How Kim O’Donnell went from ‘invisible’ to global pet business
This time a year ago, Kim O’Donnell, founder of Leo, Charley and Me pet accessories, wanted to learn to get visible.
She had a business making pretty collars and products for pet owners inspired by her rescue Cocker Spaniel Charley.
But having spent her career working as a school nurse, when it came to standing out online and reaching new customers, she felt totally overwhelmed.
First, she joined an online visibility challenge which led her to take part in my first PR challenge last September.
Since then Kim and her products and two dogs, Labrador Leo and Spaniel Charley, have appeared in nearly every national newspaper.
They’ve featured in dog magazines, blogs and local media, and now Kim finds herself working into the small hours to keep up with orders.
During lockdown, she recruited her daughter to help cope with demand for hand-made masks to match her pet accessories.
And she’s seen traffic to her website increase by 683 per cent, from 210 visits a month to 1700.
In this episode Kim shares how she did it and you can listen in on the player link below or read the highlights as a blog post.
Kim started her brand by accident. She had always loved sewing from being a little girl and decided to start making things for her dogs, Leo and Charley.
“It all began when I started making pretty accessories for Charley. Because her name was Charley, everyone thought she was a male dog, so I wanted to make it obvious she was a girl!” says Kim.
“People would remark on how nice they were and I had a few friends ask me to make things for their dogs.”
Next, a friend persuaded her to have a stall at a local village fair. Out of around 50 who attended, Kim says 20 bought a product, and she felt it was time to start her business.
After another sellout day at the Staffordshire show in May 2019, Kim decided to leave her job as a school nurse and work on Leo, Charley and Me full time.
She had a website but says she had no idea about promoting herself. “I’m a hands on practical nurse who delivered care to people for 39 years.
“I had no clue when it came to things like social media or websites or SEO. I knew I had to get eyes on my website so I started learning about social media.
“I did a visibility challenge and that led me to doing the PR challenge last September and signing up for the Publicity for Pet Businesses course in October.”
Kim says at the time she logged how many people had visited her website and in three months it was 210.
Before doing the course, she thought to get media coverage she’d need to employ a PR company and that it was an eye-opener to learn she could do it herself.
She compiled a list of publications where she’d like her products to appear and together we created a series of story ideas to suit them.
Then the icing on the cake was when she sent Dilyn, Boris Johnson’s dog, a Christmas pudding lead, collar and bandana set and he wore them on election day.
The images of the Prime Minister cuddling Dilyn were on the front pages of newspapers around the world with his bandana on show!
She said: “I was in London, on the Tube, and picked up a copy of the Metro and there was Dilyn on the front page, wearing my product. It was the biggest shock. I couldn’t believe my eyes.
“I sent him it as a present when he was adopted and I never thought it was be seen, never mind worn! From there came a whole host of opportunity.
“I was in the Daily Mail talking about dressing the Prime Minister’s dog and our local paper approached me after that and lots of other local and regional coverage.
“It was a rollercoaster!”
Kim says her confidence grew and after the ‘Dressing Dilyn’ story she came up with other angles.
These included her Labrador Leo going to a doggy boot camp which appeared in the Telegraph and Lifesaving Labradors in the Express.
She pitched to gift guides and product review sections and appeared in the Sun, Daily Star, Sunday Mirror, Your Dog and Dogs Monthly.
How Kim went from feeling invisible to selling her pet products all over the world
Being featured online also meant Kim had messages from people all over the world who wanted to buy her products.
“I had a lady from Israel who lives on a Kibbutz get in touch as she wanted the same collar as Dilyn’s and we’re now penpals!”
Kim has been making masks in lockdown after a message from a customer who wanted one to match her dog’s accessories.
After sharing a post about it she’s been inundated with requests and has made hundreds of masks and sent them all over the world.
Kim says before focusing on PR she had around 200 visits to her website in three months from July to September last year, but from October to January she had 1645, an increase of 683 per cent.
From April to June, she had 1700 visits. “It all started from doing the PR course and being featured in the papers, it was a heck of a leap,” says Kim.
“I feel a lot more confident now. It was daunting at the beginning so being part of the online programme has expanded my knowledge, I know what to do.
“Now if I don’t know something, I go out and learn it. And also, it’s not just me who will benefit from me having a business and generating an income.
“It’s Spaniel Aid UK too, because 15 per cent of everything I make goes to them, so those little doggies are going to benefit too.
“That’s what gives me the fire in my belly to keep pushing myself to keep going.”
Kim donates hundreds to Spaniel Aid and gives the charity products for auctions and other fundraisers.
She says that being more visible and the increase in sales has helped her do this and her advice for anyone struggling with any element of their business is to get help.
Kim said: “Find the expert for whatever it is you want to achieve, be it social media, websites, SEO and get help. Listen to their advice and follow it to the letter.”
If you’ve read Kim’s story and want to learn more about working with me, e mail here to find out more about the membership programme.
Links and resources mentioned in this post:
Leo, Charley and Me: https://leocharleyandme.co.uk
Spaniel Aid: https://spanielaid.co.uk/
Kim in the Daily Mail: The Dilyn Effect
Kim on The Paw Post: How to dress your dog like Dilyn
Birmingham Mail: Meet the woman who dressed the Prime Minister’s Dog!
Stoke Sentinel: The Dilyn Effect
Sunday Express: Lifesaving Ladbradors
Telegraph: We took our anxious dog to a boot camp
Blog on why Kim set up Leo, Charley and Me: Our Background
Membership programme: Publicity for Pet Businesses Membership.
Download the press release series: Press Release Template
Hi, I’m Rachel, a freelance journalist and PR and content consultant and crazy dog lady!
I’ve written so many stories about animals and pet brands that I wrote a book on how pet entrepreneurs can do their own PR.
Is media coverage on your to-do list? Would you like your pet business to feature in newspapers and magazines or on websites, TV and radio?
I can help you with my free press release template which you can get free by signing up to my mailing list below.
sign up to my Newsletter
and receive a free press release template
I know we get hundreds of e mails so if you want to opt out, you can at any time!
If you prefer 1-1 support, CLICK HERE to book in for a free 15 minute discovery call.
Click below to join my Facebook community and network with other pet professionals.