A dog loving entrepreneur from Moira has agreed a deal with the National Trust to officially stock her luxury Irish themed fabric dog bandana in the Giant’s Causeway Visitor Centre.

Claire Smyth struck the deal with the National Trust less than a year after launching her dog accessory business with the support of the Go For It Programme, in association with Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council.

The Go For It Programme is part funded by Invest Northern Ireland and the European Regional Development Fund under the Investment for Growth & Jobs Northern Ireland (2014-2020) Programme.

Claire launched Don’t Forget the Dog in 2017 after spotting a gap in the market for a range of luxury dog accessories after noticing more and more dog owners buying apparel items for their four-legged friends.

The former Fleet Sales Manager decided that after 20 years in the motoring industry it was time to make a change and follow her passion for dogs. That’s when she turned to the Go For It Programme to help her capitalise on the surge in popularity for doggie fashion accessories.

Working from a home studio, Claire designs and handmakes a range of top-quality accessories for dogs inspired by Northern Ireland’s rural landscape, including dog bandanas, dickie bows, poo bags, dog leads and collars.

The business is flourishing with online sales via Facebook and Etsy and a network of stockists across Northern Ireland as the surge in popularity for doggie fashion accessories continues to grow.

Claire Smyth, owner of Don’t Forget the Dog, said; “After 20 years in the motoring industry, I felt I needed to make a drastic change. That’s when I started to think about starting my own business, and my beloved Irish Setter, Abbey, was my inspiration.

“I absolutely love spoiling her with treats and accessory items. We are all continuing to spend more and more money on our pets, yet I noticed a gap in the market for luxury dog products, something superior, well made and with a touch of class.

“I discussed everything with my husband and that’s when I made contact with the Go For It Programme to see if I could turn this window of opportunity into a thriving business. My business advisor at my local enterprise centre, CIDO (Craigavon Industrial Development Organisation) was really supportive and took me step by step through the process of starting my own business.

“The deal to stock my Irish themed dog bandana in the Giant’s Causeway Visitor Centre is an amazing achievement and reflects the hard work that I have put into the business to try and make it a success. This time last year, I never would have thought that I would have my very own range of luxury dog accessories for sale, never mind stocking one of the items in the visitor centre of the Northern Ireland’s most popular tourist attraction.”

The Go For It programme is delivered free of charge by a team of experienced business mentors through Northern Ireland’s wide network of enterprise agencies. It provides expert advice and help with developing a robust business plan to help turn ideas into a commercial enterprise.

Peter Morton, Go For It Business Advisor with Craigavon Industrial Development Organisation on behalf of Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council said; “Claire joined the Go For It Programme driven by her love for dogs and a clear vision for a business that will allow people to spoil their pooches.

“She is an extremely talented and hard-working individual, who took on board all the advice we gave her to help make her business a success. You can see the excitement she gets from the thought of people spoiling their dog with a luxury product that she has handmade made. It’s great to see Don’t Forget the Dog absolutely thriving with so many online orders and local stockists already signed-up.”

If you have a business idea you’d like to develop or if you are thinking about starting a business call CIDO on 028 3839 6520 and we will set up an appointment with one of our business advisors.