Retail

Published: July 20, 2021 | Updated: July 20, 2021

Truly paw-some! Family business handmaking dog bow ties and accessories is award-winner

Bertie, the inspiration for the name Berts Bows (left) with dad Henry (centre) and mum Bobbie.
By Andrew Diprose, editor

There’s only one word for it.

Paw-some.

When Jane and Steve Rice, pictured right, started making bow ties for – first – their family of cockapoos followed by the dogs of family and friends, little did they know what was to lie in store.

But four years after starting Berts Bows the dog-loving couple are the owners of a thriving business supplying more than 100 independent pet shops and groomers across the UK and Southern Ireland.

It’s also an award-winner after being named Best Family-Run Pet Accessories Business in the annual Pet Products and Services Awards organised by LUXLife, the premium lifestyle publication.

“An absolute surprise and a total bolt out of the blue as we didn’t know we’d even been nominated.

“We’re absolutely delighted,” said Steve, 60.

Berts Bows is named after Bertie the cockapoo, pictured right.

He came into Jane and Steve’s life when their two other cockapoos – Bobbie and Henry – had a litter of 11 puppies.

The couple, who have been married 34 years, kept one and called him Bertie.

Berts Bows was founded after Jane and Steve discovered that the bows available from various pet stores did not match up to the standard they felt their pets deserved.

So Jane started making them herself, using tweed fabric woven in the UK.

A stylish, durable fabric and very British.

Unbeknown to Jane, Steve took samples to a number of pet retailers who, after seeing the quality, said they’d happily stock the products and Berts Bows was born.

“Animal House in Bridport was our first pet shop but we now have more than 100 including a chain of 12 shops in Southern Ireland,” said Steve.

All the bow ties are made by Jane, operating from a workshop at the bottom of the couple’s Dorchester home.

The top seller is the Best of British range – pictured being modelled by Bobbie, Henry and Bertie.

The range has now extended from bows and bandanas to also include a poop bag holder, blanket, heat bag, hand warmer and even bunting.

Other popular lines include the Marley made of 100 per cent British Tweed.

Many of the tweed bows – such as Sully, Ralph, Pepper and Lola – are named after Bertie’s ten cockapoo brothers and sisters.

The Berts Bows’ range now covers snoods and scarves, beds and blankets, sit mats, door stops and much more with around 15,000 products sold annually.

Jane, 56, previously worked in retail, starting as a YTS trainee and eventually ending up as Regional Manager for The Salvation Army’s charity shops in the south west.

“She is just amazing and can make so many products to the same consistently high standard,” said Steve, a fully trained chef who has also worked in sales and is now a project sales manager for a lighting controls manufacturer.

“Things can get very hectic when we suddenly get a big order but Jane loves what she does and takes everything in her stride.”

Berts Bows is also a true family affair.

Jane and Steve’s son, Elliot, 29, and his wife Abbie, look after the website and social media while Jane’s brother, Paul, helped design and build the show stands for Berts Bows.

“They have been pivotal in getting new accounts from the PAT (pet and aquatics trade) sector,” said Steve.

Berts Bows is now looking to expand further its network of independent stockists and outlets and also develop new product ranges.

It’s already branched out into offering individual bespoke special occasion products so that dogs can feel part of big family occasions such as birthdays and anniversaries.

The range of wedding accessories include silk and lace ring bearer bows and floral leads with Berts Bows able to even match colour schemes and fabrics.

Steve said: “We initially started after Jane decided to give up her retail career and was looking to do something else.

“It’s now providing a very good solid income with a lot of very happy and satisfied customers.

“Customer service, satisfaction, quality products and design are at the heart of everything we do.”