Meet The Locals: Meg Arnold And Kimberley Milburn From Dogo Sapien
Meg Arnold and Kimberley Milburn both love living on the Surf Coast so much they decided to leave the corporate world to start a new business together.
Inspired by their own dogs, Torquay’s newest business, Dogo Sapien, aims to bring human-standard care to our furry best friends.
I recently had a chat with Meg and Kimberley about their own dogs, the care that beach-loving dogs need and the inspiration behind their new venture.
Thanks for chatting today about Dogo Sapien – what a fabulous name for a dog-grooming business!
Meg: Kimberley came up with the name and we both immediately loved how it embodies everything that’s important to us. As soon as people say the name, they get it.
Our dogs love and deserve to be cared for and nurtured just as we homo sapiens do. The name Dogo Sapien elevates dogs as equals so we aim to provide human-grade products and services.
After all, dogs are members of our family, our ‘other children’ who bring us so much joy. Ensuring they are comfortable and happy while being groomed is a way of reciprocating that love.
Can you introduce me to your own dogs?
Kimberley: I have Cookie, a four-year-old spoodle, which is a cross between a cocker spaniel and a poodle. She adores the beach and always finds the most smelly thing to roll in, so lucky she now has her own personal spa.
Meg: Snuffy, who was named by my children, is a blue-merle-border-collie-cross-blue-heeler. But we have a suspicion there’s a lot else in there, so I guess you could say he’s a ‘bitzer’! He sheds a LOT of hair, so having VIP access to Dogo Sapien is very handy.
What extra care is needed for dogs who spend a lot of time at the beach?
Kimberley: Salt water is good for dogs but, just like for humans, it can get itchy if left on the skin, so rinsing after a swim is recommended. This can be tricky in winter but rinsing also helps prevent lots of sand being brought home in their coats.
We’re finding there are a lot of border collies and heelers down the coast who need to be de-shed, especially now as we’re coming into winter. Also ‘oodles’ whose owners like to keep them long-haired, which means they’re gorgeous and curly like a teddy bear, but can lead to their coats getting matted.
I understand you two met at work in the corporate world. What inspired you to start a business together?
Meg: Kimberley and I worked together in marketing and communications at the TAC (Transport Accident Commission) in Geelong. When we left, neither of us wanted to go back into the corporate space so we started thinking about what we could do for ourselves.
We considered different business ideas, including Kimberley’s long-held idea about a business based on dogs. Given that we are dog-owners who were looking for something completely different, this was ideal.
Was it always your plan for your business to be on the Surf Coast?
Meg: Yes! I’ve lived in Anglesea for around nine years, in a house that was my grandfather’s, and Kimberley has lived in Torquay for a decade. We both commuted to Melbourne for a number of years but very much wanted to open a business locally.
Kimberley knew the Surf Coast has a high percentage of dog ownership, with figures showing there are almost 7,000 dogs across the region. We suspect that number will have increased significantly since Covid, which was a perfect storm for more people becoming dog owners.
Just researching the market?
Apart from Dogo Sapien, what do you love about living on the Surf Coast?
Meg: I love the open space and the quiet. Living on the Surf Coast is the best of both worlds. Geelong has shops, schools and hospitals when needed but once I’m on the Anglesea Road, I start to relax. In terms of stress levels, I’m a very different person from when I first moved here.
Kimberley: Despite the population growth, the Surf Coast has maintained its surf culture and low-key vibe, which is awesome. I also love the fact that there’s lots of advocacy around the environment. And, sometimes it seems like there’s more dogs than humans, which can only be a good thing!
Tell me what to expect when I come into Dogo Sapien? What services do you offer?
Kimberley: I think one of our clients described it best, telling his wife that Dogo Sapien was just like Endota for dogs!
The spa started life as a factory space and, after a lot of hard work, it’s now a spa where there is space and time for dogs to have a relaxed and positive experience of being groomed.
We offer washing and grooming for all kinds of dogs; from big and active working dogs like Huskies and German Shepherds to little terriers and oodles. For dogs that shed, we offer a de-shed grooming to ensure there’s less hair in the home.
For puppies, we offer a tailored session to help them get used to grooming. This is especially important for the ‘oodle’ dogs – anything crossed with a poodle – as they have a lifetime of grooming ahead of them. It’s important that the groomer connects with the dog, respects them and listens to their cues.
We’re also developing a line of dog-related homewares, like beds, bowls and leads, including using top-quality beautiful Liberty fabrics. The idea is that you will no longer have to shove the dog items into the back room when visitors come as they will fit perfectly with the rest of your home.
Is looking after dogs the dream job that many people think it would be?
Kimberley: Though Meg and I are not dog groomers, I did an introductory course so I could understand how best to set up the salon and support our excellent staff. Dog grooming is physically demanding and a lot of places put pressure on their staff to churn through high numbers of dogs.
We’ve made a conscious decision to do something different; to create an environment where groomers can do their best work. This is for the benefit of the dogs, their owners and our team.
Meg and I are hands-on though. To allow our groomers to fully focus on their work, we take bookings and meet and greet dogs and their owners. Oh, and we also clean up the poo and wee!
Though we’re very serious about our business and giving dogs and their owners the care they deserve, Dogo Sapien is down to earth rather than posh. We have a lot of fun.
To learn more about Dogo Sapien, visit their website at: dogosapien.com.au