Margaret at the retreat

Stories from other business owners like you, to share their inspirations, challenges and triumphs!

Margaret Hennessy is the CEO of the DOGUE Retail Group and comes from a successful background in Management Consulting, Business Improvement and Business Management.  Here’s her story, and after looking at a Start Up last week, this is a story about what is now a very mature business:

Where did the idea for your business come from, and when did it start being a business rather than a hobby for you?

DOGUE was originally conceived in 1998 by Simone Kingston – inspired by her fash-hound Gulliver – she identified a major gap in the Australian market for unique and stylish ways to accessorise Gulliver and his pals, and opened Australia’s first ever dog boutique in Woollahra, Sydney.

I joined DOGUE in 2005, when it was already a recognised brand throughout Australia. At that time, it was still only one boutique. I saw a great opportunity to expand the brand and to open more boutiques, and this is what we have achieved over the last 10 years. DOGUE now comprises four successful boutiques, our Country Retreat – Hotel & Spa for Dogs, an online store and a well-developed franchise model that will see more boutiques open in the next couple of months. Simone is still very much involved with DOGUE designing canine apparel and accessories for DOGUE Wholesale, and making sure unique and stylish products are available under the DOGUE brand.

DOGUE has always been a business and a passion for me – it has never been a hobby. Now ten years on, the excitement and satisfaction of running such a unique, growing, fun business is absolutely still there.


What was your biggest challenge while still in start up mode?

Even though I came into an established brand it was still very young in its business life cycle and operated on a small scale. The biggest challenge was changing the business model quickly, through new systems and processes, expanded revenue streams (particularly grooming services) and opening a second store…all within six months. Trying to achieve this on a tight budget and in a new industry (for me) was certainly a challenge.


What is your biggest challenge right now, and heading in the future for your business?

The roll out of the franchise model is both tremendously exciting and challenging at the same time.

Helping our current franchisees build vibrant and successful businesses, broadening our geographical reach into new areas, while maintaining momentum in our company-owned store boutique and Country Retreat, are our main focuses at the moment.

Time management is also crucial for senior staff. Making sure we stay focused on becoming the strongest pet industry brand in Australia, and not getting bogged down in day to day admin and “fire-fighting” is essential.


What is the one thing that you wish you had done differently in the early stages of your business?

If we could have foreseen the changes to the regulatory regime around licenses and franchises we would not have gone down the path of granting licenses over the use of the brand.

We were probably also a little risk averse at times – when you see a great opportunity make sure you grab it with both hands.


Where do you see your particular segment of the pet or equine industry heading in the future? (innovations, changes in philosophy, regulations, perceptions etc)

We see the rise of the internet and online retail as a great opportunity, but it means that customer service will become even more important in driving the in-store experience. Great products backed by enthusiastic and knowledgeable staff will always be a recipe for success.

We hope that the regulation of breeding in the dog industry is tightened up, and that more light can be shed on the breeders that actually do the right thing, and that the prevalence of so called “puppy farms” can be greatly diminished.


What does “Success” look like for you?

We want to build the most successful pet industry brand in Australia with a thriving network of Franchises and company owned boutiques that are a joy for our customers to visit.

If we can achieve that the other rewards will look after themselves.


What is your biggest tip for other small business owners in the first few years of their own businesses?

Make sure that you have the right support around you so that you can focus on your goals. That means outsourcing time-consuming and mundane tasks like book-keeping, and also building a network of trusted advisors both inside and outside your business. That way you will have the time and support to ensure that the business is genuinely aligned with its goals. You will be able to show true leadership, and really enjoy your business when it achieves those goals.



Margaret joined DOGUE in 2005 and has achieved significant growth for DOGUE and the brand.  Under Margaret’s leadership, DOGUE is now set to expand even further, launching its franchise model in early 2014 and is already assessing overseas opportunities

Prior to joining DOGUE, Margaret spent over twelve years’ experience as a business and change management consultant with ten years designing and delivering business improvement projects while with two leading consultancies: Coopers & Lybrand Consulting (now IBM Business Consulting Services) and PA Consulting. Margaret worked throughout Asia-Pacific, USA and UK on over 20 different projects that all featured one clear objective “to deliver tangible benefit to the client.” Her clients included Prudential Corporation, DBS Bank (Singapore), Cochlear, Lend Lease, Mercantile Mutual in addition to many public sector organisations.

Margaret moved away from corporate consulting in 2001 to travel and to gain hands on experience in a line manager role. Margaret has been a manager with two business-to-business service organisations: Australian Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong and Australian Business Limited (ABL) in Sydney. This has afforded Margaret with invaluable understanding of the challenges that commercial managers must overcome to succeed in very competitive markets.

Margaret has a Bachelor in Economics (Social Sciences) in which she majored in economics and psychology and a Graduate Certificate in Change Management from the Australian Graduate School of Management (AGSM).


Visit the DOGUE Website –

And join DOGUE on their Facebook Page –


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Written by Anita Marchesani
I've come to small business the long way round- but enjoyed and learned from every single step. I learned about the power of Media during a BA and while working in Film&TV. I learned about the hard graft while groom for an international eventer in the UK. I learned organisation and staff management from running hundreds of weddings both here and in the UK. I learned from the mistakes of my first business that failed, to create an e-commerce success story, and now I'm here to help you have even greater success in your business. Oh, and I dance to really loud music like a crazy bastard.