Brighton’s Bone Idol has branched out into the world of pet food, taking the plunge by launching exclusive cold-pressed brand Nora Nose Best during the first pandemic lockdown.
The newly launched range of healthy cold-pressed food was inspired by one of the shop’s most eye-catching customer Nora the Labradoodle, who features on all of the branding.
But lockdown wasn’t an easy time to launch a whole new product, and Bone Idol founders Scott Learmouth and Jon Clark knew they were going to have to think outside the box to make it a success. And that is when Brighton pub-loving labradoodle Nora came in, lending her fun personality to a range of projects including national media and dog magazine stories and a Sky TV advert.
Scott said: “Cold-pressed dog food is a the new kid on the block. We started this brand because we wanted to offer our customers even more choice, having already launched a dry fog food in 2017. “But not many people have heard of cold pressed, and that is where lovely Nora comes in, she is our spokes-dog and brand ambassador and is super friendly. Good girl Nora!” Cold pressing food involves compressing it at a lower temperature, so the vitamins, natural oils and flavours remain preserved in the dog food. This results in healthy, tastier food that your dog will love and that will allow them to take in a greater amount of nutrients.
You can read all about cold pressed food here: www.boneidol.co.uk/coldpressed
This is not the first time that Scott and Jon have taken the plunge in pursuit of doggy excellence. The seeds of Bone Idol were planted when yoga instructor Jon and PR professional Scott 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 independent 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 love of dogs, professionalism and stylish cuts impressed Scott and Jon and they soon became firm friends and not just customers. The trio had chatted about going into business together, but Jon and Scott had never run a retail company before. The inspiration and push to take the plunge finally came in early 2016, when Jon and Scott went on holiday to Columbia, when the couple met a hotelier who had done just that.
Scott said: “It was an amazing hotel, and he’d just walked down the beach, saw a plot of land, bought it and built a hotel in Columbia! And he was a guy from Miami.
“He was saying how much he loves being entrepreneurial, and that sometimes you just have to take a risk. “It was really inspiring! Anyway, we had a few bottles of Rose and we texted Ben saying ‘you know what, we’ve just got to do this and open the grooming parlour’. He texted back and said ‘that’s amazing I’m free next Saturday!'” 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. So by the time the Saturday meeting came around Scott and Jon has already expressed interest in the premises and it was all systems go!
Scott said: “We got really excited obviously, and the following weekend Jon and I went and met the owners of the existing business and said yes we want to buy it. “We agreed a price and basically a month later we owned the shop!”
But that was just the beginning of Bone Idol’s journey. Scott, Jon and Ben knew that they needed their luxurious and ethical brand to stand out, and be able to offer a service and products which would match. The first step was getting the branding right, setting up the shop, and finding a team which were enthusiastic, kind and hard-working.
Scott said: “It was quite a nerve-wracking time, we were all sitting round the table talking about what we wanted it to be, how we could be different. “The more corporate names in the industry were servicing customers with very much a more supermarket-esque quality, and we knew that we didn’t want to do that. “Ben has lots of experience and he knew how he would like the animals to be treated and how the environment in which they are groomed in should be. “We as pet owners have our own set of values around what we want our dogs to experience when they go in, and when it comes to the product Ben’s obviously got so much experience of this too with his rescue dogs and we sat down and talked about the kinds of things we would like stock. Things that were stylish and elegant but practical and functional too. Everything has been tested by our own dogs. “Those rules that we established in the very beginning have stood us in good stead.”
He added: “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 be locked in cages, we don’t want them to be there too long waiting around, 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 them love it.”
The grooming parlour’s huge front window into the retail space, shows ultimate transparency, and anyone visiting the shop can see the love and care that groomers put into every treatment. Inside, the salon was completely refitted and given an equipment overhaul including state-of-the-art adjustable baths and tables to accommodate all sizes of dogs. 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 was out straight away and a healthy deli of snacks added, and new 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.
Jon said: “We have an essentials range which is basically people coming off the beach having lost their dog’s lead and need something quickly and cheaply. That has happened more than once! “This is a better quality that you would get from the supermarket but is around the same price. “The central thought was that we want to target pet parents, people who see their dog as an absolute part of the family.”
He added: “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. “So Ben and I went and spent three days walking around this massive trade show, there were nine or ten halls and it took about two hours to get around one! “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, customers can order made to measure and customised collars, harnesses and leads from Dogs and Horses, as well as customised CosyDogs harnesses. In the case of CosyDogs, Bone Idol is the only retailer in the country which offers to customise their product. The work is done by Brighton-based designer Vivienne Nichols, who also collaborates with Bone Idol each season to produce a range of on-trend accessories.
In preparation for the launch Scott and Jon commissioned a graphic designer to work on a logo which would encapsulate all the shop’s values, and their love of the historic city of Brighton. The shop’s logo is a Victorian-style cameo, a schnauzer surrounded by a frame which is made up of a Brighton Pavilion silhouette at the top, and a Brighton Pier silhouette at the bottom. Diamonds are also featured in the logo as a respectful nod to Ben’s previous grooming business.
Soon customers were flocking to the shop, and Bone Idol both in-store and online is a one-stop place to be if you are a dog parent. This was demonstrated perfectly very recently when the shop was forced to close its doors on the outbreak of coronavirus in the UK. When the first 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. www.boneidol.co.uk 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 legendary music journalist Kris Needs, and Olivier Award-winning actor Adrian Scarborough share their heart-melting and inspirational accounts.
Not content with launching a new dog food, the Bone Idol Grooming Academy opened its doors on 1 September 2020. Led by expert groomer Helen Kirby from a state of-the-art facility in Blatchington Road, Hove, the school provides iPet Network qualifications, essential for anyone thinking of starting up their own dog grooming operation, accredited by Ofqual.
The academy also runs classes where members of the public can learn how to groom their own dog, and an accredited course in canine first aid. Bone Idol is truly a small business that is challenging huge brands in a really ethical and unique way.
Scott said: “We will never sell you something you don’t need, so the site is also a hub for all things dog and a resource for our customers and other dog-lovers too. “We feel like this a defining moment for Bone Idol, we are exactly where we wanted to be when we were sitting around that table back in 2016. “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 also know how lucky we have been, and want to encourage people to support all of their local Brighton businesses, it’s a hard time for everyone. “But it is just as exciting now as it was back then and we wouldn’t have got here without all of our wonderful customers.”
To find out more about Bone Idol go to www.boneidol.co.uk