My name is Nyah and I started Gray and Hound when I was 12 years old back in 2013. It has evolved quite a bit since then, but it's always been focused on dog collars. I started out making dog collars out of paracord, which was very laborious to say the least. When I got burnt out on making those, I taught myself how to sew and made all of our orders up until my junior year of high school until I could no longer keep up with sewing orders myself. I was lucky enough to find a mother-daughter commercial sewing team right here in Oregon to continue producing our products for us! Although I've always been proud of my business, I've felt especially proud of it these past couple of years as I feel it's now something that's truly mine. We offer handmade, outdoor dog gear with exclusive designs that are inspired by some of my favorite things in life.
The name Gray and Hound was thought of by my mom. It combines my last name "Gray" with the word "Hound". Although I've never owned a dog, I've always had a passion for them and that's exactly what the name embodies for me!
As I said, I've ironically never owned a dog, but they've always been part of my life. My next-door neighbor used to foster dogs and one puppy ended up being a foster failure. Her name is Sputzie and her and I are bonded at the hip. When she started growing up, I started getting into photography and would post photos of her to her own Instagram page. Once I got more into the dog community on Instagram I discovered the dog accessory world and of course wanted to buy everything for Sputzie. However, since she wasn't my dog, my parents wouldn't let me spend my money on her, so instead, I decided to make things for her myself! I posted a few photos of her on her Instagram page with the accessories I made and once people started asking where they could get the collars for their own dogs, I knew I had something special. My parents made me perfect the product a bit before selling anything, but in no time I had set up my Etsy shop and started selling the collars I made.
When I saw the love for my products on Sputzie's Instagram is when I decided to turn it into a business. It was initially just supposed to be a hobby to keep me busy and earn extra spending money, but it has now turned into my source of income and my full time job!
The biggest inspirations for my work are my personal interests such as off-roading, hiking and traveling. Along with that is my love for the Pacific Northwest and the vibes it gives off! One of my favorite designs of ours has Mt. Hood incorporated into it which is my favorite place in the world!
I would say my aesthetic is outdoorsy, mature, and original, to sum it up in a few words. I have honestly struggled to tie my personal aesthetic into my business for many years as the pet accessory industry is a tough one to stand out in, as are many other industries. It wasn't until I finally hired a graphic designer to create exclusive designs for us that I finally began to find my aesthetic and work that into our designs!
Although I'm not the one fully creating the designs that go on our products, the visions do start with me! I have so many designs pictured in my head that I will often sketch out how I'm envisioning them for our designer and then she works her magic from there! My favorite design to think of was our Overland design. I had the vision for this particular one for a while and it truly embodies my love for off-roading, camping, and road trips! Back when I was making all of our orders, I also loved sewing the collars. It's a very soothing process as it's just sewing straight lines. Sometimes I wish I could get back into that process as it can be quite fun!
For me, I don't have "typical work days" as each day varies since this is mainly a one-woman show. It can vary from spending a couple of days packaging orders that just arrived from our seamstresses. Sometimes I'll spend the day responding to emails and brainstorming ideas/plans for future collections. I'll even have days where I get to meet up with customers at local spots and have a photoshoot for upcoming collections! Of course, you always have to toss in managing social media, ordering supplies, inputting orders into a spreadsheet, and doing product photography! It's always a bunch of separate jobs combined into one!
I actually have a few workspaces, all for different purposes. I still live at home at the moment, so my work has been spread throughout different parts of the house. We'll start in my room, which is where I have a desk that I work at with my laptop most of the time. In my room, I'm surrounded by plants that make me happy and keep me productive because they create a space that I enjoy being in. I also have a hardware organizer and sewing machine at the same desk as I still make all of our leashes. Next, I have a desk in the loft where I print shipping labels from. Lastly, I have a few banquet tables in our bonus room for organizing and shipping all orders. It's quite the patchwork of a workspace, but it works for now!
I actually faced a couple of big challenges as a small business owner in 2020. The first one was a supply issue, where our entire supply chain was delayed which in turn created delays for orders and unhappy customers. It was tough because it came on suddenly and was out of our control due to not knowing how to prepare a small business for a pandemic, but I still felt horrible having to delay customer orders. The second hurdle of 2020 was when the wildfires hit the PNW. My seamstresses' homes were within 5 miles of the wildfire in southern Oregon and they had to evacuate their homes for over a week. Orders got weeks behind, customers were frustrated and we were worried that our seamstress' wouldn't have homes to return to. 2020 handed us quite a few curveballs, but we overcame them and definitely learned some lessons in the process.
To me, being a maker means having the freedom to use your creativity in whatever way that makes you happy. A maker comes in many different forms, so many people are makers and don't even know it!
Some of my other hobbies/interests include photography, hiking, driving, off-roading, and growing houseplants! I'm lucky enough to be able to incorporate my interests into my business as well. But they're also my escape and allow me to be creative in other aspects of my life!
The most fulfilling thing about having a career as a creative is the flexibility that it allows. Being that I’ve been my own boss since I was twelve, I wouldn’t want to have it any other way!
My advice for other creatives wanting to start their own business is to just be yourself. I had a hard time with that in the beginning and I wish someone would’ve told me to do it sooner