Meet the Maker is a new blog series on The Dapple featuring Q&As with small businesses, creatives, and makers who are crafting unique products for dogs and dog lovers.
If you’ve spent much time in the world of Instagram pets, you’ve probably seen Rachael Moin’s designs. Her company, bonjour fido!, is loved by dog owners for its wide selection of colorful and carefully-crafted leashes and collars. We chatted with Rachael about testing samples with her puggle Napoleon, creating dog-friendly designs, and everything that’s happened since she launched bonjour fido! in 2015.
In one sentence, how would you describe bonjour fido! for our readers?
I would say that bonjour fido! is all about creating classy and chic upscale dog collars and leashes that are individually handcrafted to match your pup’s unique personality.
Tell us about your journey to launch bonjour fido!—what inspired you to create your own products for dogs?
I always wanted to have my own business and once I became a dog owner myself, I realized how hard it was to find high-quality, unique dog collars and leashes for my own pup. Living in NYC, it was surprising to me how there weren’t many options readily available, even in the small boutique dog stores I’d visit.
One day I was browsing collars on Pinterest, and I saw one with gold and silver hardware. I thought, “Wow, how fancy!” and also “Hey, I think I could actually do that, too!” I began researching and experimenting a lot to figure out the best way to make a durable, safe, and fancy collar. I knew how to sew, but sewing dog collars and leashes is very different than making a pillow or mending a shirt. My puggle Napoleon and a few other larger dogs would test out the samples until I perfected the size and design. I started out selling in person at a few dog events in New York, and then actually started selling wholesale to a few dog boutique stores before I launched my online store.
What was the most challenging part of starting your own business?
I would say the most challenging part has been doing everything really on my own and a lot of it really by trial and error.
The truth is that being an entrepreneur is a bit unique, so it’s hard to bounce ideas or get advice on what to do in your store from friends because they may not know what it’s like running your own business or even a specialized industry like the dog retail sector. However, I will say I have actually made some very good friends who I met through my own shop that are women entrepreneurs themselves with their own dog businesses. That’s been really rewarding and comforting to have those relationships and to be able to talk about ideas and challenges we’re dealing with as small business owners.
You have such a gorgeous variety of designs—what’s your process like for developing a new piece?
Thank you so much! I really try to have designs that are truly unique, but at the same time classic and timeless. Most of the designs in our shop can be worn all year long, which I think is very appealing to our customers. Every season we come out with new collections and I usually have a color scheme in mind before I begin choosing fabrics. Certain colors and designs sell very well in the store so I keep that in mind when putting everything together.
Maybe I’m old school, but I do most of my fabric shopping in person! Sometimes I’ll see a fabric that just jumps out at me and it doesn’t match what I had in mind for that season, but it’s a gut feeling. This happened recently with a Black and White Zebra design we just launched. I saw that fabric twice before I decided to go back and buy it. I couldn’t stop thinking about it! That design has almost sold out in our store and has been very popular.
I typically buy fabrics first, then pair them with webbing colors, then choose the hardware color, and then I make samples. One of the most important things in the process is that the fabrics have to photograph well. Sometimes I’ll see a gorgeous fabric, but I can tell it won’t photograph well so I don’t buy it. That’s a really important factor in selling online—everything needs to pop in the photographs. There have been times I’ve scrapped an entire collection because I just wasn’t feeling it. I have to really LOVE every design for it to launch in the store.
You recently moved out of NYC—how has the change of scene influenced you as a designer?
We just moved 40 minutes outside NYC a few months ago, and I’m so thrilled with the huge studio space we have now! It’s great having this peaceful, large open space to work in, while still being super close to the city. I think my design aesthetic has stayed true, but I have been contemplating maybe doing a separate collection that’s more classically inspired by the adventuring outdoorsy dog.
What’s your favorite item in your shop?
My favorite collection is the Solid Collection. They’re lower priced, but also come in a rainbow of colors. My own pup wears them all the time. I think simple can still be classy and luxurious, especially with the addition of gold hardware.
From the fabric designs, I also love the Royal Blue Plaid and the Army Camouflage. I think the Army Camouflage is a staple piece. It’s made from 100% ripstop organic cotton and it never gets dirty! It’s my go-to for Napoleon and I’ve made him a new one each year.
Any exciting upcoming plans for bonjour fido?
We just launched this exciting new Refer-A-Friend program on our site where people can sign up and give $10 off to their friends. Once their friend makes a purchase with the code, the referrer will also receive a $10 off code to use in our store. You can share it over email or social media.
What has been the most rewarding part of running your own business?
Running your own business—especially an e-commerce site—is a 24-hour/7-days-a-week job. But I love the flexibility it gives my day-to-day schedule and the ability to spend quality time with my dog! I work all hours of the day, but it’s the ability to choose working at 6 a.m. or 10 p.m. to get things done that I really appreciate.
I also really enjoy communicating with my customers directly via email, DM, and on social media. It really makes me happy when I see customers posting on Instagram in our products and appreciating the small personal touches we include like handwritten notes or loving the velvet bags our products come in. It means a lot to see how excited customers are to receive our products.