Healthy, happy and fabulous, in that order is the mantra of Bone Idol, a dog grooming company with all the right differences, and a website hub for pet parents near and far.
The seeds of Bone Idol were planted when then-yoga instructor and PR professional Jon Clark and Scott Learmouth moved to Brighton from Essex.
The couple were surprised that they couldn’t find a luxurious groom for their dogs Krystle and Blake anywhere in the city.
Eventually Jon and Scott found home groomer Ben Thorpe and his business Diamond Dogs.
A life-long dog lover and rescuer, Ben had previously worked giving human haircuts at Toni and Guy, but soon switched to his passion of dog grooming and made it into his full time work.
Ben’s professionalism and stylish cuts impressed Scott and Jon and they soon became firm friends and not just customers.
The trio decided to take the plunge and go into business together setting up their own grooming parlour.
As luck would have it there was a shop for sale in Brighton’s St James’ Street that was an existing grooming parlour and pet shop and Bone Idol was born!
Over the years the business has grown in size and stature, and now encompasses a high-end shop, a healthy dog food brand and most recently, the state of-the-art Bone Idol Grooming Academy in Hove, which coaches dog groomers of the future as they study for their Ofqual regulated iPET Network qualifications.
Speaking about the values of the business, Scott said: “We as pet owners have our own set of values around what we want our dogs to experience.
“It’s about what we would expect for our own dogs. The things we want to know are that all the dogs are going to be healthy and happy. We don’t want them to ever be locked in cages, we don’t want them to be there too long waiting around and we don’t want them to be at risk of them being bitten by other dogs. We want whoever is doing the grooming to be taking really good care of them from start to finish and the dogs to love it.”
The grooming parlour’s huge front window shows ultimate transparency, and anyone walking past the shop can see the love and care that groomers put into every treatment.
Bone Idol Hove, a recent expansion to the top-end grooms that customers can expect from Bone Idol, also sits alongside Bone Idol Academy, so students can also experience a live grooming environment.
Ben said: “It’s not just about grooming dogs for us. We want to make sure that every dog leaves super happy and that the owners expectations are met the best way possible wherever we can.
“When doing a consultation with an owner, we don’t just talk about what groom they would like, we talk about lifestyle; such as where do you walk, how many times a week do you want to brush, does your dog swim on the beach?
“Then we adapt their haircut to the dog’s own lifestyle.
“We treat all of our client dogs as if they were our own. So as well as sending them out with a high quality groom, they are bathed in shampoo that’s made with essential oils and is natural on their skin and coat, dried and brushed to get rid of any unwanted tangles or loose hair and then styled into a beautiful groom from breed standard, a custom cut or Asian fusion.
“We love them all. I mean who doesn’t want their four legged best friend looking fabulous on Brighton sea front!
“I absolutely love going to work, it’s not a job when you have passion and love for what you do, and our clients become friends and being part of the community is so rewarding.
“Seeing your work or work from a colleague when you are out and about brings me great pleasure.”
Bone Idol is also a shop, and when it came to products the trio decided that they didn’t want to stock anything that they wouldn’t give to their own pets.
Rawhide is a no-no and a healthy deli of ‘pick-your-own’ snacks is irresistible for any visiting dog. Toy lines were brought in which encourage natural play styles for different doggy personalities.
A lot of work has also been put into working to secure exclusivity in stocking various lines, including a lead and collar range by the brand Dogs and Horses which is stocked exclusively by Bone Idol in the Sussex area. As well as new lines currently being lined up for 2022.
Jon said: “We set out to try and find loads of different companies that were unusual and high quality, to stock in the shop.
“The week before we took the shop on, it just so happened that the largest pet industry trade fair was happening in Germany.
“We learned so much in those three days about product and about sourcing and about the difficulties of getting things in from different countries. We came away knowing so much more and ready to start the business.”
As the business has grown Bone Idol has worked with local and national companies to ensure that they can offer bespoke and unique products too.
From Bone Idol Brighton customers can order made to measure and customised collars, harnesses and leads from Dogs and Horses, as well as customised Cosy Dogs harnesses. In the case of Cosy Dogs, Bone Idol is the only retailer in the country which is allowed to customise their product.
When lockdown eased and groomers were allowed to open again, the shop was inundated with hundreds of phone calls from regular customers eager to get their beloved pets pampered and looking fabulous again.
There had also been a pandemic puppy boom. And with Brighton and Hove being famous for being the UK’s most dog friendly City, the area was right at the heart of this doggy influx.
The pandemic cemented dog grooming as a growth industry, and the Bone Idol Grooming Academy, which is run by Pooch Perfect contestant and skilled groomer Helen Kirby, both inspires and guides people who are brand new to the industry.
Many people studying at the academy are coming to dog grooming as a dream second or even third career.
People like Carola Copland, 53, from Littlehampton who is now loving life in the profession.
Carola worked in a manager role for a global IT corporate before she moved with her husband and children back home from Europe.
She went freelance working for big corporations in the computer industry, and raised her children Cäcilia, 20 and Jeremy, 17.
To relax after a day in her high-powered role Carola had always groomed her dogs.
She was self taught, and she always used to joke with friends and family that ‘one day I will become fully qualified’. But she never really had the confidence as grooming involves much more than “just cuddling puppies”.
But during the second lockdown in 2020, Carola decided that it was ‘now or never’ and says that she is over the moon that she dared to take the plunge.
Teacher Helen, who honed her own skills post-qualification by travelling to Malaysia to learn the difficult Asian Fusion grooming style, said: “The academy is a lovely place to meet new and enthusiastic dog lovers who are setting out to start their careers, with us guiding them through their courses every step of the way.
“We take immense pride in sharing all our knowledge and experience, and to see the excitement of setting up their own businesses or getting a new job grooming once they have completed their diploma is fantastic.
“It’s been an amazing time so far, meeting new students from all ages to all walks of life, who have wanted to change their careers to work with dogs. We have also seen an increase of new dog owners and gorgeous dogs to groom. Every day is different and that makes it fresh and exciting for students and tutors alike.”
The informative and fun www.boneidol.co.uk website is also a big part of the brand, and offers much more than simply an online store.
The site contains puppy advice, expert guides and articles on hot dog-world topics, as well as the new Human Idol, Love Letters To My Dog, where real-life dog owners with a story to share, such as Gavin and Stacey star Adrian Scarborough and Rolling Stones legend Keith Richards, share their heart-warming and inspirational accounts.
Bone Idol has also branched out into the world of pet food, and offers exclusive dry and cold-pressed recipes both in store and online.
Nora Nose Best is a range of healthy cold-pressed food, inspired by one of the shop’s most eye-catching associates Nora the Labradoodle, who features on all of the branding.
Nora, the face and attitude of the brand, is owned by Bone Idol COO Simon Coulson, and the sociable labradoodle was more than happy to appear in national media during a high-profile launch campaign.
Simon said: “Seeing Nora represent a great new line of food, as well as featuring on the fun and eye-catching design, makes me really proud.
“She’s a happy and healthy girl, and since being a little puppy, has loved visiting Bone Idol, long before I worked with the company. If I tell her in the morning that she’s ‘off for a Spa day’, she genuinely gets excited and is eager to get me out the house”
Looking ahead, there’s still a lot of excitement within Bone Idol as the world hopefully gets back to normal.
Development of the parlour on St. James St, new lines coming into the shop, and the aforementioned growth of Bone Idol Academy and Bone Idol Hove means that things will be kept fresh, interesting for all their customers – human and canine alike.
Scott said: “It’s been quite a journey, it hasn’t always been easy, but we have a great team. Now is the time to build on all of that and the sky is the limit.
“We would like to thank the brilliant people of Brighton and Hove who have supported our independent business every step of the way.
“It’s just as exciting now as it was back then and we wouldn’t have got here without all of our wonderful customers.”