Animal lover Sophie Tregellis was inspired to create her range of dog biscuits after accompanying her mother to RSPCA dog shows. Spotting a gap in the market for home-made, wholesome, healthy and fun products, Sophie began making the dog biscuits at her parents’ home and selling them at dog shows. That enterprise may have remained only a hobby, had it not been for a chat with a University of Leeds Careers Adviser.
As a final year philosophy student, Sophie had been thinking about life after graduation. In December 2012 the Careers Centre advised her to book a business meeting with Spark. “I hadn’t thought that my dog biscuits could be a serious business proposition but, having told the Careers Centre about my interests, they encouraged me to take the idea further,” says Sophie. Now, only a few months after that original conversation, Sophie has not only launched her business – Top Collar – but is also this year’s winner of the Sir Peter Thompson Enterprise Award.
What is it that makes Top Collar different from its competitors? “I’ve mixed healthy ingredients, aimed at different stages of a dog’s life, with a fun combination of flavours,” explains Sophie. “My biscuits are also hand-made with locally-sourced, human-grade ingredients. I know that owners think of their pets as family members and my range of flavours, such as the classic ‘Sunday Roast’ and ‘Full English’, are natural treats for dogs of all ages.”
Winning the Sir Peter Thompson Enterprise Award has been the springboard Sophie needed to get the business up and running. “Some of the £5,000 prize money will be used to have the products analysed and tested so that they meet all the necessary regulations. The biscuits can then be made at a production facility, freeing me up to promote the brand and launch the website.”
Sophie has been offered a retail space at Handpicked Hall, a community of independent retailers in Leeds’ Grand Arcade, launching in the summer. “This is a great opportunity to work among other specialist producers and learn from them,” she says. “I’m not sure that I would have got this far without advice and encouragement from Spark – they’ve given me a whole new career direction.”