Behind the Brand: Haus of Harley
Copy: Serena Faber Nelson
Photography: Crown Photography
I think a lot of dog owners and creatives have the dream of designing their own pet product range one day.
In Sydney, Ryan and Wayne – founders of the cool Haus of Harley label, did just that.
When they brought their puppy farm rescue, Harley, home the pair were inspired to create a stylish yet edgy and functional brand in their pup’s namesake.
Not too long later and and this street stylish brand features everything from collars, apparel, treats to a bespoke grooming range.
At heart, Haus of Harley is all about the love we share with our dogs. No matter who we are, that bond is the same.
We took a sneak peek behind the scenes to hear more about this fresh, young brand…
BEHIND THE BRAND: Haus of Harley
Who: Ryan Harvey & Wayne Frendo
Title & Company: Founders – Haus of Harley
Age: 35 & 33
Location: Sydney, Australia
In a few short years, Haus of Harley has grown from an online pet boutique stocking popular brands to developing your own bespoke range. How did you get started?
We were so excited to adopt Harley and, being new dog parents, wanted to buy every single item she could possibly ever need – before she’d even come home.
We found that it can be an expensive undertaking when you’re starting from scratch and that quality and pricing between brands and products was relatively inconsistent.
We had been looking for a business venture and an online store featuring hand-picked doggie “basics” – of good quality and with reasonable pricing – seemed like a great idea to us. Kind of a one-stop shop.
Lots of entrepreneurs start their businesses at home. Was this the case for you?
Absolutely! In fact, we still operate out of a studio in our home in Sydney’s north-west. Sharing the majority of our house with Haus of Harley fixtures, signage, stock and components can be a nice reminder of what we have achieved so far and allows us to really work on the fly.
Of course, sometimes we trip over things and have no room for overnight visitors so it can be a double-edged sword. We may need to look into bigger premises very soon!
Tell us about Harley – the inspiration behind your brand. How does she reflect your brand values?
Harley grew up in a puppy mill and though she hadn’t yet been bred like so many of the other beagles rescued on the same night, Harley was traumatised and needed some time and gentle care to be able to trust humans again.
Over three years later, Harley’s quirks, mistrust and fears are but a distant memory. Being part of Harley’s healing process was so gratifying and opened our eyes, minds and hearts wider than we could have expected and because of this, we adopted Darby – a Chihuahua x Pomeranian – who had been abused and starved.
Darby was in such a poor state and took buckets of patience, training and love to be able to trust again but what was truly special was seeing the way Harley and he helped each other. How they could love us so unconditionally after what they had been through was incredible!
These two dogs never looked back on their respective pasts and lived for the day. This kind of became a mantra for us – learn from what has happened, but never dwell on it or let it negatively influence your tomorrow. And always be willing to give back.
What made you move into your own designs?
The opportunity to put our own, unique stamp on the pet industry was very enticing. Not only is it a great creative outlet but it’s very fulfilling to see a dog walking down the street wearing one of our designs – be it clothing, a collar or a lead!
Of course there are other less selfish factors too! Producing our own designs gives us the ability to flex up and down as our business needs – and storage capabilities – dictate.
When stocking other brands, we needed to uphold their recommended retail pricing and had multiple price tiers because of this. But with our own designs, we can set and normalise a pricing structure that sits across the entire range of products – making our range of basics very affordable.
Your transition into your own range is a dream for most business owners. From conception to sales, what goes into making your own range?
Developing our own products had been on the cards from day one however we wanted to take our time getting to know the industry and what dog owners were really searching for. We started retailing via boutique markets, shopping centre pop-ups and dog shows because it was low cost, flexible and allowed us to research a wide demographic. The knowledge that we have gained from this type of retail is invaluable in helping to design products that our customers want – practical, easy-to-use, long-lasting and easy to care for.
Ryan has always had an interest in design so applies his creative side to the patterns and colours – which of course is the fun part! In the meantime, we source sample materials and test the wear and tear, usability and overall fit with what we are trying to achieve with the particular product. It’s a balancing act between style, quality, safety and pricing which we take very seriously! Our products should be on-trend when it comes to fashion – but most importantly be safe and functional.
After a whole lot of cutting, sewing, printing, mixing or moulding takes place we trial the items out again – usually on our own dogs or those of friends – just to make sure everything is 100% up to our standard. Once finalised, we go through an admin process of photographing, writing descriptions, loading to the website and inventory system. And usually there’s marketing, samples out to industry experts and introducing the product to stockists.
All of that before we even get the product out to the public. Wayne does a fantastic job of managing the logistics of moving the pop-up shop between locations. Many months of work can go into one single product but it IS definitely rewarding to see customers react so positively to the finished product!
Who is the Haus of Harley ideal customer?
The great thing about HOH customers, and dog lovers in general, is that they come from all walks of life!
We have families, couples, singles, sexuality and gender diverse people, retirees and even little kids who love our products. We love hearing the devotion when customers tell us about their four-legged family members.
The bond that dogs share with their humans is so universal and blind to things like race, gender, sexuality or financial status – we want Haus of Harley to be a reflection of that.
What’s your best selling product? Why do you think it’s so popular?
Definitely our Barkings Basics Soft Mesh Harnesses! Customers have responded so well to them primarily because they are easy to put on and very comfortable for the dog. They are great for alleviating breathing issues caused by dogs that pull on traditional collars and other types of harnesses – plus the colours are so vibrant!
Of course, our pop-up travel bowls are equally as popular and really complement the Harness in terms of matching colours, but also because they are so handy for when you are out walking.
Our newest product, ATTICUS dip-dye rope leads are quickly becoming one of our fastest-selling items! The trend has been doing well overseas for a while now so we’re thrilled to introduce these 100% cotton, marine-grade rope leads to the Australian market. The vibrant dip-dye colour fades are so on-point and perfect for summer visits to the beach or road trips along the coast.
Do you have a pet friendly workplace?
We’re so lucky to be able to make our home – and everyday lives – our workplace. No one could ever deny that having the company of dogs makes everything so much better! When we’re in the studio, Harley, Bella and Morris like to try and “help” by being under foot. Harley is especially good at “helping” when we are baking treats!
We really do have the best job in the world as we are also surrounded by dogs when retailing at markets and other events. Meeting our customers (and their humans) takes away all the pressure and stress of running a business. Who wouldn’t want to spent their weekends playing with lots of random dogs? Dogs are amazing and make all the hard work worthwhile.
Name three items you can’t live without at work…
Coffee, Wi-fi and dogs. These are staples of our everyday routine and we wouldn’t be able to run Haus of Harley without them!
If you could go back in time and give yourself one piece of advice when starting out what would you say?
Listen to yourself and stay true to your vision! Our biggest mistake was going against our instincts and trying to make HOH be everything to everyone.
In the very early stages, this line of thinking spread our resources too thin and ultimately was not successful. Once we reigned it back in and used our experience to re-align the brand to our original vision, we started seeing the rewards we were after. Instinct is invaluable!
A good business plan, a budget and a dream is all it really takes. It’s very natural to make mistakes though! We certainly have – but without taking a leap, and risking that mistake, you may also never see your business soar.
Also, we didn’t realise the importance of protecting our brand / name through IP trademarks in the beginning and never thought we would have issues in this area. Brand identity is the most vital asset you have as a business and, even though it’s another expense, it’s crucial that you protect it. The uniqueness of our name is so important to us – especially as a way of honouring Harley and what she brings to our lives.
If Haus of Harley could collaborate with another brand or celebrity, who would you choose and why?
Lady Gaga. Love her or hate her, you can’t deny that Mother Monster is a creative powerhouse and very skilled at thinking outside the box.
From a meat dress to electrical tape to designer couture, Gaga and her team create such diverse and impactful looks that are memorable and unique.
We’re sure that a collab with Lady Gaga would be extremely fun, wild and an overall unforgettable experience. Plus Gaga is a huge dog lover and Asia, her French Bulldog, is gorgeous.
If you could have lunch with three people who inspire you creatively and professionally, who would you invite and why?
Bethenny Frankel – whose Skinnygirl brand took something as simple as healthy cooking and turned it into a $100 million business.
Kris Jenner – who has created a global, multi-brand empire out of nothing and ensured the financial security of the Kardashian family for life.
Darby – our Chihuahua x Pomeranian who was unfortunately taken too soon by an aggressive cancer. Darby continues to be as much an inspiration behind HOH as Harley herself and we would give anything to be able to spend more time with him – even if only for one lunch.
What advice do you have for other aspiring entrepreneurs?
Stay true to your vision, stay on budget and don’t sweat the small stuff.
Don’t be afraid to give it a go but the most important thing you can do is find your own voice and not emulate existing brands, products and aesthetics.
Try to put your own unique spin on things and give your business a brand identity of its own.
What is next for the Haus of Harley brand? Where do you see yourself and the brand in 5 years time?
We’re really content at the moment but never rest on our laurels for too long! We will continue to evolve our designs, expand the product range and focus on (slowly) expanding our international reach.
We are still a relatively young company so it’s important to keep the momentum going and to keep pushing the brand out into the big, wide world.
We’ll still continue to be front and centre, serving the customers in person each week at markets, trade expos and dog shows. Spending time with the dogs and listening to their owners feedback is crucial to the evolution of our products and brand.
What three items do you think every stylish pet owner should have?
Great-looking, fun and trendy collars and leads! No dog deserves a plain, boring one.
Great grooming products to keep your pup fresh, and, we love simple, tasteful dogs beds and blankets that complement the decor in your house. Owning a dog doesn’t mean you have to compromise your style or spend a fortune.
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Copy: Serena Faber Nelson
Photography: Crown Photography