The circus comes to town for two Essex-based entrepreneurs as their Big Top inspired pet accessories for guinea pigs hit the big time, win industry awards and help to improve animal welfare.
Who would have thought that adopting a pair of male guinea pigs from a local rescue centre could have sowed the seeds for a successful new pet accessory business but that is exactly what happened to Essex-based entrepreneurs, Rik Cridland (36) and his wife, Helen. (35)
HayPigs!® the company that they went on to form, has gone on to win many industry awards and plaudits with its innovative circus inspired range of accessories for guinea pigs which are not only fun, bright and colourful but are also designed to improve the lives and wellbeing of these popular pets. The range also picks up on the currently popularity of all things to do with circuses at the moment following the success of the film “The Greatest Showman.”
Having truly caught the guinea pig bug, Rik and Helen went on to adopt another seven and having bought them every toy and accessory on the market, they soon became very frustrated at the lack of choice, quality and specialism there was for guinea pigs in pet shops. As Rik explains,
“It seemed strange that guinea pigs had no dedicated section in a pet shop and were simply bundled together with other small animals such as rabbits, hamsters, chinchillas and rats. We noticed that people actually bought products that weren’t even suitable for guinea pigs, simply through bad labelling or a lack of welfare knowledge. We were also astounded at how many guinea pigs ended up being ‘surrendered’ to rescue centres, because people were ‘fed-up’ with them or hadn’t expected them to grow so big, or live so long.
“Creating a brand for guinea pigs seemed like a great opportunity to raise the profile of these small animal pets and their welfare needs, while enhancing and enriching the everyday lives of small furries and their humans.”
With Rik’s background running his own business as a product designer (Stir Design Ltd.) combined with Helen’s artistic skills honed in the theatre having been a trained dancer, choreographer and dance teacher and a desire and drive to start their own family business, HayPigs!® was born
HayPigs!® started trading in April 2017 on World Circus Day following nearly two years design, development and planning preparation. Since then the company has gone on to receive many accolades. It is in partnership with Guinea Pigs Australia, it has exhibited at many trade and pet shows across the UK, it has won the Best New Small Animal Product Award at PATS Telford in 2017, was twice finalist at the PetQuip Awards (2017 and 2018) and was finalist in the Pet Product Innovation Category at the Pet Industry Federation Awards in 2017. HayPigs!® has since reached the finals of the SME National Small Business Awards in the New Business Category which will be presented at a gala event at Wembley Stadium on 7 December and recently won the New Company Award at the Essex Business Awards which was held at the Radisson Blu hotel, Stansted. The company also recently triumphed at The Animal Health and Wellness Awards 2018 winning the- Best Small Animal Toys Design Company – UK
The HayPigs!® product range can be purchased from haypigs.com, Amazon FBA (UK and Europe), Ocado Fetch and the company is signed up to one of the UK’s leading wholesalers, Pedigree Wholesale who supply independent pet shops throughout the country. They also supply Pets at Home and in Australia, the largest pet retail chain, Pet Barn. Their products are also stocked by Guinea Pigs Australia as well as PetCircle online over there.
As well as specialising in toys, feeders and accessories designed for and tested by Guinea Pigs!™ which are original and innovative another aspect to the range is their collectability. Rik says,
“We’d like to think our range is quite luxurious and bit of a treat for our customers and of course, their piggies! It’s been our aim to design high quality products that do the job they are designed for really well and with a HayPigs!® product, you’ll be getting something that is durable and can be used every day. It is a premium, high-end product for piggies.
“Our theme adds a final twist as it’s very collectible and giftable and will add a splash of colour and fun to your pets home! As a brand, we also have the option to change the theme in the future and add new ranges to our collection. This is a very exciting aspect. “
“At the moment, our customer demographic is predominantly female, but we are very keen to change that. Interestingly, the number of boys into guinea pigs drops off dramatically as they become teenagers but we are seeing a re-emergence of interest in grown men, known affectionately as “Pig-dads”.
Both Rik and Helen have very ambitious plans for the future of their brand,
“At present, we are very happy for our focus to be solely on our area of expertise; guinea pigs. While other small furries can enjoy our products, evidence to date is suggesting they are finding us organically. In terms of markets, we already have a strong presence in the UK and Australia and have had modest sales in mainland Europe. We think France and Germany would be the next obvious steps in Europe and that getting our products over to the US and Canada in the near future is a no-brainer. Further afield, we also think that Japan and China would also be very interested in our products.”
HayPigs!® currently uses two UK based sourcing companies to help produce the majority of their products in China. They are very experienced in ensuring that the range adhere to all the necessary standards and help with testing the products thoroughly before releasing to market.
Rik’s background in product design clearly helped develop all the products from sketch to realisation but both he and Helen also used the help of their local guinea pig rescue centre, Blackberry Patch in Essex along with a network of other guinea pig experts around the world, including Guinea Pigs Australia and Guinea Pig Magazine to produce the range.
“We hope our customers will delight in the whole experience, from receiving and un-packaging their products to enjoying the interaction and play of using them. We firmly believe in encouraging people to spend more quality time with their pets, enriching the lives of their small furries while simultaneously enhancing their own wellbeing.
“We pride ourselves on being an approachable, friendly, family run business. We hope you will feel part of our family and whether two legs or four, we leave you with a warm fuzzy feeling and a smile on your face. “
“In the next 2-4 years we hope our brand will be well established in the UK, Europe, the US and Australia and that we will be on to our second (or possibly even third) range theme. We will have continued to grow the business and be in position where an enthusiastic and passionate team of employees help us fulfil our vision on a much larger scale.