Interesting Journeys Into Petpreneurship: Mandy Madden

In part four of Interesting Journeys into Petpreneurship, we talk to Mandy Madden the founder of Pagerie, about her incredible dog collar and leash designs.

Interesting Journeys Into Petpreneurship: Mandy Madden
Mandy Madden Kelley, the Founder of Pagerie with her dog Hector.

Welcome to Interesting Journeys Into Petpreneurship, an exploration into pet industry entrepreneurs, the inner details of their startups, what drove their journey into petpreneurship, and what they have learned along the way.

In this episode I had a fantastic conversation with Mandy Madden, the founder of Pagerie, to talk about the fusion of human and canine fashion, her unwavering commitment to excellence, and her advice to aspiring petpreneurs who want to get into the industry. Mandy created some of the most incredible dog collar, and leash sets that I have ever seen, and I was excited to talk to her about them.

Guy: Welcome to Interesting Journeys Mandy, thank you for making time for us!

Mandy: My pleasure Guy, thank you for asking me on.

Guy: Tell me a little bit Mandy about how you began. What were you doing before you started a pet business and what made you begin a pet business?

Mandy: I was an odd kid.

All my friends were very much obsessing over the current trends and later things happening. I was always looking back at fashion back in the 1930s and 40s and 50s. I loved how elegant and classy and structured dresses were back then. I've always had this love for design that incorporates these more aspirational aspects of our lives. But my background is in law, so I studied law.

Guy: Really? I would never have guessed that from what you just said.

Mandy: Yeah, in New Zealand where I'm originally from. But when I moved to the US, I actually couldn't practice law, so I immersed myself in the beauty and fashion industry. I quickly became a social media influencer and I started working with some incredible brands.

Guy: When was this, how far back are we going now?

Mandy: This was back in 2015, which was when I first moved here to the US. Up until then I was a practicing lawyer in New Zealand and then I suddenly had a brand new life and career in the US. Whenever I would attend these fashion events or I would go to a nice restaurant, I would always see these beautiful people walking their dogs and I was always shocked by the leash that they had because it did not represent their fashion sense or their love for their pets.

It wasn't refined or chic or timeless.

I started obsessing over pets and their sector of our fashion industry that was marginalized, I felt like it required a little bit more attention and love. That's really how I came up with the idea of creating Pagerie, my goal was really not to do it fast, it was really about taking my time. Each piece that we make is handmade by artisans. There are no two pieces that are exactly the same, so that when you hold a Pajerie piece in your hand, you're really holding a piece that's art. It's made in a very slow, thoughtful and detailed manner really.

Guy: What drew you to creating artisan accessories for dogs?

Mandy: I've always been a dog person my whole life.I would be going out and playing in the neighborhood with the kids. I would always sneak a little loaf of bread for the stray dogs or I would sneak my leftovers and take them to my grandparents dog. I've always had this connection with dogs.

That became a crucial part of my life as I began traveling a lot and living around the world. For me, pets gave me a sense of comfort, a sense of stability, and a sense of peace inside. That has carried with me my whole life from living in New Zealand. When I made the big transition of moving from New Zealand to the US, I didn't know anybody here at first. I didn't have a job, I felt very isolated.

It was very hard for me to make new friends and immerse myself in the community. That's when I really brought into my life Hector, which was really my first baby, Hector's French Bulldog. Hector came with me everywhere. He was my loyal companion, always by my side. He gave me that sense of comfort and peace that no matter where I am, I feel safe because I have them by my side.

He became an extension of me and I couldn't really represent that whenever I went out. I wanted my dogs accessories to represent the way I loved Hector. 

Guy: That's really interesting, Mandy. Many of the high fashion labels produce their own luxury canine accessories, but I think back then you spotted a gap in the market. Around that time back in 2015, I don't think the big brands were making dog accessories yet. It hadn't become fashionable yet.

In a way, you got ahead of an emerging trend there right?

Mandy: That's correct. It wasn't an exciting opportunity at first, it was daunting as well because everything I had done in the past was very square and very much in front of a book, reading, or looking at a case, and just doing something creative is truly what fueled me. I came from a very traditional household, and so I could either become a lawyer or a doctor or an architect. I decided to pick law, but when life gives you a second chance, what do you do?

Do you take the same route, or do you try something different?

Moving to the US was my second chance and my opportunity to try something different, I wanted to be able to feel what sparked and what really made my heart beat faster. I've always had this love and attraction towards design and towards aesthetics, vintage things. I would collect these vintage Vogue magazines from the '30s and '40s, and I would spend my weekends visiting these case study homes that I just loved from all of these world-renowned mid-century architects.

I wanted to be able to reflect that across different aspects of my life.

I was able to do it so well in my wardrobe, whether it was in a more affordable sense or in a more high-end luxury investment sense. I was able to do that, but what I felt like was missing in the fashion space was really something for our pets. For me, it was a natural inclination towards wanting to create something that I couldn't personally find in the industry. I was able to find a dress, I was able to find a pair of shoes, but I wasn't able to find that one harness that would really transition beautifully with my personal taste and style.

Guy: How did you come up with these incredibly original designs? 

Mandy: I would say my biggest challenge was really one that was personal, as I mentioned before. It was the fact that I came from a very law background. Then diving into an industry that's so random as the pet industry was daunting I have to say, especially without any practical experience in the industry.

Designing a distinctive product that fits unique and varying shapes of dogs was harder than I initially imagined, because obviously I went to school for something completely different. But I think for me, the concepts of the designs that we had developed on paper were a little bit more challenging to create, because we had to look into materials and hardware and manufacturing processes. I had the vision inside my head, but I knew I would take a team to be able to execute that work.

Together, we have this very beautiful collaborative workflow to this day, where I have this vision and then we're able to work together as a team to have brainstorming sessions and collaborate until our ideas became a reality.

Guy: You did a great job. These are highly creative, beautiful pieces you've created. Where did your brand name come from? Pagerie is an interesting name.

Mandy: I was looking back at history and I wanted to learn at which point did we domesticate pets when the dogs go from becoming these wild animals roaming through the forest to then becoming these domesticated lap dogs. I came across Empress Josephine, Lata Cher de la Pajerie.

She was the first wife of Napoleon Bonaparte.

She was also one of the first owners to have owned a lap dog historically. His name was Fortunay and he was a little fawn pug. I was reading her memoir and how she would have arguments with Napoleon, whether Fortunay could sleep in bed with them or not.

Guy: Did the dog end up sleeping in the bed with them?

Mandy: Ha! Yeah :)

Guy: I find that funny because I have the same argument with my girlfriend, except she doesn't like the dog boeing in the bed and I grew up like that.

Mandy: That's exactly my point. We're here in 2024 and we're still having the same debate, whether our dogs can sleep in bed with us or not. Not much has changed since the first lap dog in history. Only our love and our passion for them has evolved. And yet, there was so little out there in the industry available for them in terms of leashes and harnesses and items that are practical as well as their aesthetic. And really, that's what fuelled me to create Pagerie.

My collections are really inspired by this idea of the heritage and history behind our connection as humans to pets. And I was looking back at how back in the day in the Victorian times, we used to ride our horses to war, to market. They were our loyal companions. Somewhere along the line we domesticated dogs and they became our lap dogs.

And so, I always like to say that dogs are modern day horses. Looking back at that equestrian heritage and looking at how dogs have become our modern day horses, I was inspired to create this very timeless collection that was inspired by the equestrian heritage and had some of these features that you would see in a saddle or some upholstery type of pieces incorporated into this collection.

Guy: You are winning awards with these designs too right?

Mandy: Yes. But it's really not about just creating another collar.

We ask ourselves what can we do to benefit the lives of the pets and their owners? Because it's about having this experience, being able to ensure that our customers walk with quality when they walk with Pajarie. Our goal has always been to innovate our products in ways that make sense by thinking outside of the box.

We've realized that one of the number one issues that pet owners have is the experience from the moment they step outside of their home. It starts with putting the collar on their dogs. That can sometimes be a struggle, especially when you have to rush and kind of tackle your dog because they're so excited and you're trying to put that collar on, it can be difficult to get them to sit still.

So, we've realized that we wanted to simplify this experience and make it easier and more enjoyable for our customers. We developed this double turn lock mechanism and we patented it. We developed it with our engineers, we lab tested it and it's made out of surgical grade stainless steel. It's hypoallergenic, 100% recyclable, and the turn lock allows you to put on the collar and take it off as easy as opening and closing your handbag while ensuring that it's safe, and securely fastened, for you and your pet as you take your daily walks.

The Dorro luxury leather collar with a patented double turn lock mechanism by Pagerie.

Guy: It's a wonderful proprietary touch I've never seen anywhere else.

Mandy: Thank you.

Guy: I noticed you focus on the poop bags too. A problem I have when I'm buying leads for my own dog is that the manufacturer often doesn’t make a matching poop bag to go with my collar and leash set to complete my dogs outfit.

You do that beautifully. You've got some wonderful little luxury poop bags here that perfectly match everything you've made. It's really nice to see.

Mandy: I would see these beautiful individuals wearing the best outfits, many of them would have mice leash and collar sets, but with a plastic bone poop carrier.

It was just this plastic bone that everyone had hanging from their leashes.

And I said to myself, why isn't there something else out there? There has to be something better. And so I ended up getting the guinea pig and, you know, taking one for the team and creating a brand that would, you know, fill that void.

Guy: They are the most beautiful and well made poop bags I have ever seen.

The Nue Poop Bag by Pagerie

Mandy: Everything is manufactured in the same facility with some of the most well-renowned handbags in the world that you can think of. There is a luxury brand that you can think of that manufacturers of famous handbag you know, that our artisans have had their hands on at some point in their career to ensure we exceed their quality levels. The pieces we produce are what you call investment pieces, they are heirloom pieces in a sense.

Guy: I agree. They are something special.

Mandy: They are made to last and age gracefully with time. The goal is for you to be able to buy that one leash and only use that one leash for the lifetime of your pet's life. It's a complete contrast to the fast fashion movement of buying a cheap new leash every six months.

It's about making that investment and knowing that you have a piece that's made by hand, made of quality, made with the highest grade materials. And it's supposed to be a high quality piece that will last for the lifetime of, you know, your life or your pet's life.

That's truly the goal for us here at Pagerie.

Guy: You explained that wonderfully. That was a great answer. You know, being honest, I don't know why I'm getting sticker shock from your price points because I probably spend more, much more money on individual fashion items for myself, right? Like a good jacket, for example.

And then when I compare your pieces to those that Gucci, or Burberry produce, your pieces suddenly begin to look like great value for money, and unique in a way they just aren't.

Mandy: You're absolutely right. It's just a different way of looking at the commodity leashes and dog collar sets. These are something special, different and unique. And that's worth paying for.

Guy: I like that concept. Thank you for the explanation.

Are there any special pieces here you wanted to talk about or draw attention to?

Mandy: I would say the Rava luxury pet leash from our Noma collection is a very special piece because it celebrates the heritage of Pagerie and our values of quality, sustainability and design that we aim to embody in everything we do.

The Rava luxury pet leash by Pagerie.

When we first started thinking about the Noma collection, it was about putting that emphasis on the people behind the company, starting with our artisans who feel each piece with so much love and passion that they hand make. So the Ravelish is hand braided by a single artisan from start to finish, and it takes 12 hours to hand braid. It's such a special piece.

It's one of those pieces that whenever I walk my dog, not only do I feel elegant, but I also feel so connected to the brand and to the people behind the brand, the artisans who embody skills that have been passed down through generations.

And I walk with that leash with so much pride and respect because of the meaning it has beyond its beautiful aesthetic.

Guy: It's an incredible looking leash.

Mandy: It has been really popular with celebrities too!

Guy: Are we allowed to say which celebrities?

Mandy: We've had Hailey and Justin Bieber photographed with the Rava leash several times, they are probably the most well known ones we know about.

Guy: A celebrity fan base, that's awesome!

Mandy: It is great. It really is.

Guy: I saw this incredible chain on your website, it's used in different places and it looks like something a fashionable human would wear, what can you tell me about that piece?

Mandy: That's our Les Arcs collection, which utilizes a beautiful chain that we designed and patented. It's the only chain in the world with a pear-shaped link, and it's a kind of edgy, mysterious, modern, high fashion concept. But it's also very functional and we use the chain throughout the collection. 

The Linque luxury pet collar by Pagerie.

Guy: It demonstrates a wonderful attention to detail. But do you know the thing that struck me when I first hit your website, Mandy? Unlike others, you're fusing human and canine fashion. I'm seeing some beautiful pieces for humans here on your website as well. What made you take this approach?

Mandy: That is a conversation for us about, again, the experiences our customers have, what their needs are, and how we can transition beyond the everyday dog walk. We realized that there was also a gap, that these dog leash sets were an extension of the owner themselves, because at the end of the day, their dogs are a reflection of them and vice versa.

They're a family member, and so it's an experience of walking with quality. And we wanted to ensure that it's extended to the owner, because very often our customers want to be able to match their pets. And so we realized that we wanted to create that aesthetic across the board for the pet owners themselves.

Guy: There doesn’t seem to be much here for me though, it's very female-centric.

Mandy: The Tascher leash is our best selling luxury dog leash for men. And it's an amazing leash because you can walk two dogs at once. You can actually turn it into long leash or short leash. I've seen in the past some customers, you know, carrying their kids, their toddlers at farmers market, and just wanting to do the over-the-shoulder hands-free as well.

That piece is so popular that it was featured in the Wall Street Journal.

The Tascher luxury leather dog leash by Pagerie.

Guy: That's a great piece. You're right, it's very masculine.

Mandy: Yeah, it is.

Guy: That adjustable shoulder strap is a smart feature.

Mandy: There's nothing worse than having an expensive pair of shoes that hurt your feet. So ensure that something is aesthetic, but also functional and versatile for the owner and the pet themselves.

Guy: You're right. Its one of my complaints about Hunter's Leads. They're high-quality products, they do have the configuration for hands-free, but there's always a buckle that rubs on your shoulder. It's just an inappropriately placed buckle for that configuration.

They don't seem to get it right. You have, and it's a nice, nice touch.

Mandy: Thank you.

Guy: What are some of the challenges you faced when building your business?

Mandy: I would say just finding the right partners. Because for me, I've always believed in teamwork. and I believe that the company is as strong as your team is. So making sure that I found the right partners and I had the right team in place and the right suppliers was very important for me.

It took the longest time before launching the company.

Guy: Just to make sure that you have the right providers to ensure consistent quality control and high level of quality across your products?

Mandy: Yeah. It's such a journey. But I think that's where the importance of passion comes into play, because that's what fuels your perseverance as a business owner. There's so many things that you'll come across and you'll have good days and bad days. It's such a roller coaster no matter how long you've been in business for. It always is no matter who I talk to. And maintaining that passion, I would say, is the most important aspect of being a petpreneur.

Without it you don't have the fuel to maintain that perseverance and discipline.

So I would say that would be the one key thing as well as that resilience to sustain it, and be able to adapt to change because sometimes things come across our way that we weren't predicting or expecting.Learning how to roll with the punches is also very important in the journey of becoming an entrepreneur.

Guy: You articulate that beautifully, and it brings us onto my next question.

You obviously are a successful petpreneur, but what do you think it takes? You mentioned starting from scratch with no experience, no network. But what did it take? What do you need to have inside yourself in order to go through that journey, and actually make a step into becoming a successful petpreneur?

Mandy: I think it comes into play in terms of trusting yourself and learning what fuels you. And for me personally, it was about the sudden wavering commitment to excellence. That was key. And I sustain that every day.

And sometimes I joke about it and I say, I'm sorry, guys. I know I'm crazy. I really push it because my bar is so high. But my bar is high because I have this commitment for excellence and I want that to be portrayed across every touchpoint, whether it is a product we develop, or a marketing campaign.

It's that commitment to excellence that I think has allowed me to have a successful journey, as well as perseverance, this passion for the mission we have, the discipline to do it, and this deep knowledge for the industry and the customers, I would say, are the most important as well.

Guy: Did you have to raise investment to start this business?

Mandy: So I haven't to this day. I'm fortunate that I have this amazing career in the beauty and fashion industry that's flexible. And it allows me to be able to work full time without having to be full time in front of a computer from nine to five. It also allows me to really repurpose some of that income towards my dream, which is creating this brand for the pet lovers and their pets.

And so, so far, we've been able to sustain it. I know that at some point, we may entertain bringing on other partners. But so far, it's been quite the journey of perseverance and discipline to work a job that would then fulfill my dream job.

Guy: That's a remarkable achievement when you stop and think about it, Mandy. You've worked full time and sacrificed and diverted your income to support, grow this business organically. It's a great startup story right there, it really is.

Mandy: That's because it's, you know, my passion. Like, some days you wake up and you feel so tired. And, you know, as an entrepreneur, I know that a lot of business owners I talk to, they question it and they have their doubts.

But I think it's that passion and that mission and those values you have as an entrepreneur that will fuel you and keep you going, and that is what personally kept me going through the ups and downs.

Guy: Great answer.So my next question is more of a contrast question. You came from a very different industry to the one you now find yourself in. What was it like coming into the pet industry after being in a different industry for so long?

Mandy: I would say it's very rewarding. It's rewarding because, you know, you get to engage with the pet owners and you become very deeply invested in their wellbeing. And also their, you know, the interactions you have with them that build these meaningful, long lasting relationships and this community that you foster. And that has been, I guess, the reward for me is to have those interactions with our customers in our community, as well as the creative freedom.

Guy: Do you see a big difference in the people in the two different industries?

Mandy: In the beauty and fashion industry people are definitely more trend focused. They are focused on different aspects such as beauty, ingredients, and if it is the latest TikTok trend. Whereas in the pet industry, it's a little bit different because you have this almost trend for humanization. You have these passionate individuals who really treat their pets as their babies and important members of the family. And so the interactions I have with them versus within the fashion and beauty industry is different. We talk about completely different things.

In the pet industry, we discuss, you know, their pets, you know, favorite quirky habits, or we discuss their health and well-being, or the experience they have with our products and the feedback they share with us and how we can improve our products in the future. Whereas in the fashion industry, you know, I'm attending these lavish Paris Fashion Week events. I'm seeing the latest collections. I'm seeing the point of view through a creative director's eyes and how they interpret that specific collection.

Guy: Yeah, different places and people. It's a nice contrast.

Mandy: I think the biggest difference though is that in the pet industry everybody is nice to each other. It's a very small industry, and it's all about who you know and who likes you to get the mentions, to get people talking about your brand in other conversations. And it takes years to get there because those are trust-based relationships. I'll give you an example.

Just yesterday, I was having dinner, lunch, actually, with another pet entrepreneur brand, very high-end brand, well-known in Europe. They are visiting from Germany, and we were having lunch yesterday. And I could tell initially they were almost guarded, protecting themselves, understandably. They don't want to share any trade secrets.

But I think it's the attitude you put out there that would either close the doors or open the doors for you as a leader. And so I went in really sharing my values that I'm an honest person, that my word means everything to me, and that what I say is what you can expect from me. That really created this relationship of trust between us.

And the remaining, I guess, conversation we had for the remaining time of lunch was so powerful that we were basically able to open up and share trade secrets. We were able to even discuss a potential collaboration together between our two brands. But I think had I gone in with this attitude of being secretive and not wanting to share things, that would have kind of bounced back at me. So for me, it's important that we also check ourselves as leaders and make sure that we're really, I guess, expressing the right energy out there, and being our best selves.

Guy: That's a great answer. 

Mandy: When you come into this industry, you're probably going to have at least half a dozen near-peer competitors around you, depending on what kind of niche you're going to. But that collaborative approach is the way forward. Open-handed mind-sharing collaborative approach is the way that wins the day.

Guy: Thank you for that wonderful advice! Where do your segment of the pet industry headed over the next five or 10 years?

Mandy: Great question. You know, it's interesting, if you look back at the last 20 to 30 years dogs weren't treated as well as they are now. And this still is happening to some degree in certain pockets of the world, but fortunately, over the last decade or so, more and more people have become conscious about the health and wellbeing of their pets, especially during the pandemic, which was when we launched Pagerie. We couldn't have predicted the pandemic, so we launched Pajarie, and as soon as we launched the pandemic hit.

Everyone was isolated at home, adopting pets.

And so the two big factors I've taken particular interest in personally have been how much humans have humanized their pets, but also personalized their accessories that flatter in many cases, you know, they reflect the owner's personalities as well. So I would say those two trends have really influenced the pet industry over the last years or so, especially during the pandemic. And for us that has been, you know, a pivotal role in the growth of our community.

Guy: You mention that you launched just as the pandemic and the lockdown started, but that was completely unexpected. That must have thrown up huge challenges for your launch, right?

Mandy: Yeah, it was difficult because, you know, traditionally you would design a product, you would create a tech pack and you would share it with the manufacturer, you would fly to the manufacturer, you would discuss it, you would meet the team, you would develop it, you know, you would produce it.But for us, everything had to be done virtually because of the pandemic.

So I really founded a company completely virtually during the pandemic. Many aspects of that journey, such as quality control and material sourcing had to be completely virtually done. We had to coordinate through emails and we had to do a lot of Zoom calls and video calls and receive a lot of UPS packages to test those materials to ensure that they met our expectations.

Things did take a little longer because usually we would just fly there, see the materials and just approve them on the spot. But I would say it's our adaptability that allowed us to launch despite the limitations of the pandemic.

Guy: Circling back to trends as a subject, what other trends do you see?

Mandy: So that has been really interesting in terms of the growth of the industry, as well as pet tech adoption. A lot more people are now using GPS trackers, fitness monitors, interactive cameras to be able to, you know, have better control of the location of their pets or the health of their dogs or behavior in real time. I would say another one is the health and wellness focus.

There has been such a growing emphasis on the well-being of dogs, especially with the pandemic. More of us are seeking organic, natural products for their pets diets to help address certain health issues and dietary needs. For example, my French bulldog has a lot of skin allergies, we know that he cannot eat chicken.

And then of course, sustainability.

Sustainability and ethical choices have really impacted the industry and have made us as business owners, as product developers, really think more about what we are developing and what metrics we are offering our customers.

Guy: You definitely have a good eye for spotting trends!

What advice do you have for aspiring petpreneurs, young people looking at your wonderful business and thinking, wow, this is incredible. I want to do something like this. What advice do you have for them?

Mandy: For those really seeking to start their own journey and own their own company, I would advise staying dedicated and motivated, being strategic and knowledgeable, especially about understanding your market. So making sure that you're researching thoroughly to understand the niche inside out that you're looking at going into and identifying gaps, really.

For me, I knew that this market was saturated. So it wasn't about really filling more into that industry, it was about finding something meaningful that others have overlooked. So really trying to find those gaps as a consumer and what your needs are will help you identify those gaps as a business owner as well.

Guy: That's fantastic advice for an aspiring petpreneur.

Mandy: There's more!

Guy: Let's hear it! I'll take it, Mandy.

Mandy: Focusing on your wellbeing and mental health too, you know, so just making sure to prioritize a balanced life, I think for me, that was the hardest part, especially in the first two, three years of creating Pagerie. I would work 24/7. I would wake up at ungodly hours and talk to factories and other suppliers.

And I really burnt myself out.

Luckily, my husband and my daughter were very patient with me. But I realized that it's so important for me to ensure that my mental health and my wellbeing are in a good place because that really does affect not only my personal life, my family, but it also affects my team. My team feels the interactions we have day to day, so making sure that I have a more balanced life as an entrepreneur was key.

Guy: That's great advice, it really is. Before we wrap up, can you tell us about any pet businesses, or petpreneur founders, out there that you really admire and think our readers should be taking a look at. 

Mandy: I think you should look at MiaCara. It's a beautiful pet brand founded by Sebastian Zweig, who placed a strong emphasis on creating stylish yet functional products for pets. I had a hard time with some of those stainless steel or plastic bowls in our living spaces that didn't really, you know, specifically translate as well as our interior design that we would have in our home. But when I discovered Miyakara, I finally felt like my home was cohesive and extended to my pets. They have the most beautiful pet beds and dog bowls and carriers.

The owners really of the company are just amazing people with an incredible background in different aspects of the industry, I highly recommend them.

Guy: Brilliant, I will take a look at them after our call!

Thank you so much for your time today Mandy, and for talking us through your interesting journey into petpreneurship. I loved hearing about your beautifully designed dog collars and leashes, I am certain our readers will too.

Mandy: Thank you for having me, I appreciated you hearing our story!

This brings us to the end of our interview do please give Mandy and her business a follow on Linkedin, Instagram, TikTok, and Facebook, and check out her wonderful collections over at

You have just finished reading Part Four of our Interesting Journeys in Petpreneurship series, please click to see Part 1 featuring Niki French, Part 2 featuring Chloe Smith, and Part 3 featuring Claire Harris.