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Words: Mike Webster
Photography: Mike Webster
Featured in the December 2015 issue

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Bespoke luxuries for pampered pooches.

It came as no surprise when Johanna Warden, the founder and owner of Lords and Labradors told me that her family had lived with dogs around them for all the time that she could remember. A local girl born in Holbeck, Johanna manages to combine a busy family life (having three children under four years of age) with the running of a hectic new business venture which is growing fast. At The Grange, Partney, her home and the place of her business she went on to explain the reasons for setting up her new mission to promote a luxury lifestyle for dogs.

The relationship between man’s best friend and himself is a longstanding one and in return for a lifetime of loyalty and unquestioning devotion, we owe it to our dogs to make their lives as comfortable as we can. Johanna went on to tell me about how her dogs loved to jump up onto the Chesterfield sofa they had and make themselves at home in its cosy setting. The ‘dogs on the sofa’ idea presented the possibility of the same item of furniture in miniature and with this the new business was born. Johanna and her husband Neil then set to and made a scaled-down version of their own Chesterfield.

It could certainly be argued that the dogs were responsible for the initial idea but after Johanna and Neil made the replica, albeit much smaller, Chesterfield they soon recognised that the item was very stylish, attractive and it became a talking point as well as being practical and very acceptable to the dogs.

The one-off miniature Chesterfield was a success story right from the beginning and it wasn’t long before requests were coming in for copies of the prototype and orders were being placed by retailers across the country, as well as by an ever growing list of customers online. Every one of the small sofas is lovingly made and hand crafted by skilled tradesmen at the place of manufacture in Horncastle. Only the finest woods, leather and tweed upholstery are used and they are indeed a tribute to the very best English craftsmanship.

Prior to the commencement of the present enterprise, Johanna was running a business in connection with one of the major supermarkets and, whilst it was successful, she opted to sell out and plump for the current project instead. A visit to Crufts did go some way to motivating a business venture and it certainly provided much in the way of canine inspiration. This was only eighteen months ago and the new business, Lords and Labradors, has taken off extremely well.

A big sales launch at Burghley Horse Trials last year was complemented by successful appearances at Badminton, the CLA Game Fair and Lincolnshire Show. Working in conjunction with the UK Trade and Industry Department to solve major distribution issues, the way forward is gradually being paved for a large-scale sales boost in both Los Angeles and New York next year. All the main shows and trade fairs will be attended. Johanna has built up a substantial customer base and her customers include many well-known names from the arts and literary world, as well as titled clients.

Success really has come very quickly and this has in turn brought its own problems for Johanna. She explained how, with an upwardly spiralling orders list, her manufacturer partner is now working to capacity. Not only this but the office and administrative work is also putting demands upon the business too. Whilst her home has been adequate for running the business up until now, the situation is rapidly approaching the point when an additional building in the grounds will be required for a new office. At the moment, the establishment consists of a staff of three who work from her home but this could well be increased in the near future.

Johanna’s story is certainly one of achievement, and this is at a time of austerity throughout the country. After only a year and a half, expansion is well underway with an ever growing array of stock items. From the beautifully crafted Chesterfields, she has put her own stamp on raising the standards of comfort for the transport of dogs too. Not for her the traditional cold and forbidding cages that do not bode well for many dogs – especially those with a nervous disposition. Instead, and as a distinct improvement, she has developed her own idea of ‘crate covers’ which bring a new dimension to dog comfort. Now proving to be one of her biggest selling products, these beautiful fitted covers create a cosy den and a place of warm welcome for dogs and puppies alike. The homely environment that the crate covers provides creates a place of sanctuary that dogs really do seek out. Not only a snug refuge, these comfortable crates with lovely covers can also provide an ideal training source for puppies by way of behaviour and house training.

Additional items for doggy comfort come by way of Johanna’s ‘Candy Bed’ range along with a selection of tweed dog jackets, bandannas and matching blankets to complement a host of other accessories – all to her own designs.

No longer, it seems, do we need the maxim of ‘leading a dog’s life’ to describe the welfare of this member of the family which, let’s face it, is so often such a pivotal member of the family group. Today, the family pet dog does not have to be a Kerry blue, regal beagle or even a King Charles, because with such sumptuous luxury now available for all dogs – and with reasonable pricetags too – there has never been a better time to indulge any dog. The requirements of all sizes and breeds of dog are catered for within the scope of Johanna’s luxurious dog world at Lords and Labradors and she is always ready to speak with anyone about their concerns over what’s best for their own individual pets. Top quality is the name of her game and she positively welcomes calls from all interested parties. Her advice can often make the difference in purchasing the right items.

A splendid website for Lords and Labradors is available online at http://lords and labradors.co.uk

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