Inspirational Woman: Paige Gillard | Founder and Director, Poppy + Ted

Paige Gillard

Paige Gillard, the Founder and Director of stylish dog accessories brand, Poppy + Ted, has taken the brand from ‘side hustle’ to high growth sales; and an Instagram community of more than 150K in just three years. 

Originally looking for a creative outlet, Paige started the business as a hobby in 2018, at her dining room table. Designing and sewing every item herself, the brand quickly tapped into the fast-growth Instagram dog community and soon captured the hearts of dog owners across the UK.  Within minutes of launching on Shopify, Poppy + Ted’s first customer had made a purchase in the States.

Three years on, Paige now leads a team of 5, oversees the manufacturers and leads on marketing and social media strategy for the brand. With her university background in Art and Design, Paige is still the lead designer on all pieces. The company has seen over 230 per cent increase in total orders YOY to date and is still growing.

A passionate dog owner herself, Paige enjoys time with her dogs Ted (the brand’s name’s sake) and Margot, and lives with her fiance –  they welcomed their first ‘human’ baby this summer.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

I’m Paige Gillard, the Founder and Director of Poppy + Ted. We design, create and sell stylish dog walking essentials and have just launched grooming products too.

I started Poppy + Ted in 2018 as a side hustle, literally on my dining room table. Three years on, I now have a team of 5. I oversee the manufacturing process and lead on marketing and social media. My background at university was in Art and Design, I’ve always been creative and that’s where I find most joy in my work, so I still design every piece at Poppy + Ted, which I love.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I think like many millennials, I learned early on that my career trajectory wasn’t going to be a smooth path. With this in mind I think I had the overall goal to carve out my own path, so I think the goal has always been to run with an idea and create something.

My first job was in retail as an assistant in a little boutique in my local town for a few hours on the weekend at 16-18. Sadly after finishing my studies at Art & Design I wasn’t able to find full-time employment,  so I started my first venture into Entrepreneurship.  I decided to pave my own way with my first company, a children’s clothing and accessories.

That did end after a couple of years and so after that I dusted myself off and managed a small children’s boutique. This actually was  a great move for a budding Entrepreneur as I gained experience and knowledge of buying and selling, retailing, merchandising and as my own project I took it upon myself to build a social presence for the store as well as managing our online platform too (including newsletter marketing as well as building a website). I taught myself everything I needed to know, learning the ins and outs of advertising and marketing – if I put my mind to something, I achieve it! I think it’s at this point I realised that I wanted to own my own business and loved the idea of building something for myself. Getting back exactly what I put in.

I knew I would do my own thing eventually – so I suppose I have always had this as the heart of any plan, even if it is a bit squiggly.

Have you faced any challenges along the way?

Yes – my first business ending really did hit me hard. Sadly the business ended very sourly with an investor. This experience really hurt me both personally and knocked me professionally – but my creative desire and determination to run my own ship soon overcame any fear that had set in.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

I would say how everything has aligned with Poppy + Ted. It’s a business I am hugely passionate about, as it is inspired by my gorgeous pups, plus it means I work on my strengths and passions within the business too. I think I feel it’s been a huge achievement to take something I believe in and find fun and turn it into what it is today.

After coming up with the concept for Poppy + ted and as soon as I’d created finished products, with very little knowledge of websites, I set up an extremely basic but fully functional website with Shopify and posted a link.. within 9 minutes I made my first sale all the way in the USA! I couldn’t believe my eyes..

I was so excited and couldn’t wait to make the order. Before I’d even managed to let that sink in I’d had another order.. and another.. and they just kept rolling in! My phone kept pinging and before I knew it this little idea of a side hobby, where I could enjoy a creative outlet after work (with perhaps a few collars here and there) turned into a 2 week waiting list as demand was so huge!

Paige Gillard

How did you juggle your side hustle with other commitments/life in general? 

I was working full-time 9-5 (at Birchbox) commuting 1 hour 30 (each way) to and from London everyday and every hour in between and late into the night working on my “side hustle”. Within 3 months I realised that I was going to have to make a decision.. pursue a career in a steady role, or take a chance on a hobby-turned-business. I wasn’t ready to fully take the plunge to quit altogether, but with a part-time role available within the company after much consideration and deciding that this was my passion and exactly what I wanted to do.. I decided to drop my hours to a part-time position working from home. This allowed me to still ensure I was supporting myself financially.. afterall, I had a mortgage and bills to pay! And allowed me some time to focus on Poppy + Ted in a much more balanced way.

I worked my absolute socks off, and as we grew I continued once more working every minute of every day to build my brand. Working on new ideas, developing new products, networking on social media, engaging a community, creating content, researching fabrics and designers.. prepping orders, cutting orders, sewing orders, packing orders, walking to the post office with bags and bags of mail. It was a lot for one person!

I was working until the early AM’s, getting little sleep, and then setting an alarm for 7am and doing it all again. It definitely wasn’t smart or healthy, but I was so passionate to make things work.. I just did it! Eventually, it was getting far too much to juggle and with the encouragement and support of my fiance, I took the risk to fully put my all into Poppy + Ted and I quit employment all together to focus all of my efforts into building what had now become my dream. It was scary, really scary. And I ALWAYS think the worst.. I worried “what if” nobody placed an order again.. “what if” they got bored after one purchase and never came back.. “what if” everything else. But I battled the self-doubt and kept going, telling myself that if I give my all and it doesn’t pay off, then at least I can say I absolutely gave it my everything!

But it turns out I hadn’t needed to worry – we grew and continue to grow at an astronomical rate. It’s really exceeded any expectations I had and more. We’re now an established brand among the “Dog World” – we’re selling worldwide and I’m even spotting Pop + Ted out and about too which is an incredible feeling.

Lockdown has meant we’ve spent a lot more time with our pets – do you think they have helped your wellbeing?

Oh my gosh 100%. The walking routine every day has meant we had to get out for daily exercise, fresh air and just clear our minds. The cuddles also are lovely , when you just want to take a moment out from work and clear your mind.

Should more workplaces be dog/pet friendly? 

I think dogs in particular create a culture that encourages a more balanced approach in the office. There’s something calming about sharing an office with someone’s beloved pet and the team becoming a part of that. I often hear that team members take it in turns to walk the office dog, which again really promotes wellbeing. I do think training is important though – nothing worse than a naughty dog running rings round everyone in a work environment – which I’ve heard of too!

What advice would you give to someone looking to create side hustle? Or perhaps that leap from side hustle to full time entrepreneur?

I think the world is changing so fast and no one knows what the future will hold for traditional employment, so go for it as you really owe it to yourself to create your own future in this crazy world.

What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?

We have just launched our first ever grooming range at Poppy + Ted, which is really exciting and we hope to continue investing into the business to develop new products like this. My aim is to continue to expand so that Poppy + Ted is used and worn on more and more cute and cool dogs!

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