On December 3, 2022, Doglyness officially celebrated its 2nd birthday. And what better way to celebrate than to reflect on the past two years and all the amazing things that Doglyness has achieved? So, we sat down with the woman behind it all - Anka Hana Sladoljev, to talk about how Doglyness started, what inspired her to create and develop the brand, how the face of the pet care industry is changing, and to share some fun memories from the last two years as well. Plus, we provide a sneak peek into some of the new, innovative products coming your way soon!
The Doglyness mascot - Hugo!
What was the inspiration behind Doglyness?
“The inspiration for Doglyness began when I was just a child, and my love of animals started. When I learned to read, my only interest was reading encyclopedias about animals, nature and dogs! I always wanted to be a vet, but being born and raised in Croatia during a "Homeland War", a country's transition to independence followed by poverty and the underground economy, it wasn't easy to focus on your dreams. My parents wanted me to pursue a more financially stable path as a lawyer, economist or something that would pay well. Vets weren't paid very well during these times, and my parents wanted me to pursue a career that would give me access to a better life. So, I left the dream of being a vet behind to study economics.
But I never lost interest in being around and helping animals in any way I could. I would frequently bring home abandoned street dogs and volunteer in shelters, and I developed a great love for Poodles, the first breed of dog I ever had. In my teenage years, I discovered dog shows after going to dog shows with a friend who participated in shows with her Labrador. It was a magical experience for me, and I began going to dog shows with my Poodle. We weren't overly successful, which was a big learning curve for me. But I promised myself that one day I would have the opportunity to meet a reputable breeder and afford a Poodle that would help me win my first show. And 15 years later, I got my male Poodle, Hugo, who changed my life in many ways and led me down a path that would inspire the creation of Doglyness.
Poodles and nature are something Anka is very passionate about.
I learned about caring for Hugos' coat, grooming, dog training and handling. But what I enjoyed most was taking care of his coat. As a perfectionist, I wanted Hugo to have a healthier and shinier coat, using quality ingredients that kept his coat in the best overall condition. Most of the pet care products available contained toxic chemicals that gave an instant appearance of health, but the short-term benefits came with negative long-term impacts. Hugo was scratching and constantly red and itchy. Those toxic chemicals can cause allergies, hormone imbalance and even cancer. And I wanted the best for Hugo.
So, the idea for Doglyness was born. I couldn't find a single pet brand that was fully certified organic, vegan or with a complete INCI list. So I decided to create one myself. Doglyness was born after dedicated market research to find the best natural ingredients, a biochemist team that could transform my vision into a reality, and extensive research about eco-friendly packaging solutions, as using plastic was never an option for me. After more than a year of searching, I discovered Veganbottle, made from raw sugar cane that is entirely biodegradable and compostable.
I’ve developed Doglyness with the same passion that I have for dogs and the planet. I believe all dogs deserve the best care from only the best all-natural products. And it's not necessary to destroy the environment in the process.”
How important is sustainability to the Doglyness brand?
“Sustainability has been a core aspect of Doglyness development from day one. I knew I could and must do better and set the highest possible standard to be seen and heard, to show the world that even a small team can make a huge difference. I had a gut feeling that sustainable innovation would be the key to the success of Doglyness because we would do something brave that no one else in the pet care industry had done before. I wasn't afraid of failure, not even for a second.
Doglyness is the Winner of this year's Sustainability Award from the Pet Industry Federation.
From day one, the concept for the development of Doglyness products was clear: meet our present needs without compromising the ability of future generations to fulfill their own needs. Regardless of who we are, where we live and what we do, we have a moral obligation to do our part to sustain the planet. And in the corporate world, a lot is involved in achieving this. You have to consider the organization's approach to everything, from manufacturing to logistics to customer service. Not just "go green" because it's a fast-growing trend. But it is, and always has been, my commitment to maintain high sustainability standards to encourage other companies to follow suit.”
What have been the biggest challenges you’ve experienced since launching Doglyness? And proudest moments?
“Every business venture inevitably has challenges, and Doglyness has been no different. I have experienced challenges daily since the launch of the brand in 2020. From challenges within the manufacturing process where everything goes wrong to finding quality staff who share a passion for the brand and understand the challenges of operating with a smaller team, there are always hurdles to overcome. But I see each challenge as an opportunity to learn and grow. I have learned a lot about the importance of human relationships in the success of a business and how to work and develop quality relationships with different people. This includes engagement with customers.
Some of our favorite client results after using Doglyness products.My proudest moments are when I receive messages from customers about how Doglyness changed their lives. Or that they literally can't imagine their lives without Doglyness. Groomers message me saying that working with Doglyness is like a meditation to them and saves them a ton of time. There is no better achievement than knowing Doglyness customers are satisfied with the products.
Of course, we can't forget about the recent recognition from the Pet Industry Federation and winning the Sustainability Award. I still can't believe it happened, and it's probably the most significant achievement accomplished as a team and brand. This recognition inspires other brands and the industry as a whole, showing them that it's possible to provide high-quality natural products with a low footprint on the planet. My goal is to be a positive wave of change in the pet industry and a trusted pet brand that brings innovation and pushes sustainability policies to extremes with each new product.”
Sustainability is at the core of the Doglyness mission - and we're grateful for multiple recognitions in this area!
What do you think is the key to the success of Doglyness?
“Looking back over the past two years and every Doglyness has achieved, I wish I had spent less time worrying about how everything would work out. I always had a clear vision of what I wanted, and Doglyness is proof that when you do something good and believe in yourself, the right things will happen. Although I had a clear vision from the start, I had a minimal budget, meaning there was no room for error, and I had to do most things myself. But I credit this as a massive contributor to the business's success, as I spent many hours learning and self-educating on every aspect of the company, so I understand how all the moving parts fit together.
For example, I had no idea about designing and was learning to use design programs online to do design tasks myself. And now, I have a better eye for design and can set clear expectations for hired designers because I understand what's involved. While I can now relax more and allow staff to do their jobs more freely, I highly recommend that business owners be involved in all aspects of their business as much as possible.
All Doglyness lines are versatile and compatible with all coat and skin types. They improve skin conditions and promote overall coat health.When it comes to the key to the success of Doglyness, I believe it's a mix of things. But most importantly I think it’s the superior quality of the products. Customer retention is a huge component of the success and growth of every business. While a customer may buy a low-quality product once, they will never buy it again. But if someone buys a superior quality product, you can guarantee they will continue to buy it over and over again, and word spreads fast. The pet industry definitely lacks quality, natural and eco-friendly products, which is likely why Doglyness was selling worldwide within the first year without me paying any money on advertising.”
Something truly unique about Doglyness is how transparent the business has always been with customers. Can you talk a bit about this?
“Something that has been very important to me from day one is transparency. Doglyness is more than a product; it's a community of dog lovers with the same values and passions. I have always been fully transparent with customers about challenges I’ve faced and have even asked the community for advice on multiple occasions.
Groomed to perfection with Doglyness.
Doglyness customers are an integral part of the development process, which is why I started the Doglyness Family Group on Facebook, where people share tips and advice, and I post information about what's happening behind the scenes. Members can also share issues with their dogs' coats and skin and try to solve them together. It's a place where I can share the knowledge I’ve gathered over the years with members of the Doglyness community to help support members and their pet problems.”
What's changed at Doglyness? And how is the pet care industry changing?
“Things just keep getting better here at Doglyness! I continue to learn and grow daily and have been able to do business more effectively than I could at the start. Everything feels much more organized, and as a result, we are developing faster. I now understand what to look for and how to choose the right people for the needs of the business. I’ve also learned how to better handle the inevitable criticism that comes with running a business. Having put so much time, energy and passion into Doglyness, it can be hard not to take comments personally. I’ve learned to let certain things go and stay focused on my mission: to develop high-quality, sustainable pet grooming products.
The pet industry is changing, and we are spearheading that change!As for the pet industry, I have noticed changes, but not necessarily in the best way. Many new companies are popping up with "eco-friendly" branding, and established companies are switching to "green" labelling. Still, they aren't providing the full INCI list of their ingredients and don't have a sustainability policy. There's a lot of greenwashing out there. I see companies using 2 or 3 natural ingredients in their formulas, but they combine them with toxic petrochemicals or sulfates. With so many new natural ingredients alternatives to silicone, it's hard to understand why companies wouldn't simply replace them. But it's likely because cleansing agents like sulfates are cheap. The natural ingredients market has improved so much in the last ten years. With Doglyness formulations, I hope to educate people about better ingredients that can be used for cleansers, emulsifiers, skin and coat conditioning agents and preservatives. To me, everything else is just greenwashing and following green trends without a clear and honest mission to do better.”
What are some of your favourite Doglyness memories?
“Despite the challenges and hard work that has gone into growing Doglyness to where it is today, it has also been a lot of fun, and I’ve created some amazing memories. One of my favourite memories was going to Crufts this year, the world's largest dog show, and running the Doglyness booth with the UK distributors Lynne and Steve Land from the Doglyness UK. I couldn't believe how many people were coming directly to the booth. They already knew about the brand and were singing its praises (with some even talking to other patrons about how much they loved Doglyness). It made me realize how much brand awareness there was in the grooming and dog show community.
None of this would be possible without our Doglyness team and a huge support from friends and family.
I also went to Split, Croatia, to visit my grandmother over the summer, and when I saw her dog Masha (a Border Collie), I immediately booked her a grooming appointment. Masha was quite unkempt due to my grandparent's busy schedule during the summer season. I left before Masha's grooming appointment, but my grandmother called after the fact and told me that the groomer not only knew about Doglyness but was a massive fan of the products. The fact that a small grooming salon in Croatia had heard such good things about the brand was a fantastic surprise. Plus, I don’t think my grandmother fully understood the scale of my business, and this moment made her very happy and proud of what I’ve achieved.
Another fun fact customers may not know about Doglyness is that the Doglyness logo took six months to develop, with the work of 5 people (but we are so delighted and happy with the final design, so it was all worth it!). I also heard a rumor recently that some people think the Doglyness community is a cult. Doglyness is a strong community that cares for each other and benefits our dogs and the planet. Being part of our community costs nothing, and you don't need to use the product to access great advice about your dog's health, coat, grooming and behaviour. We are here to help anyone looking for advice or wanting to become the best pet parent! (Definitely NOT a cult).”
What is next for Doglyness?
“We’ve had some incredible achievements over the last 2 years, but Doglyness is full of even bigger plans and surprises. I’m constantly listening to customer needs and improving what we already have while developing new products. I have a rule at Doglyness - every new product we make must be better than what's already out there. So the first announcement is that Doglyness will soon be offering professional sizes of our products in compostable Vegan bottles! We are about to replace traditional gallon-sized plastic bottles with 5X1L compostable bottles for our groomers. This eliminates waste and means they will always have access to fresh product.
Secondly, I noticed that many groomers in the Doglyness community were frustrated with the lack of sustainable, comfortable and fashionable grooming clothes options. So, I decided to step up and change that! I hired a fashion designer to help create a line of sustainable and fashionable grooming wear. I want my groomers to feel good about themselves while at work but also have something that can transition to time outside the studio, so they don't feel like a walking trash bag wearing a thin piece of plastic. The idea is to transition from fashionable pieces you would wear daily to stylish and protective grooming workwear, so they feel good all day! Special attention will be given to sourcing quality, recycled materials that will be lightweight, waterproof and furproof! This is a totally new venture, and we’re so excited to be able to offer more eco-friendly solutions for groomers.
Going forward, we are also planning to create high-quality, transparent supplements for pets with quality and origin certificates. I want to teach the Doglyness community the importance of what they feed their pets and how we can take care of their well-being naturally since this is often overlooked in the pet care world.”
“Although I put everything I have into Doglyness, the brand would not be where it is today without the help and support of others. I want to thank my team, who have supported me and made work so enjoyable. I want to thank all the groomers and pet parents who created this opportunity to speak about all these things and help me get here by genuinely sharing their love towards Doglyness and our mission.
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you!
I want to add that Doglyness is my pure passion and love, and I work on every single detail and project with all my heart. I care so much about our mission and am always open to everyone with my whole self to give all the answers and help they need. And I will always stand by the Doglyness mission and community. I will continue doing my best to deliver products our pet community deserves, providing the Doglyness Difference in quality, personal touch and results.”