Tell us about your Bark + Beyond PR and how it all began?
Bark + Beyond PR is a boutique communications consultancy that predominantly supports pet lifestyle brands. The simplest way I explain it to people is that ‘Bark’ is the stuff I do for pets and the ‘Beyond’ is PR work beyond the pet sector. It’s a nice balance and stops me going full on crazy pet lady.
My business is 100% for the love of dog and inspired by my dog Basil. My background career is PR for more than 20 years at agencies working for clients such as Nintendo, Hasbro and the Seven Dials, Covent Garden. Desperate to have a dog, I brought up getting a dog in my three-month appraisal at an agency I was working at. My bosses were willing to put it out to the staff to see if they would agree to it so asked me to build a case. Sadly, that request didn't work out – but I did stay with that company for nearly six years so not all bad. Unable to have a dog, I directed my passion for dogs into a blog called Barkarama, which I started in 2013 and ran alongside my job. As one of the first pet lifestyle blogs in the UK at the time, I had some amazing experiences, discovered some super companies and got to know some fantastic people.
Eventually my personal circumstances changed and getting a dog was finally feasible. When Basil was around one year old, I decided to take a career break to re-think my direction, freelance, work on my blog and spend more time with Basil. One day I got chatting to a brand I was looking to feature on my blog. The conversation turned to my background and it turned out they were actually looking for some PR support and asked if I’d be interested. I leapt at the chance. Then something just clicked. I could see real potential in my PR experience to good use in a sector that was growing at a rapid pace, as my own boss and with Basil by my side! That was in May 2015 and I’m proud to work with some of the best pet brands in the business, kinfolk being one of them.
Tell us about Basil and how he came into your life
I’ve had a dog all through my childhood to early twenties - Faith the Dalmatian then Jake the Cocker Spaniel. I love dogs, so I always planned to have one as an adult. I lived in New York for a few years and it was here that I spotted Boston Terriers. I love Boxers but at 5ft3 I’m not great handling big dogs and to me, Bostons look like mini Boxers. I also really liked the sound of their traits, care needs, personalities etc. When my husband and I bought our house together, we agreed on a dog for me, cats for him. The cats came first (and I love them too), Basil followed a few months after. I adore him and I’m not biased when I say he is handsome, which is why he’s been a popular model. We joke his personality is not having one – he only gets animated when the treats come out but he’s a gentle soul, who loves the quiet life and being next to anyone who will keep him warm.
How does your Basil fit into your general day working day?
Super easy, as Stuart and I have worked from home for years so lockdown hasn’t impacted us as much as other people. Stuart and I work in separate parts of the house so he flits between the two of us to sleep or say hello. His walks ensure I leave the house at least once a day and often take a break through the day just to engage with the animals. It helps me destress, mull over a work challenge or conjure up new ideas. In normal times, he sometimes comes with me to meetings but, if I‘m working at an event such as Dogstival, I leave him at home so I can focus on work and not his lordship.
Working for myself, I have the flexibility to work anywhere, so I sometimes go up to my parents in the Wirral. We love it there as there is a brilliant beach a stone’s throw from my parents, so after work walks are brilliant.
When you’re not working where do you and Basil like to hang out?
In Brentwood in Essex where we live, we go to our dog-friendly local The Spread Eagle or The Brentwood Kitchen and lockdown has helped us discover some really gorgeous new walks. We’re not far from Southend either, so when the weather is nice, we pop down for a stroll along the front and get fish & chips. Our train goes into Liverpool Street, so we tend to go to places around Spitalfields and Shoreditch - Pizza Pilgrims and the bar at The Curtain Hotel are both dog-friendly. Epping Forest is also a good spot to meet with our London-based doggy pals.
What essentials do you always have on you when heading out for a dog walk?
Poo bags obviously but tissues (too gross to say why) and a collapsible water bowl. If it's cold, Basil and I are very much about the warm coats. I invested in a Wellensteyn down coat that I had shipped from Germany a few years ago. I’ve had four winters out if it but I think I will treat myself to a new Down coat this year. Basil has a few coats but having spied what's coming up from kintails, he too will be getting a new winter coat.
What adventures do you and your dog have planned for the rest of the year?
We actually have a trip coming up in September. It's our second wedding anniversary, Basil’s 8th birthday and we are both desperate for an experience away from the house. It's called Cowley Manor in the Cotswolds and it looks amazing for both humans and dogs. They have a huge lawn where you can take out picnics and pizza, an indoor and outdoor pool and a dog-friendly bar that looks like a set from Mad Men.