A business idea was born when two friends were walking their dogs

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Many people took the opportunity the pandemic presented to get a dog. Working from home made it possible for many who had wanted one for years.

It’s a feeling businesswoman Portia Quinn can relate to, or at least her kids can.

The former Hong Kong-based financial journalist moved to London to set up a nanny agency, before returning to Dublin in 2012 to raise her family.

Almost as soon as her kids could talk, they howled for a dog.

“I have four girls and they asked me for a dog every single day for years. They had dog books and drew up a dog league table, with points for friendliness, barkiness. They really, really wanted a dog.”

Eventually, she relented, and got a golden retriever, or rather “a 10-week-old bundle of fluff”. The kids were ecstatic, though it was hard to tell. “The girls took one look at him and started screaming and crying.”

They called him Marley and, as it happened, one of Quinn’s friends, Robin Thompson, had one called Harley, an older dog with joint issues.

The friends were talking about how the right dog food might help while out walking their dogs up Killiney Hill one day and, that was it, a new business idea was whelped.

Following extensive research with both Teagasc and Bord Iascaigh Mhara, they developed a premium sustainable dog food range – Harley & Marley Planet Loving Pets – based on fish and designed for optimum canine health.

Quinn enrolled in a Start Your Own Business programme at her Local Enterprise Office just as the first lockdown was announced.

“The biggest challenge starting the business was having children, from 12 to five, home-schooled around me and trying to manage their Zoom calls without having enough devices to go around, plus a youngest who just wasn’t interested in all the wonderful programmes RTÉ was putting on for kids,” says Quinn.

“I put a little table beside the kitchen table so she could do her ‘work’ beside me. That lasted until 10.45am and that was it, her attention span finished.”

Despite the distractions, the juggling and the learning, she didn’t just get one premium dog food brand successfully launched during Covid, she won an order for a second, Dogs Love Fish, from Aldi too. So now what?

“I’ve amazingly supportive friends who encouraged me throughout the past year. Soon as I make some money I’m taking them on holiday” she says.


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