This month, we are super excited to chat with Michelle from Scruffy Little Terrier and chat about balancing a busy business with health challenges and two adorable little rescue terriers!
Can you tell us a little bit about your background and what led you to setting up your own business?
Scruffy Little Terrier came about 7 years ago after a massive change to my life happened due to ill health. Until 2013 I had spent my entire career working in London as a PA in the financial sector, mainly on trading floors. Whilst I was a very good PA, I just stumbled into being a PA, but I never really felt fulfilled, it really was just a job (that was only enjoyable because of the people I worked with). Even though I knew I didn’t want to be a PA, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. Since a teenager I have been interested in natural products, yoga (when it wasn’t trendy), photography, animals and dancing. I was always a 'give anything a go' person, very active and busy.
In 2013 I was diagnosed with ME (myalgic encephalomyelitis) or most people know it as CFS (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome). I was signed off from work for two weeks and never went back. Not much is known about ME, some doctors don’t even believe it exists, but suffice to say that extreme tiredness is just one of the very many debilitating symptoms of ME/CFS. In those early days, I really struggled with my identity, no longer doing the job I had done for 25 years, I was very lonely, down and felt lost. Having heard many, many times “When we stop working can we get a dog”, my husband suggested that we get a puppy.
Some people might think we were crazy to get a puppy when I was so ill, I could hardly walk on some days, but actually rescuing our first dog, Barney, I think, was the best thing that could’ve happened to me. Barney gave me a reason to get out of bed every day, to get dressed, he lifted my spirits, he was my constant companion. He became my whole world, so I started writing a blog about him and what we got up to. I dreamt of being winning blogging awards, becoming a ‘go to’ dog friendly blog and eventually opening an online shop (also did discuss having a physical boutique style dog shop) but ME/CFS always has different plans for you because you cannot really plan very far ahead. I have learnt not to get frustrated by what I can’t achieve and be thankful for what I have achieved.
Last year I worked with a website designer to relaunch Scruffy Little Terrier as an online shop, selling gifts for dog lovers including homeware, clothing and products for dogs. I still blog about dog related topics and products while creating fun doggie inspired slogan designs for homeware and clothing.
What are you most proud of in your business, Scruffy Little Terrier?
I think what I am most proud of is that Scruffy Little Terrier still exists, there may have been times that I didn’t write or do anything because of ME/CFS (nearly a whole year once!) but when I was feeling better, I picked it back up again and carried on. I didn’t let the frustration, disappointment and the feeling of uselessness overcome me. That I have created something I love, with the ideals that have always meant a lot to me by creating a home for dog lovers where they can find, where possible, ethical, eco-friendly, 100% natural products for them and their dogs while supporting small British brands that you won’t find on the high street. My motto is 'you won’t find anything in my online shop that I wouldn’t give to my dogs or use myself!'
What keeps you energised during the difficult periods?
Gosh, well, in the past 7 years I’ve had more difficult periods than good ones with my health (haha!).
From the business side, what keeps me energised are the lovely comments I get from customers and followers on social media. I am lucky that dog owners all seem to be so lovely and other small doggie businesses are supportive of each other. I have meet so many wonderfully understanding, supportive dog lovers on social media (one day, hopefully I’ll meet some of them in real life!).
One of my greatest challenges has been learning to listen to my body, to rest when I need to and use the time wisely when I have more energy to do so. This is not something I have found easy to do and I still do struggle with it, but I can now recognise when I need to start resting and more importantly, I don’t feel guilty about resting. Our health is everything, without it we cannot live our life how we want to, physical and mental health work in tandem together, without these everything in life can become a challenge.
Who or what inspired you?
Maybe this will sound cheesy, but I am inspired by the many women I have met who are juggling their life building their business whilst raising children, looking after the home, being a taxi, cooking meals and the many other things they do, whilst still manage to be cheerleaders for other small businesses. I honestly don’t know how they manage it all!
Do you have a favourite quote or favouite piece of advice that you've received along the way?
Being a perfectionist, one piece of advise that stuck with me is don’t wait for something to be perfect, just start now, launch or do whatever it is you want to do. Nothing is perfect and anyway, who knows that it isn’t perfect (in your eyes)? If I had waited until my blog was perfect, it would never have launched, actually the blog and now my shop is an ongoing process and it’s forever changing and evolving, just as our lives are.
Where can people find you?
When I’m not working on the website or social media, you can find me walking our two rescue dogs, Barney and Sandy, down by the sea, we recently moved out of London and now live 5 minutes from the sea, which was another life dream of mine!
Follow us at Instagram ~ @scruffylittleterrier
Follows us at Twitter ~ @MichelleSLT