and Brussels and as an LGA manager of the Housing Strategy Team of Sheffield City Council.
She said: “I always wanted a dog but my lifestyle made it impossible. I was jumping on a train to London three times a week and spent many nights away from home.”
But after taking redundancy in 2011 to set up her business Lucas Policy Consultants, which specialises in housing and public sector strategy and helping small businesses plan, she immediately got Bronwyn as a puppy.
“She came into my life after I had taken a new direction, now she seems to be taking it on a new one,” said Ruth, who has continued to work with clients, take on management projects at the Home Office in Sheffield and work as a part-time riding instructor while planning Rovernighter.
“I studied for an MSc and an MBA while working full time so I am used to juggling,” she said.
Ruth said: “Going from housing specialist and lobbyist to manufacturer of dog products sounds like a massive jump. But so much knowledge from my career has helped me plan my business.
“And in lobbying, you have to be able to sell an idea – that’s the essence of the job.
“That skill is a major asset to an entrepreneur.”
Bronwyn is the driving force behind the brand, though. She appears in a sports car in the advertising image, and her black and tan colours are on the logo after the artist matched her ears to the Pantone colour chart.
She also models on the company website and has her own Twitter account (@bron_lucas) and Facebook page (Bronwyn Lucas).
It hasn’t gone to her head: Bronwyn is an experienced model. She appears on the website of pet company The Pets’ Pyjamas in coats and collars, and has modelled for Ruth’s other business, handmade jewellery brand Joy By Design.
Ruth plans to launch the Rovernighter in other colours and sizes and develop an accessories line of matching collars, leads, blankets and towels. She is aiming to be on the shelves of high-end retail stores such as John Lewis and independent pet boutiques in Year Two.
“Then I want to get into the American market,” she added. “I think there’s great potential there.”