Ella Sherman has been caring for all kinds of creatures for as long as she can remember. As a child, she’d befriend stray dogs, and even try to resuscitate the fish her mother brought home for dinner. (Little wonder she’s been a vegetarian for most of her life.) Now, Ella has started her own business to help animals in need, while still finding time for her real estate career. We spoke to the British expat about her foray into entrepreneurship, and the furry friends who benefit from it.
Since she moved from Hong Kong ten years ago, Ella’s been a dedicated shelter volunteer and active board member for the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. In 2012, she took her passion a step further by creating Animal Merchandise, a colourful collection of animal-print products – from oven mitts, aprons and coasters to tote bags and apparel – that gives back through its sales, and helps raise awareness of local animals in need. Officially launched in 2013, the line is carried at Robinsons Orchard, Takashimaya and select home gift stores.
What prompted the creation of Animal Merchandise?
My experience in both fundraising and merchandising inspired me to turn my passion into a business with a strong social responsibility. I wanted to combine my work with my love of helping animals, and this was the perfect way to do it.
How did you choose which shelters to support?
It was very hard to shortlist the shelters for our Animal Merchandise Donation Programme, but in the end, I chose the ones that I’d either volunteered or done joint projects with, knowing that they had efficient adoption programmes in place. I selected both big and small shelters, known and relatively unknown, that support a mix of dogs, cats, rabbits and wildlife.
How are proceeds distributed?
We contribute toward certain items from the shelters’ wish lists once a year. This includes donations toward rescue vehicles, sterilisation programmes, veterinary services, food, medical supplies and animal welfare awareness campaigns. The reason we donate toward specific items is so that we know exactly where and how the funds are used. Every year, we post all of this on our website for the information of our customers.
What’s it like to juggle two careers?
It’s hard work and exhausting, but completely worthwhile. Not only are we getting positive feedback from Animal Merchandise customers, but animal shelters are benefitting from us spreading the word about pet adoption. The feel-good factor it gives me is absolutely priceless.
Where else is Animal Merchandise sold?
We’ve distributed Animal Merchandise to Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai and Seoul, and we’ve chosen two or three shelters in each of these locations to support. We’re also expanding into stores in Hong Kong and Bangkok this year.
Animal Merchandise benefits eight local animal welfare organisations:
Animal Concerns Research and Education Society
Action for Singapore Dogs
Cat Welfare Society
House Rabbit Society Singapore
Noah’s Ark Cares
Oasis Second Chance Animal Shelter
Society for the Prevention of Cruelty To Animals
Voices for Animals