Snoot Box was born during the Covid lockdown in 2020.
Like a lot of people, I was furloughed during COVID. Before that, I was acting as the director of my own dog walking business, complete with three different locations and ten employees, and I loved it. What’s better than earning money by playing with dogs and getting to see the gorgeous country side?
Unfortunately, dog walkers were not classed as essential workers during the pandemic, and we had to temporarily close during lockdown. I went from walking for eight hours a day and seeing dozens of dogs, to being stuck in the house with just my two wonderful fluffballs for company. Fluffballs who, much like me, were bored; they couldn’t go out and walk with their friends like usual, and they were tired of their toys.
One day I was scrolling through social media, and I saw an advert for a dog-focused subscription box. “Great,” I thought, “I can get Angel and Bodie a regular subscription box to keep them entertained.” I started looking into the different subscription boxes, but quickly ran into a problem: if I got a box that included soft toys, Bodie would destroy them, and if I got a box that had tough toys, Angel wouldn’t be interested in them, because none of them were fluffy. Maybe I should get two different boxes? With a minimum price of £20 per box, this option quickly went out of the window.
I was frustrated by trying to sort out toy options, so I moved on to look at which boxes included which treats; That would be easier, right? Not so much. Bodie is a living bin, and will gulp down anything vaguely edible that comes near his mouth, but he won’t chew any of it – easy to find something he would like, but not something that would keep him busy for more than two seconds. Angel, on the other hand, is a very picky eater. She was young at the time, and her sensitive puppy stomach could not tolerate beef, and her fussy attitude meant that any less than quality foods would have her turning her nose up. I assumed that I would be able to personalise any subscription boxes I came across to rule out anything I know she wouldn’t eat, but was surprised to find that they all come in one-size-fits-all-type formats.
After days of fruitlessly searching for the perfect subscription box, I gave up. There was no option on the market that would cater to both of my difficult dogs without costing the earth! It seemed that if I wanted a personalisable subscription box option, I was going to have to create it myself.
Step One: Market Research
So I knew what I wanted out of a subscription box, but if I was going to make it a reality, I needed to know what the general public wanted too.
Unfortunately for me, the answers I received just muddied the waters more. Almost every question had the answers split evenly between every option. So my research told me the following information:
Buyers would like to receive a box as a one off, once ever other week, once a month, AND once every other month. Responses were equally split between preferring locally-sourced products (both willing to pay more, and not willing to pay more if this option was met), and not caring where the products were sourced from. They would be willing to pay anywhere between five and thirty pounds for each box, which should contain toys, treats, chews, accessories, discount codes for dog-related products, dental products, and (phew!) healthy products.
Essentially, it told me exactly what I already knew: there was never going to be one subscription box that made everyone happy. Not surprising – every dog is different, so every owner will want something different; What’s wrong with that? Absolutely nothing.
My mind was made up: I would create the first fully customisable dog subscription box.
Step One and a Half: Meeting Deborah and Doris
It was during the market research phase that a lovely lady named Deborah reached out to me on social media; She had seen my market research surveys, and thought she could help. She ran a small start up business focused on producing subscription boxes aimed at small dogs, and was unfortunately having to give it up due to a breast cancer diagnosis (don’t worry, she is now cancer-free!) but didn’t want all of her hard work to go to waste.
One thing lead to another, and I ended up buying her subscription box branding, including the cartoon persona of her beloved Daschund-Pug cross, Doris, who you can still see on our packaging today.
Step Two: Product Sourcing
Sourcing a variety of different types of toys turned out to be easier than expected. Bodie tested out the tougher toys, and Angel the soft, and we ended up with a range of both handmade and bulk production toys to suit a range of different play styles.
Treats, however, were another story. Every time I thought I had found some treats that sounded healthy as well as tasty, I was put off by the ingredients. Treats that were named things like “meaty chicken sticks” would turn out to be only 4% chicken, with the rest exactly the type of processed rubbish that would upset Angel’s stomach, and I could not for the life of me find an option that I would be happy with providing in Snoot Boxes, let alone proud to include! For a few months, the Snoot Box project stalled, as I could not put my heart into something I wasn’t 100% happy with.
During this time I found a range of other products I loved, from doggy bowties to honking pigs, and my stockpile of dog-friendly goodies grew, taking over my house one box at a time. It wasn’t until months later that I stumbled upon an unexpected solution to my treat troubles.
Instead of finding packets of treats that I was happy with, I ended up on a wholesaler’s website, one that claimed they sold natural treats that dogs would love. I didn’t believe it at first, but the more I looked through their product catalogue, the more impressed I was with the quality of their products, so I placed a very small order to try them out for myself.
Lo and behold, my dogs loved them. Even Angel (picky princess extraordinaire) would spin in circles with excitement every time I picked up a packet, never turning down a single treat!
The rest, as they say, is history. I dug into my savings, placed a bulk order, designed some packaging, and got to work.
Step Three: Figuring Out a Brand
Over the first few months of running Snoot Box, I decided on and threw out a lot of different designs. From the leaflets included in packaging, to the boxes themselves, Snoot Box went through a lot of different phases of branding, testing out different ideas and designs, until I landed on a feel and look that I loved, one I was proud to see people admiring.
Our beloved white and blue colour scheme spread from our leaflets, to our boxes, to our very treat packs, with Doris and her bandana following it all the way. To this day, every time I see someone wondering around with one of our leaflets in their hand, or spy our natural treats on the shelf in a vet’s waiting room, I have to pinch myself so I can be sure that it’s really happening: my little pet project that started out as a way to give my dogs the best things in life is now loved by other dog owners as well.
If you see us around at markets or fairs, make sure to pop by and let us know how your pooch feels about their Snoot Box treats and toys – I can guarantee that every time we get great feedback or make a sale (no matter how small) I still do a little happy dance of joy, and your support allows me to keep doing what I love.