I grew up on the Shubie River in Enfield, NS. Our house was an old cottage in the middle of the woods that my parents renovated into a home. We had one neighbour we could walk to through the trees, a myriad of creatures to befriend, & hours of nature-y things to keep us busy.
When I was little, outside was home; I was either catching creatures with my brother in "our" woods or in the river (ever seen a Lamprey eel up close? Yeah, thanks for that, brother), or I was exploring new places with my father by car, by foot, or by canoe. My father, an avid bird watcher & wildlife photographer, almost always (fortunately for him) had me at his heels. He was a researcher with a love of history; always wanting to know more about the places he hiked, always with a wildflower and bird book in hand (camera or binoculars in the other), and even writing a book about the history of the Shubenacadie Canal: TIMELESS WATERS: The history, human and natural, of Nova Scotia’s Shubenacadie River by Jacques Perron.
He pioneered "Shubie River Nights" with a coworker, an evening session in my (what used to be) small hometown, where he would speak about the Shubie River, its history, the locks, & showcase slides of the flora & fauna of the area. I also remember participating in a few "Shubie River Clean-Up"s, & being exceptionally proud of my t-shirts that proved it.
To this day, being near the Shubie River feels like home. The mixed scent of wild river mint and green river algae smells like summers spent tubing down the river. The sound of rocks rolling together underfoot, & the quiet of the water finding it's way through them reminds me of days spent looking for minnows, frogs, tadpoles and clams (& yes, the occasional *shudder* Lamprey eel). Winters were spent learning to be wary of the frigid water, watching it longingly from the banks as it bubbled downstream beneath a shelf of glass, waiting until we could visit it safely again come spring.
When I was approaching preteenhood, our family changed its shape, & we had to move away from the river. But the love of nature my father created & helped nurture stayed with me. As a teenager & young adult, I still preferred being at the barn, out walking, or out four-wheeling to being at the mall, the movies or parties. Of course, I did my fair share of that, too, but underneath I knew I'd always come back to nature.
These days, I have a partner, a home, two dogs, a career & some chickens, but nature is where I go for connection and to find my peace. While rivers will probably always be the most special to me, my love of the outdoors grew to enjoy all types of waterways, lands & skies, as well as the creatures & plants they are home to.
The point of this little glimpse into my early years, which ended up being a bit of a meandering walk down memory lane for me, was to introduce what this post is actually about: my favourite dog gear for exploring, enjoying, and appreciating nature with my dogs.
But, instead of just telling you what gear I absolutely adore (that's locally handmade by a wonderful entrepreneur) I decided to reach out to her with some questions, so that you can get to know her & her brand, too!
BUT FIRST, I have to share with you what gear I have from this amazing business, & which piece is my absolute favourite!
I, of course, bribed my dogs into participating (don't ask Nebel how she felt about it... & while we're at it, please don't ask me to do any product photoshoots anytime soon).
Currently, I have one 30 foot longline I got when the lil debbil was a baby, one collar I got when the lil debbil got too big for his sister's hand-me-downs, two leashes I got as part of the JEP client wardrobe (yes! I have gorgeous leashes to loan!) & one hands-free leash for the many on-leash hikes Nebel & I do together (guess I'll need to get another one now!), which was my first purchase from Kite & Anchor and remains my absolute favourite to this day. I have also gifted a leash to my sister that she adores, and gotten a few of my friends & family members hooked on the gear as well. Why? Because, my friends, Jill's gear is just that good.
& it all started because a little over a year ago, Jill reached out for a photoshoot, I saw her gear, experienced what an amazing soul she is, and I was immediately sold.
This lovely businesswoman was so kind as to partake in a mini "interview", and I'm so excited to share it with you!
Everyone, meet Jill:
How are you, for real?
I am great combined with a bit of stress! In the past month I have made a lot of exciting changes in my life, including purchasing a home and switching jobs. On top of all of that, I have been running the business at full speed. Things are going very well but busy is an understatement ;)
How did you come up with your business name? & tell us a bit about what products your offer!
Kite & Anchor was actually named after my two dogs, Ava and Morty. The names may seem completely unrelated but it actually has a much deeper meaning! Ava's name means "bird, life" much like a kite soaring through the air against a blue sky. Have you ever just stared up into the blue sky and clouds? It definitely gives you the feeling of life! Morty's name is Mortimer, which is certainly a mouthful for a dog name, which is why he is often called Morty or Mort. Mortimer means "dead sea" which makes me think of an anchor in the ocean. Not only is it relating to the direct meaning of their names, we have been through so much together, being pulled up and down like a kite attached to an anchor.
Oh, and I make products out of a waterproof, odour proof coated PVC material. There are many coated PVC products but Biothane is a particular brand of it made in the US which is known for its strength and quality. I offer a wide variety of styles to suit dogs of all ages, breeds, sizes and lifestyles.
Why biothane gear?
I was first introduced to Biothane when I worked at Global Pet Foods. We got these new collars in these bright, vibrant colours. They were made from Biothane and I thought the material was just incredible! We spend a lot of time outside exploring and hiking and it was just the best material for that sort of thing. Not only is it practical it is also very pleasing to look at!
When & how did you get started?
I have always been a bit of a dog collar collector, ever since I can remember really. I remember my best friend in elementary school went to England and she asked me what I would like her to bring back and I asked for a dog collar from Harrod's. I also brought home a stinky dog collar I found on the beach and added it to my collection! As a kid, I would try to make collars for my stuffed animals out of watch straps and zip ties, whatever I had lying around. I always wanted to start my own business and I thought it'd be really cool to incorporate something I always had an interest in...dog collars! It's kind of a strange passion but you'd be surprised how many dog collar enthusiasts are out there. There are actually quite a few Facebook groups dedicated to nice collars. I started researching how to get Biothane, ordered a few small items and tools and before I knew it, Kite & Anchor was born. I started the initial stages of business in July of 2019 but didn't make my first sets for Ava and Morty until September 2019. It slowly grew from there and then when the pandemic hit, it really blew up!
What has been on your mind recently about your business that you'd like to share with others?
Setting up my new workshop! I have a full room in my house dedicated to Kite & Anchor. I can't wait to complete the space and share it with my customers and followers! It has been a very exciting project. I also have some plans to add some different hardware including more and better antique brass, solid brass bolt snaps plated in rose gold, black and neo-chrome and adjustable martingale collars!
When have you grown the most in your life, & in your business?
We are always growing, we never stop! We should actively seek growth when it is healthy for us. 2017 was a big year for growth in my personal life. I got out of an unhealthy relationship and changed everything, I really got to know myself and finally started to see the things I wanted with more clarity than ever before. I still have lots of work and growth to do, but you just got to take it a day at a time.
My business continues to grow thanks to all of my amazing customers! I am always trying to think of ways to make things better. I had a large boom in business when I opened my Etsy shop. It just so happened I opened my Etsy shop as the pandemic was hitting Canada. I actually had planned to open it the month prior but had fallen pretty sick so had to postpone it! Everything worked out. I have been able to grow my product line, open my own website and continue to innovate thanks to the ongoing support of Kite & Anchor fans. This year was a big year on the wholesale side as well! You can now find my products in 10 different stores. Last year it was 4!
What's your work style?
Energetic and all over the place. I really have to focus on keeping things a little structured so I don't get carried away! I spend a lot of time staying up late working on stuff. Once I get flowing, I literally can't stop until I am completely exhausted. I also love chatting with my customers not just about products but anything! I want us to feel like friends :) Afterall, my customer base and I have a lot in common.
What motivates you, business-wise?
I absolutely love seeing my products come to life. Something that was in my head is now existing! I love to see dogs and their humans using them while they are out enjoying life together. My business, though fairly technical, is also creative in nature. I am very motivated by creativity!
What does your business mean to you?
My business is my baby. It means the world! I spend countless hours and it feels like no time at all. It's something I truly feel passionate about and enjoy doing! It also is a result of the things I've been through and the life I want to build for myself.
What's your favourite thing to do?
In business, I love making the items. I love challenging myself with a new design, creating fancy collars, taking product photos and relating to my customers.
Personally, I am introverted so I like time to myself and my dogs. I love taking them for quiet hikes through the woods, coastal trails and to beaches. I love sea glassing and have buckets of it...I am definitely a collector of things, lover of animals and I like to make things. I also love spending time with my partner and eating!
What makes you feel like your best self?
Spending time reflecting on life, being out in nature and taking care of my dogs. I love helping other people and making them feel good about themselves!
If you could tell your 18 year-old self one thing, what would it be?
Things are going to be rocky but you'll take care of it!
What's your best tip for making the world a better place?
Be nice to everyone. Treat everyone like your friend. Always think of where someone else may be coming from, even if you don't agree with the things they say or their actions. We are all struggling in some way! Be mindful of the things you do, consume, say.
Jill, thank you so much for taking the time to answer these questions so eloquently! I loved getting to know you better, & I hope everyone else did, too!
Think you want some of Jill's amazing gear for yourself? Check out her online shop: http://www.kiteandanchorpets.com, you certainly won't regret it.