AEMakesPets: Christy Thompson, Myrtle & Willow

Wednesday, 8 June 2022

AEMakesPets: Christy Thompson, Myrtle & Willow

Christy is based in Chesterfield, at the edge of the Peak District. Her business, Myrtle & Willow, designs and makes collars, leads, harnesses, and headcollars for dogs – of all varieties, as you will see if you visit @myrtleandwillowuk on Instagram and Facebook.

Running her own business is not going to make Christy rich, but it does allow her to do everything that makes for a rich life: spending time with her family and getting outside with her family dogs. Most of all, it means that work time is spent doing something enjoyable and rewarding. Myrtle & Willow is run from the website, although a lot of her work is bespoke for customers who see her products at shows or on social media … or being modelled by other dogs. Working with clients one-to-one is an element of the job that Christy loves, as it tests technical and creative skills – and makes people very happy. Her background in marketing and customer services means that nothing is too much trouble, and her orders are carefully produced, posted, and with her customers before they expect to receive them.

Biothane (Beta Standard) is the main staple for Myrtle & Willow. Christy keeps a good amount of stock but knows that Abbey can get orders out quickly – sometimes the next day – if she needs something different quickly. Her creative and service skills are paired with the input of her husband, a Chartered Engineer. They both loved Biothane as soon as they discovered it, because it offers a vegan alternative to leather, is safe to use, easy to clean, and lasts for ever. In fact, repeat custom is never repair or replacement, and usually comes via recommendations or because customers want to extend their dog’s wardrobe with matching items or new colours.

An engineer husband also means that Christy has access to a range of sharp, hard-wearing, and high-quality tools, which help her achieve a high-quality finish. These have helped to perfect her cutting and punching skills, and although every piece is measured and measured again, production has now become intuitive. Christy is proud to have developed her skills to such a point that each item – whether it is her first or last make of the day – is of the same high standard.

The Myrtle & Willow range has expanded and now includes short tabs for steadying or training, headcollars made to measure, and training products made in round Biothane. Partnerships with specialists and trainers are a welcome challenge and extend the reach of the business into new areas, such as working and gun dogs.

Christy and her family have had dogs – Springer or Cocker Spaniels – for twenty years, and every one is loved and remembered individually. However, their breeding pair, Jarvis and Willow, have just produced four pups, and this has been an extra special experience for the family. Four four-week old pups = lots of mess and fun and means the whole family can be involved.

Shopping with small businesses, and shopping locally are important to the Thompson family who will visit their local butcher, and buy from small, specialist businesses like their own as often as they can. Running Myrtle and Willow means that Christy appreciates both the higher costs carried by small businesses, and the value gained by buying directly from a craftsperson.

More about Christy

The canine members of the Thompson family have their own Instagram pages: you can follow stud Jarvis @jarviscockerstud, and Willow @willowthecockerpup.

Christy's daughter is chief-stock taker for the business, and she is currently planning on being a small animal vet, a dog trainer, or a groomer.