Hound & Soul Celebrates Pup Love
Firefly Handmade has a huge, soft, cuddly spot in our heart for dogs, so naturally we love our returning artisan Kathy Johns of Hound & Soul. Not only did Kathy build a business around her love of dogs and what they bring to the world, but she also makes sure her efforts bring something to dog rescue organizations.
Hound & Soul celebrates the canine/human connection by designing handmade dog jackets, collars, bandanas, and toys featuring the highest quality construction and materials (lasting through the Colorado snow, mud and sun), beautiful design and fit, and a spirit of fun and adventure. And if you need another reason to jump on the Hound & Soul bandwagon, 5% of their sales are donated to non-profit organizations that help dogs find health, homes, and love.
Bring your pup to try on and shop Hound & Soul’s products at Firefly Handmade Spring Market on May 18th and 19th. Keep reading and you’ll also fall in love with Hound & Soul:
Tell us about your connection to dogs. What inspired you to build this business?
My connection to dogs is not easily explainable. It borders on obsessive compulsive but it’s given me so much joy and confidence in life, that I cherish the connection. I always had a dog growing up and my parents taught me how important it is to care for and love dogs, and never take them for granted. I’ve met some of my closest friends at the dog park. I will ALWAYS stop on the street for any dog. When I was having a bad day at my job in New York, I would walk down the street to the puppy store and play with the puppies for a half hour to get my head straight.
I started by dressing up my dogs, making them costumes for Halloween or coats for the winter. Then, I started making coats for friends’ dogs and realized that I could use my connection to dogs to help them connect too. Every piece I make is with the intention for the dog to look and feel great, which makes their humans happy, which makes the dog happy.
Tell us more about your mission.
During the process of writing my business plan I had all my numbers, research and plan set, but something wasn’t connecting. I needed to understand why I was doing this. Why did Hound & Soul need to happen? I set out on a run with Dash & Scully with that one question on my mind. I knew I wanted to make dogs look great/keep warm/have fun, but how was that different than any other dog apparel business? We stopped at the top of this big hill where we have stunning views of the mountains and I recognized my mission immediately. It wasn’t about the dogs looking cute or even staying warm. It was about the fact that moments in life are just better with dogs. My run was more entertaining, the views were more gorgeous, and I have more love in my heart because my dogs were with me. At the same time, I know my dogs live extraordinary lives and they are better because of the humans who know and love them, too.
There’s so much research on the health and wellness benefits of dogs, and they give us so many lessons in responsibility, accountability, and unconditional love. My father passed away recently. He was in a hospice facility for a few months and we were so lucky that they allowed dogs to visit. His dog Teddy came to see him every day. Some days he might not open his eyes or say a word but he always had a hand out to pet Ted and both were comforted by being together. The bonus was that everyone else in the facility loved to see Ted, give him a snuggle and a smile.
What are you most proud of in your handmade journey so far?
I’m most proud of two things. 1) My willingness to learn and improve my craftsmanship. I had never worked with leather until a little over a year ago. After several visits to my friends at Tandy, lots and lots of YouTube videos, and several experiments gone wrong, I was able to refine my process for collars and improve the quality along the way. 2) I’m most proud of the feedback from my customers. It’s one thing to make something that I think is beautiful and high-quality, but when your customers rave about your products and send pictures, it’s totally gratifying.
What surprising lessons have you learned along the way?
This has been a journey filled with lessons, failures, and successes. The most surprising lessons are around scale and focus.I have a gazillion ideas for new products and new designs. Each product takes months to go from concept to prototype to finished product. It’s important for me to try everything but refine only the best things. I need to make sure I’m creating unique and quality goods but also editing along the way.
Could you tell us about any special projects you are working on for the upcoming market?
New for this market are some fun knotted rope toys and double-sided bandannas. I’m also working on a new dog mat/bed and hope to have a few ready for the Spring Market.
What has been the biggest challenge of starting your business? The biggest reward?
My biggest challenge of starting a business is time. I have another job so can only dedicate part of my time to Hound & Soul. It’s difficult to balance the two, but I’ve learned that scheduling time specifically for Hound & Soul with specific goals is the key.
The biggest reward are my customers. They share the same connection with dogs that I do and send photos and stories of their dogs wearing Hound & Soul jackets and collars. They also give me some great suggestions for future products.
What excites you for the future?
I’m really excited for growing my business and also the Hound & Soul community. As my customer base grows, I’d like to engage and grow a community with relevant, fun, and valuable communications and product feedback. As part of that, I’d also like to Identify and connect with organizations that align with Hound & Soul’s mission and provide comfort for dogs in need. Right now I donate 5% of sales to a few non-profit animal welfare organizations, but I want to partner more closely with one to make a bigger impact.
What do you like about being a Firefly Handmade artisan?
There’s a huge sense of pride in being a Firefly Handmade artisan. All the other artisans are incredibly talented and creative, and to be a part of that community is very rewarding. I’ve also enjoyed meeting the other artisans. They all have words of advice and encouragement and have been a resource for growing my business.
Any advice for makers and entrepreneurs new to our creative community?
Be true to your brand and vision.
Always be ready to learn something new.
Always do the right thing even if it’s the hardest thing.