In our maker profile blog series, we will introduce you to the creative, skilled, and talented makers who sell their goods at our shop. In essence, these makers are the inspiration and soul behind Locally Made Savannah’s entire concept. Enjoy!
A Pandemic-born Business
When Tina Kelsey and her husband, Dave, moved to Bluffton from New England in 2010, she continued running her advertising agency remotely. Fast forward to 2020 during the COVID-19 lockdown. Many of Tina’s clients had to reallocate funds, so business was slow.
Like many other Locally Made Savannah vendors, Tina finally started her dream business with her new-found free time: a dog product company inspired by her two Golden Retrievers, Simon and Tanner. She initially focused on products for pet parents like t-shirts, hats, bags, mugs, and crossbody bags. But after selling at her first art show in October 2020, she discovered that there was also a demand and market for dog products in the Sun Belt, hence Sun Dog!
Tina makes all of the products in her own home on an oversized dining room table that she converted into Sun Dog’s sewing center. Once she started Sun Dog, it only took her one month to assemble enough products to sell. It was at that first art show when Tina heard from the customers who were looking for more dog-centric products, and she was able to easily pivot.
Ribbons & Fabrics
In addition to the pet parent products, Tina was ready to start building her dog product line. Dog owners have infinite options for all kinds of products from big chain stores or online, so Tina wanted to create something that her customers couldn’t get anywhere else. It was difficult to find and locally source matching ribbon and fabric, so she designed her own patterns to create the collars and leashes.
With her one-of-a-kind fabrics, she added bandanas to the lineup. However, she noticed how traditional bandanas easily came untied, so Tina invented a hair scrunchie-type method of making the bandanas easily slip over and stay on a dog’s neck. Did we mention the bandanas are reversible!?
Tina was then struck with inspiration to repurpose men’s neckties into stylish dog collars. She uses the skinny part of the tie paired with lightweight webbing and buckles for the collar while the thicker part of the tie hangs down along the dog’s chest. She hunts all around the Lowcountry at second-hand stores for necktie patterns and colors that jump out at her. These dapper collars make the perfect accessory for any fancy occasion or holiday!
As Tina produced the Sun Dog collars, leashes, and bandanas, she realized that she had a lot of extra materials left over from each. Instead of throwing them away, she got creative and upcycled the scraps into even more products. She turned the extra ribbon from the collars and leashes into wristlets, while the bandana fabric and necktie leftovers became bowtie and flower accents for the collars. It turns out that these upcycled pieces are some of Sun Dog’s best sellers!
Just like Tina listened to her customers at that first art show in 2020, she still listens to them now for design direction. Many people suggest specific patterns or colors, and once she gets enough of the same request, she takes action. For example, several customers asked for collars and leashes with skulls on them. She was surprised but got to work on producing some collars with a skull design, and the pattern is now a customer favorite!
Sun Dog at Locally Made Savannah
Sun Dog’s first event in Savannah was Wag-O-Ween in 2021. They sold very well at the weekend-long dog trick-or-treating fundraiser, and they had a chance to meet Tonya in person. She loved necktie collars, ombre rope leashes, and scrunchie bandanas. So when it came time for Tonya to line up vendors for Locally Made, Tina was thrilled to have Sun Dog products sold in a brick-and-mortar shop for the first time! Since then, Sun Dog has expanded to seven other locations as well.
Tina appreciates all of the feedback that Tonya can provide to Sun Dog from the hundreds of shoppers who flow into the store each day. One suggestion that Tonya made was to sell collars and leashes together in matching sets, so Tina has made sure to keep the variety of unique ribbon and fabric patterns matching and fresh.
Just like Tonya, Tina admires how people in the Lowcountry seem to truly appreciate handmade goods and shopping locally instead of online. To learn more about Sun Dog, visit their website at sun-dog.org or follow them on Instagram or Facebook. Of course, you can always check out Sun Dog products at the Locally Made Savannah shop in person!