About Us

We are based in the rural town of Shrewsbury, Shropshire in the UK although our collars, leather accessories, and beaded jewellery are all made thousands of miles away in the small town of Gilgil in Kenya by The Sanata Women's Group. The profit they generate goes directly to Restart Africa, a charity that rescues abandoned and vulnerable children.

Update 2020
We are now working with a second group, a team of young adults based in Nairobi - helping them to have secure employment and provide for their families.
The group also support a girls orphanage Amani na Wema Children's Home so we are delighted to be working with them.


Read Our Full Story Below
Kenyan Lady with traditional African Beads and beaded dog collar and harness

The Handmade Dog Collar Company
by Jackie Marvell

In 2015  my partner Adam and I were invited to stay with an old school friend of mine who lived with her family in Kenya.

We knew it was going to be a trip of a lifetime, but we had no idea at the time how much it was going to change our lives.

My friends Mother is Mrs Mary Shaw Coulson, an extraordinary and inspirational lady, who in December 2016 was awarded an M.B.E for her services of improving the welfare, health and education of disadvantaged children in Kenya.


In 2007 amidst great political unrest in Kenya, Mary Coulson had been concerned by the growing number of homeless children that were appearing on the streets of Gilgil. Abandoned, orphaned or driven out of their homes by poverty and violence the street children were at risk of starvation, abuse and drugs, and with  no hope of receiving any kind of education and no access to medical or health services. Mary took six small abandoned children under her wing and gave them shelter. This was the beginning of the children's charity Restart Africa.

 

Over the next few years Mary worked tirelessly to raise money to build a dedicated centre for rescued children. The project included a school with a dormitory, nursery, playground, library, music room, and a dining hall.
In the garden they have built a vegetable garden to grow their own food and in the last few years they have inherited a few animals including a goat and a beautiful brown African cow.

In the last 10 years the charity has rescued thousands of children and given them an education, health, stability and love. The centre relies on donations  from all over the world and from local enterprises within the community but this is always a struggle. Thankfully there is a volunteer program to help run the centre, many of whom are British gap year students. 

Adam and I flew out to Kenya in October 2015. Within a few days of arriving Mary had invited us to visit the Restart Centre to meet some of the children. Immediately we were struck by their laughter, giggles and smiles. There were 110 children at the centre of all different ages, from tiny babies through to teenagers. With each introduction we learned of the horrific experiences and the cruelty that they had endured. Every week more children arrived at the centre, this was not a problem that was going to go away any time soon. I knew at that point I wanted to help, but I had no idea how or even what I was going to do...

 

The Sanata Women’s Group (SWG)
In 2009 Mary Coulson had come across four Maassai women making beaded jewellery under a tree, she found them a room in an old social club on the edge of the town, somewhere they could work and have access to fresh water, food and shade.

Women in the community and surrounding areas were invited to join the group and share their skills, beading, sewing, machining, and fabric printing. Mary's idea was to empower the women by giving them new skills so they would always be able to earn a living and provide for their families. The end result would be that less children would end up on the streets and more children would be able to go to school.

The group quickly became established and chose the name The Sanata Women’s Group, Sanata from the Latin word Sanatus, which means healing.
In 2007/08 there had been post election violence and just as the children had suffered, so too did many of the women. The newly founded group now offered support for the women that joined and they would often sing together while they beaded to give encouragement to each other and give thanks for being saved.

Gradually as the group grew larger, the women started creating enough beautiful beaded sandals, bags and jewellery to sell at craft fairs and become self sufficient.

Ethical Fashion soon noticed their work and commissioned the women to make jewellery and bags for London designers such as Vivienne Westwood, Stella McCartney and Sass and Bide. They were now not only providing income for themselves they were also able to make a small profit. This profit could now go back to the community and help fund some of the services for the children at Restart Africa.

A few days after our visit to the Restart Charity Adam and I were taken to meet the ladies of the Sanata Women's Group.
As soon as I saw their beautiful beadwork, the colours and designs of the jewellery, the belts and bags and the beaded sandals, I knew that this was how I could help.

Back at home in the UK not having any children of my own I had become a dog mother to Dottie, a border cross and Nellie a Frenchie cross.  I spent much of my spare time trying to find unusual and beautiful collars and accessories for them. Looking at the exquisitely beaded belts the ladies were making, I knew that dog collars would look fantastic with these beautiful designs - this is what I had been searching for! and everything that I was about to do, was going to be helping people - lots of people.

Within 18 months I had flown back out to Kenya to spend more time with the women.
I was re introduced to Lilian the head of the Women's group, a wonderful larger than life character with an infectious laugh and huge smile, she looked after the group and  had been one of the first four women that Mary had found beading under the tree. Lilian had now learned management skills, computer skills and had transformed her life through the group. She also spent her time training new women in the art of beading and machining as well as leading the spontaneous singing in the beading room.

 
My plan was to create beautiful colourful collars that were different from every other collar coming out of Kenya. All the African dog collars available were traditional designs beaded directly onto strong dark brown leather, they were beautiful but I was determined to bring brighter colours into the designs and also make them softer.
After 2 weeks the first collection of samples were finished, it was a fusion of traditional African and Western designs.

We named some of the collar designs after the women in the group or we used their children's names, so there was a real connection between the ladies and each of the collars.

The first few batches of designs were beaded onto brightly coloured canvas, the canvas  was then attached to a soft cow hide lining which the Africans call 'Pullap'. They were beautiful, however after living with the canvas collars for a while (Dottie & Nellie were my road testers here) I decided we needed something a little more durable and with an even bigger visual impact .

Several months later back in Kenya, Lilian and I went to search for new beads and to visit tanneries to find coloured leather, we were able to find a few different coloured leathers we could work with and we soon had the second collection.

The leather colours are beautiful and the nappa leather is soft enough to be beaded and strong enough to be durable once it is lined.

All the brass hardware, the buckles, O rings and D rings are individually hand made by a very talented metal worker outside Nairobi called Collins, he makes individual moulds and casts for each item and then hand polishes everything. The work that he is doing for SWG is enabling his children to go to school as an education has to be paid for in Kenya.
In 2018 we started selling the collars at small events and fayres, customers loved the designs and the quality and loved the fact that every collar purchased was helping provide income and stability for the women and provisions for the children at the Restart Africa project.
In the summer of 2019 we attended the three DogFest shows and almost sold out of our stock! - we quickly put in more orders to the women's group and they managed to make enough collars and leads just in time for show at Burghley Horse Trials in September!
We were awarded 'Best in Show' trade stand at the Burghley Horse Trials out of 600 stands and we were completely overwhelmed with the reception we had to our beautiful products it was incredible.
While we were at Burghley, Tom Joule of Joules Clothing came to see us and asked if we would like to join their new online market place 'Friends of Joules'
We of course accepted and we're delighted to be one of their selected on- line independents. 
However I knew that the demand for products was going to be far greater than the women's group could manage on their own.
At the end of September 2019 I flew back out to see Lilian and look for another group that could provide us supplies of collars and leads.
We now have a second group making our products! based in Nairobi, they are a group of young adults with young families and they support a local girls orphanage which is fantastic.
So our little business has grown!, we set out to help the children of Restart Africa and the Women's group at Sanata, and now we are able to help more families and children and we couldn't be happier.

We would like to say thank you so much to everyone who has helped us - your support has enabled us to grow and each purchase makes an incredible difference, it helps provides an income to pay for things that we often take for granted, food, water, electricity, clothes, education and health care.
.

Thank you

All our love
Jackie, Adam, Dottie & Nellie
XXX