A FORMER tennis coach has told how a trip to Kenya to visit his cousin inspired him to start a high-end pet accessory company specialising in dog collars.

Jamie Farquhar’s Brighton brand, Kivuli, has now had orders from across the world as customers clamour for its luxury products for their pooches.

He had been looking to start a company at the time but was not sure which direction he wanted his new business to go in.

The Argus:

The 40-year-old said: “I really wanted to have an online business – my own business.

“I was searching for ideas, then I found the inspiration.

“My cousin works in Kenya. I went on a trip to see him and his company, it was my first time in Africa, and I saw the talent of the craftsmen there.

“They made leather belts, clothes and more.

The Argus:

“I wasn’t happy with what I was doing work-wise and I thought, ‘wouldn’t it be great to have an all-round brand, using the traditional methods, and have an input in the design’.”

But he was still yet to decide the product.

Jamie said: “I know a lot about dogs, I’ve always had them.

“So I knew I wanted to start off with collars and leads.

The Argus:

“Then we will hopefully merge into belts, matching products for owners.”

He named the company Kivuli which is Swahili for shadow, the name of his springer spaniel poodle cross.

Several further visits to Kenya followed, with Jamie crashing on his cousin’s sofa as he looked to meet and network with craftsmen in the area.

“I wanted to work with Kenyan business owners, not a British factory out there,” he said.

The Argus:

After a series of unsuccessful trials he met Isabell Wambui, his current supplier, and the pair designed and developed Kivuli’s products together in her workshop.

Now he operates out of Brighton, trying to limit the number of times he travels to Kenya due to concerns over his carbon footprint, keeping up to date with all the latest production information with regular video calls to his colleagues in Africa.

Kivuli, which is a member of the Kenya Society of the Protection and Care of Animals, now has five collections, named after the “big five” large African mammals – the lion, the elephant, the rhino, the African buffalo and the leopard.

The Argus:

Each collection has a lead, collar and harness which are each decorated with delicate Kenyan beading.

And, following the launch of Kivuli in April last year, the products have proved popular with customers. Jamie said: “We have sold items online and been to some markets as well.

“We went to Bark In The Park in Queen’s Park, Brighton, and that went really well.

The Argus:

“The majority of our sales have been in London and other parts of the UK, but we have also had some in Germany, America and other countries as well.

“The products are traditional bead – I wanted to make things which would be appealing to people in Brighton as it is such a vibrant place.

“We design all of our beaded patterns so our products are unique.”

The Argus:

This industry is a far cry from Jamie’s past career, as a tennis instructor in London.

He said: “I did a degree in leisure management. These are the first products I have ever started designing. If anybody had asked me if this was what I would be doing the year before I started this, I would have definitely said no.”