We begin the week with some very special friends of ours, Alex and Basil from Bark + Beyond PR. We spoke to Alex about how her love of dogs inspired her to start a blog, which eventually brought Basil, her beloved Boston terrier, into her life and helped her to launch her own boutique PR company.
Tell us about your company and how it all began.
Bark + Beyond PR is a PR boutique that is predominantly focused on supporting pet lifestyle brands, events and services, including your good selves. The ‘Beyond’ bit covers anything I do outside of pets, where I work for some of my favourite and preferred contacts. Ultimately, it came to be because of my dog Basil. My background is PR where I have worked for some great agencies for clients such as Nintendo, Hasbro and the Seven Dials area of Covent Garden. I wanted a dog so badly and even went so far as submitting a proposal to my former bosses for permission to bring a dog into the office. Sadly, my request was declined, plus my home life setup at the time wasn’t really compatible with having a dog, so I launched a dog blog called Barkarama instead, which I ran alongside my job. It was through the blog that I got to know lots of brilliant brands and companies like Fetch & Follow.
Eventually my personal circumstances changed – my partner worked from home and I was able to work from home more, so getting a dog was finally feasible. When Basil was around one, I decided to take a bit of a career break to focus on my blog, re-think my direction, do a bit of freelancing and spend more time with Baz, so I quit my job. One day, I got chatting to a co-founder of a brand I was looking to feature on my blog, which led to me telling them about my background. They said they were actually on the lookout for someone to help them with PR and asked if I’d be interested in working with them. I agreed and once I got started, something in my head just clicked. I could see real potential in putting my years of PR experience to good use in a sector that was growing at a rapid pace, as my own boss, working from home and with Basil by my side! That was in May 2015. Fast forward to today and I’m proud to work with some of the best names in the business, including Fetch & Follow!
Tell us about your dog and how he came into your life.
I’ve had a dog all through my childhood to early twenties – Faith the dalmatian followed by Jake the cocker spaniel. I adore dogs, so I always knew I’d have one as an adult. I lived in New York for a spell and it was here that I spotted Boston terriers. I’d always loved boxers but at 5'3", I’m not great handling big dogs; to me, Bostons just look like mini boxers and I really liked what I read about their traits, care needs, personalities, etc. When my husband and I bought our house together, we agreed on a dog for me, cats for him. The cats came first (and I love them, too), Basil followed a few months after. He’s my number one and I’m not biased when I say he is a handsome so-and-so, which is why he’s been a popular doggy model. We joke his personality is not having one, as he’s non-plussed about pretty much everything with the exception of his favourite treats. He’s a gentle little soul, who loves the quiet life and being next to anyone who will keep him snuggly.
How does your dog fit into your general working day?
Super easy, as Stuart and I work from home. We call him Kevin the Teenager because we have to call him down from his bed for his food and to go to the toilet. I work from a spare room, whereas Stuart chooses to do a lot of his work from the sofa, so he spends most of his day sleeping next to his thigh. He literally planks you (and your laptop) until you let him in. If Stu’s in town for meetings, I get the pleasure of his snoring from the sofa behind my desk. His walking needs ensure I get out of the house every day and I find the break helps me destress, mull over a work challenge or conjure up a new idea for one of my clients. He sometimes comes with me to meetings but, if I‘m working at an event such as Dogstival, I leave him at home so I can give my client my full attention without the worry or distraction of Basil’s wellbeing or whereabouts.
Working for myself, I have the flexibility to work anywhere, so I sometimes go up to my parents in the Wirral, which is no far from Liverpool. We both love going there because it’s a dog-friendly area with a fantastic beach, which makes after-work walks so much nicer.
When you’re not working, where do you and your dog like to hang out?
In Brentwood in Essex where we live, we go to our dog-friendly local The Spread Eagle and have our best walks in Weald Park. We’re not far from Southend either, so when the weather is nice, we pop down for a stroll along the front, and fish and chips. Our train goes into Liverpool Street, so we also spend time around Shoreditch in dog-friendly Pizza Pilgrims, the bar at The Curtain Hotel, Imani Nails and The Owl & The Pussycat. We also arrange meet ups with our pals Fetch & Follow and Rachel Oates with Winny the corgi too for walks, coffee and sometimes wine in London Fields, Victoria Park or Epping Forest.
What essentials do you always have on you when heading out for a dog walk?
Poo bags obviously, but tissues (too gross to say why) and a collapsible water bowl. If it's cold, Basil and I are very much about the warm coats. I invested in a Wellensteyn down coat that I had shipped from Germany a few years ago that is coming up to its fourth winter, and Basil wraps up in his Fetch & Follow x LEAD THE WALK Camo coat, which always attracts compliments and keeps him super snug and dry.
What adventures do you and your dog have planned for the rest of the year?
We recently spent a dog-friendly weekend to The Gallivant in Camber with PetsPyjamas, where we enjoyed time in Camber, Rye and Hastings. It was such a brilliant dog-friendly experience, I now want to explore more of the coast around that area, in particular Broadstairs, Botany Bay and Deal where my grandma is from, so I’m hoping to plan another weekend away when the dog beach restrictions end after summer. We normally join Stuart’s parents for a couple of days in Norfolk over the summer for a few days R&R, and I’m hoping to do a day-trip to Walton-on-the-Naze and Naze beach as it's not too far in the car.
You can follow Alex and Basil on Bark + Beyond PR’s Instagram.
Photos by Rachel Oates
#BringYourDogToWorkDay, as organised by HOWND, takes place this Friday 21 June. Whether you are individual wanting to take your dog to work or a nice employer who wants to make their employees happy, join the fun and make a difference to the welfare of dogs by donating at Bringyourdogtoworkday.co.uk/join-the-fun