With a background in art and design, Company Director Poli Cárdenas founded Ridgebag in 2018. He has a Masters in Curatorship and has owned his own furniture-making business before setting off to lead on the Design and Production within Ridgebag.
“Ridgebag was born out of a very real need in the market that we discovered as dog owners – a bag that incorporates all the essentials for a dog walk.
Between us we have three dogs: the Rhodesian Ridgebacks Raffi and Layla, and Mina, a Romanian ex-street dog. Our logo is in fact the silhouette of our inspiration, our awen, Raffi. Ridgebags are created for people who love their dogs by people who love their dogs.”
As well as Poli, the team includes a marketing, PR and social media specialist Llaima Mali Cárdenas and freelance writer Catrin Kean, whose professional dog walking experience helps her provide job specific insights in her blogs, which then inform Ridgebag’s designs.
All bags are handmade in batches and are assembled by a sewing services company in Barry.
What they did
“We carried out extensive research, using our own experience and that of our dog-owning friends, many of whom are dog professionals. We designed and built prototypes before trialling them with professional dog walkers for over a year, constantly receiving feedback and adapting the bags. We finalised three designs which are now on sale. We are currently working on further designs to suit different needs and tastes.
Once we were ready to go to production, we created our business plan and applied for funding from the Start-Up Loans Company. All our advisers have given us invaluable advice and insight. They helped us to fine-tune our plan, leading to the approval of the funding.
At the moment, we have existed predominantly on social media and customers contact us directly to buy a bag. However, we’ve recently had our first professional photoshoot and have just launched our updated website and online shop.” – Poli Cárdenas
What would they do differently
“An initial mistake was to not carry out more research on textiles. This produced some unnecessary expenses on fabrics that turned out to be unsuitable for the quality we were striving for. In hindsight, we should have approached a funding source much earlier than we did. That would have helped us to bring the bags to market at an earlier date. There was a period in which the prototypes were ready but could not go into production because of lack of funding.”
Their proudest moment in business
“So far, our proudest moment has been the bags themselves. I am a skilled designer but didn’t know how to sew at all and didn’t own a sewing machine; I had to teach myself from scratch in order to sew the bags. When we presented the working prototypes to professional sewers, they were impressed with the quality and complexity of the bags. That was a great, proud moment and really boosted our confidence.”
Do they use Welsh in their business? If so, how has this helped them
“All our bags have Welsh names: 'Awen', 'Awen Aer', 'Dinas', and our new designs will be named 'Awen Du' and 'Eryri'. We will also have a Welsh version of our website to serve Welsh speaking customers. An important aspect of our marketing strategy is to promote the Made in Wales ethos. We find this complements our brand image and the practicality of the bags – Ridgebags are designed for the Welsh wilderness and this is demonstrated on our Instagram account. Our Content Producer Llaima is a Welsh speaker and we often celebrate Welsh days such as Dydd Gwyl Dewi Sant and Dydd Santes Dwynwen on our social media, as well as having messages like “Nadolig Llawen” and “Blwyddyn Newydd Dda”, most of the time in many other languages, as well!”
Describe the type of support (financial / non-financial) they’ve received from Business Wales / Welsh Government
Ridgebag required assistance with pricing, cashflow forecasting and business planning so they got in touch with the Welsh Government’s Business Wales service. Poli attended a ‘Starting and Running a Business – Taking the Plunge’ workshop and then received advisory support from Carla Reynolds, who assisted with all start-up issues and queries, including marketing and managing demand.
Ridgebag were able to obtain £7,000 from the Start-Up Loans Company and launch successfully in November 2018.
Ridgebag also signed up to the Business Wales Green Growth Pledge and committed to take action to improve their sustainability performance in the following ways:
- introduce bio packaging
- improve and look after the health and well-being of staff
- focus on the quality of the product to ensure it lasts a long time
Poli is now working with Miranda Bishop, a Business Wales Growth Adviser, who is helping the business with their growth and expansion strategy.
Poli said: “Following the initial contact with an adviser from Business in Focus, we attended a Starting and Running a Business - Taking the Plunge workshop. This was followed by meetings with our Business Wales advisers Carla Reynolds and Miranda Bishop. Both of them have been an invaluable source of inspiration and encouragement, as well as providing important leads to help us on our way to becoming a confident and successful company.”
Here are Ridgebag’s top tips for anyone else looking to start or grow their own business:
- carry out extensive research, not only market research but on all other aspects of the business: suppliers, suitable materials, production facilities
- secure funding as early as possible
- it doesn't matter how long it takes to get to where you want to be, the important thing is to do it well and not to rush to market with untried or under-developed products
- focus on quality, in this global economy it's almost impossible to compete on quantity
- be proud of your home and show it to the world, knowing where a company is based adds to the overall character of the brand and makes it less anonymous, adding a human touch, many of our most admired brands incorporate their location into their marketing, whether it’s a village in Finland, a big city in Germany or a small town in Wales, people are curious about other places, so use that