There is no denying that pets are the biggest winners in this global pandemic. Dogs in particular are getting more cuddles and walks than ever before and making isolation just that little bit better.
Pets have long been associated with good mental health and wellbeing and for Melbourne mum Nat Asseraf, her Cavalier King Charles Wally has truly unlocked her understanding of the unique relationship between humans and dogs. A final gift to her children from her late father Monty, their dog Wally has been a fundamental part of helping Nat work through the grief of losing her father and has given her the strength and determination to continue his legacy and take his company Gummi Pet Products into a new contemporary direction.
First of all, tell us a little bit about your family.
I am luckily enough to be married to my high school sweetheart Paul. We have been together since we were 17 (despite a few dramatic breakups in our early 20’s)! Who doesn’t love a bit of drama in their 20’s. After finally settling down and getting married we soon after welcomed our daughter Amielle into our life. She is now 13 and has played a big part in the relaunch of the business. As all mums would know a 13-year-old is very happy to offer an opinion. My youngest is Remy he is nine years old and in between playing Fortnite and basketball he is always happy to offer a helping hand with the business. My baby of the family is Wally, my Cavalier fur-baby love of my life.
Gummi is a family business that your Dad started 15 years ago. How did he get into pet products in the beginning?
My dad was a jeweller by trade for over 20 years. He decided that he wanted to expand into new territory and started a promotions business specialising in rubber products. Drawing on his skills as a jeweller he saw a gap in the market for rubber based pet collars and leads and then developed a range of rubber pet accessories. This is where the name Gummi came from (it means ‘rubber’ in several languages). My dad was very passionate about the concept and was very persistent in his sales approach. The market really took to the concept and over the 15 years that he ran the business the range expanded to various categories and was stocked nationwide in all the major pet retailers.
After working with your dad at Gummi for in the early days, and juggling two kids, you moved away for a while to a more fashion focussed career?
I have always loved fashion, ever since I was a little girl. My mum was always particular on how we dressed. So, I think that instilled in me the love for fashion, clothing and quality. I pursued this passion and worked with several fashion businesses over the course of my career, really enforcing the business acumen that came with industry. Once I had Remy, I knew I needed a business that would allow me flexibility to be a working mum on my own terms, so I converted a studio space in our home into a fashion styling studio. It was called Exterior, I started the business reaching out to my immediate circle of friends and family and then it expanded purely by word of mouth.
Losing a family member is just devastating but having Wally with you and the kids must be such a wonderful gift to remind you of him. How did this strengthen your desire to continue his legacy of Gummi?
My dad was a big part of our lives, he was a very involved father and grandfather, so losing him has definitely left a big hole in our lives, I saw Gummi as a way of filling that loss. It felt very natural to take over the business and having Wally as the muse of the brand, there was no hesitation, it seemed to be like my father was giving me his blessing to hand over the reins. Wally has been an intrinsic part of our healing process; he offers unconditional love and the best cuddles when feeling a bit down and teary.
Your recent photoshoot for the new range has some seriously cute dogs in it, including the handsome Wally. What was it like coordinating
8 dogs at once?
Let’s just say lots of treats and peanut butter.
What can we expect from the new brand direction for Gummi.
Our first range is called “Parkward Bound”, a collection that is vibrant and colourful and speaks positivity. The focus has been on the main elements of Wally’s life, Eat, Play, Walk. We are not shy to play with bold colour, positive sentiments and applying a female fashion focus to the collection. Gummi as a brand represents so much more than just product and I can’t wait for the market to be a part of the journey and conversation that will unfold.
Speaking of brands, what are some of your favourite Australian fashion brands?
I love supporting local brands, this year my fashion choices have changed a lot with lockdown, it seems I have swapped my silk shirts and denim for cotton tee’s and fashionable sweats, so lots of online deliveries from Bassike, Camila & Marc and active wear ordered from Stylerunner.
What would we see you doing on a weekend with the kids normally when we’re not in lockdown?
I would normally be racing between kids Saturday morning netball and basketball competitions, Sunday morning footy and somewhere in between sport and playdates, catching up with friends over a beautiful dinner and a G&T, oh how I miss those days.
And finally, where can we find Gummi?
Part of our relaunch strategy was to work with companies that we could establish positive business partnerships with. It was a very important decision on where the collection was being placed so we are really excited to be launching nationwide into David Jones, Best Friends, My Pet Warehouse and Pethouse.
We will be working with our longstanding independent pet retailers and be a part of their retail recovery.
In addition you the collection will be featured our newly relaunched website gummipets.com or at our exciting popup retail space 537 High Street, Prahran where we are welcoming every woman and their dog into the space.
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