Pebzz caught up with Rik and Helen, the brains behind HayPigs!®, to discuss their mission "to enrich the lives of small furries (and their owners) every day"
HayPigs!® has completed its first year of trading – what have been your biggest learning lessons?
Expect to make mistakes, roll with the punches and keep going. As long as you are acknowledging your mistakes and learning from them, you'll only get stronger. There's things we could have done differently in hindsight, but we're super proud of what we have achieved to date.
What does HayPigs!®, as a company and brand, stand for and what gave you the idea to set up HayPigs!®?
Hopefully our vision statement says it all; "Enriching the lives of small furries (and their owners) every day."
Our mission is simple; to enhance and enrich the everyday lives of small furries and their owners. We do this through a combination of product innovation, education, a sense of fun and wonder and zeal for pet welfare and wellbeing.
When we set up HayPigs!® we really wanted to create a brand specifically for guinea pigs. When you go into a pet retail store, you'll find a small animal section with a selection of products all of which are desperately trying to cater for as many of the small animal species as possible. The reality is, each animal is different, the needs and wants of a hamster are very different to that of a rabbit, chinchilla or rat for example. So why label them all together? From a commercial point of view, people have been frightened to get quite so niche, but we saw it more as an opportunity than a limitation.
In 2014, we adopted our first two guinea pigs, we've since adopted 7 more. They came from a local guinea pig rescue called Blackberry Patch and we struck up a really good relationship with Tracey and Richard who run it. Tracey has been rehabilitating and re-homing guinea pigs for 35 years, so she really knows her stuff! This knowledge has been invaluable to us. Not only does she know guinea pigs really well, but also the people who are passionate about them. When she heard Rik was a product designer, she asked why there weren't more guinea pig products on the market and this of course got us asking the question too. There certainly appeared to be a need out there and if we could prove the market was big enough to support a new business venture, we had the skills and know-how to do something a bit special.
How are you different from other service providers in your field? What is your unique selling point (USP)?
Ha ha! Well I think we're the first guinea pig circus aren't we, that's a little 'out there'?! But actually, the serious point is that we've decided to specialise in toys, feeders and accessories, designed for and tested by Guinea Pigs!™. This means they are designed specifically for the needs of guinea pigs and while many of the products are suitable for other small furries, by concentrating our focus on one species, we believe we've come up with some very innovative and original designs.
We'd like to think our range is quite luxurious and bit of a treat for our customers and of course, their piggies! It's been our aim to design high quality products that do the job they are designed for really well and with a HayPigs!® product, you'll be getting something that is durable and can be used every day.
Our theme adds a final twist as it's very collectible and giftable and will add a splash of colour and fun to your pets home! As a brand, we also have the option to change the theme in the future and add new ranges to our collection.
Where do you want HayPigs!® to be in 3-5 years’ time?
We hope our brand will be well established in the UK, Europe and the US and that we will be on to our second (or possibly even third) range theme. All being well, we'll have continued to grow the business and be in position where an enthusiastic and passionate team of employees help us fulfil our vision on a much larger scale.
If you had 3 wishes, what would they be for HayPigs!®?
To be the market leader and have the power to influence and educate as wide an audience as possible.
To raise the profile of guinea pigs and the standards of their care and enrichment.
To create a brand and company that is loved, makes everyone smile and looks after its employees like a family.
Which 3 items are the best sellers out of your current product range?
Our most successful product to date is the Cavy Cannonball™ which really seems to have caught people's imaginations. It's then difficult to pick a stand out between the other 5 in the range as they're all selling equally well.
Do you have any exciting new products coming to market or that you are working on?
Yes, but they are of course, top secret! All we can say is we hope to have one or two new products launched in September and they will be additions to our circus range. For those of you who might like to guess what we're up to, start thinking about some of the circus acts we've yet to cover in our range!
What is your key tip for anyone thinking of owning guinea pigs as pets?
Please do your research first. For a long time now, guinea pigs have been regarded as an 'easy, low-maintenance' pet but in reality they are quite a commitment (like any pet!). It still amazes us how many people confuse a guinea pig with a hamster and this can be really detrimental to the welfare of the animal if expectations are that they will only live a couple of years and stay roughly the same size. You may be looking after your piggy for as long as 8 years and the boys can grow up to 30cm in length, which will outgrow most starter cages and hutches.
We have a handy checklist on our website (www.haypigs.com/checklist) that goes through all the things you need to consider before getting guinea pigs as pets.
If anyone wants to purchase your products, where can they do this at the moment?
The first place to go is our website, www.haypigs.com. This is packed with information, tips and advice and also has some great videos of our products in use. You'll also find a stockists page that has a list of the independent pet shops that stock our range as well as some online stores including Fetch, Pets at Home and Amazon.
What shows will you be at until year end for anyone to see your product in person?
For the general public we've got two lined up at the moment; the Family Pet Show in Trafford, Manchester, that's on the weekend of the 6th and 7th October and we'll be at the National Pet Show again in November, Birmingham NEC on 3rd and 4th (to include a very special guest). For those in the trade, we'll be at PATS Telford again in September and the Pedigree Wholesale Show in June. Any additional events will be announced as and when they are confirmed, with details on our website.
We hope to see some of you out and about!