Just getting to know Southern Water Dogs? There’s a rich history here, and lots to absorb, so pull up a chair and a glass of iced tea, and let’s talk. Be forewarned: there’s a good chance you’ll develop a Southern accent or a deep love for porch sittin’ after we’re through.
A Salty Inspiration
The remote island of Edisto Beach where the salty air kissed our skin and we watched the coastal wildlife thrive in its natural habitat is where our adventure begins.
It was August of 2021 and the annual family beach vacation was in full bloom with magical days of trompin’ through tidepools, playing fetch with our two goldens on the beach, and doing our best to catch crabs from the bay our vacation rental overlooked. At the close of each exhilarating day, the kids would escape to their own hobbies while the parents would enjoy a drink of choice porchside watching fish jump to catch a glimpse of the sunset (or so we dreamed their motivation was). We’d comment on how this place made us feel so full, bursting with contentment and satisfaction.
One evening after a crab boil with our bounty from crab trappin’ in the bay, we tried to define this feeling we kept talking about. It was more than just a week off of work vacationing with the kids. Reminding us of our childhoods, our souls were filled with a freedom you just don’t experience in other places. We’re water people, you see. We’re beach people, we’re lake people, we’re river people, we’re any-body-of-water people, really. People like us thrive when we’re waterside. It’s where we know we should be. That feeling of the stars aligning and peace down to the gut of your belly, that’s what being around water does to us. And there is. We decided this was not just an annual memory. It’s a lifestyle rich in family and friends, natural beauty, nostalgic scents of marshy air, and Southern recipes memorable enough to pass generations.
We’re not the only creatures who flourish in this lifestyle. As we sunbathed on the beach, we observed all the family dogs relishing in this seaside paradise. Digging, burying, running, splashing, and chasing, all the dogs reflected their owner’s joyful attitudes. This culture was for all: men, women, children and dogs alike (cats excluded).
One evening on the porch of our vacation rental, we brainstormed how we could share this lifestyle with others. How could we communicate the satisfaction we enjoyed around water, and how could we impact lives with it? Being deeply experienced in communicating heartfelt messages through our full time jobs at a digital marketing agency, we knew it was all about sharing our perspective, and we wanted to do that through a new startup business. We had recently purchased my husband’s fifth generation farm in the Asheville, North Carolina area, and we had been exploring the idea of using this overgrown, unproductive land for something other than farming. “Why not create a business that centers around our love for water and dogs?”, we said. “What kind of business could offer products, support, community advice, and creative ideas for this dream we have?” And that’s when the lightbulb went off. We were already breeding our golden retrievers. Why not turn this into a brand? A lifestyle. A passion. A resource for others like us. An introduction for those who are new to the South. And just like that, our vision was clear.
Ever notice that we Southerners seem to have a nickname for everything? This is serious, friends. We tend to give nicknames to things we hold dear. and often my husband and I’s conversations originate from a new nickname he’s spun up. Sometimes our nicknames lack sense, but even in ambiguity, most of us know what each other is referring to. That’s the kind of name we wanted to give this newly defined lifestyle around water.
With bourbon in one hand and pimento cheese sandwiches in the other, the brainstorming began. We threw naming ideas back and forth until one name stood out distinctly from the others: Southern Water Dogs. It was a perfect fit. You know when you know, right?
Past, Present, Future
The company was founded later that year, and soon after a trademark was filed, a rough sketch of a website was drawn out, a business model was formed, and a mission statement was written. “We exist,” the mission statement says, “to continue the heritage of the golden retriever breed through responsible breeding, to sell products which reflect a laidback lifestyle around the water, and to foster a supportive community of dog loving people.” The Company is a reseller of high quality dog toys and accessories, as well as branded items such as clothing for dog-owners with the product collection being selected based on durability, practicality, and an active lifestyle suited to water.
We may have Southern roots as deeply entrenched as kudzu on a hillside, but our company needed to be built slowly and sustainably. The roots of our startup company must be hearty and resilient, and they must grow a culture and products that are truly inspirational for our customers.
In our first year of business, our media was unsolicitedly picked up by a popular Southern magazine, and we went viral. It was one of those choke on your own spit sort of moments, and there wasn’t any turning back. We had done it. We had successfully launched our lifestyle brand.
These days, we keep a full waiting list for our puppies, we teach dogs and their humans to bond around water, and we are building a unique set of product offerings on our website. Each step forward is taken prioritizing the happiness of our customers and their dogs. We have a full time staff, a pack of golden retrievers ranging in light to gold to dark red colors, and the support of several organizations who help ensure we’re employing best breeding practices for our dogs.
Looking forward to the future, we’re brainstorming new ways to authentically reach our audience. Our inspiration will continue to be our natural surroundings, the delights of our dogs, and the lifelong memories our family is creating. We know this is just the beginning of our story, and can’t wait to ride together on this journey with you.