Make no bonios about it

It’s not every financial adviser who comes up with an original business idea and makes it come alive. Rosie McGlade meets the inspirational Gerry Collins of No Bones Canine Confectionery

Gerry Collins sees all kinds of people at her stall on Newcastle Quayside’s Sunday market. Girls recovering from hen parties, boys from stags, international visitors to hotels, conferences and parties.
They’ll buy something for the dog and get nothing for their children!” she says. “If they have no pet of their own, they’ll stand there thinking aloud, ‘who do I know who’s got a dog?’”
Gerry has just celebrated the first birthday of No Bones; a business formed with help from her four sisters, her husband, her nieces and nephew.
We’ve all seen dog treats before; most are brightly coloured, bone-shaped, and pretty unappetising-looking.
No Bones treats are nothing like that. You’ve never seen anything like them, and neither have the people staffing the pet parlors of Florence or Amsterdam who order them online.
There are elegant three-tier stands of cupcakes decorated with scottie dogs, silver baubles and bows. There are pizzas with mushrooms and meaty chunks made from a biscuit recipe to make a dog’s heart pound. There are star-shaped Chester’s Cheesy Delights named after a special dog in Gerry’s life and made from Italian hard cheese. Peanut butter paw prints. Choc chip bones. It’s all very charming.
They’re also delicious, according to appetite’s official tester Honey the labradoodle (left, with Gerry), and are actually perfectly digestible for humans, should the fancy take.
The chocolate is dog safe (ordinary chocolate can damage the canine liver), there are no preservatives in the biscuits and the only bought-in ingredients are rawhide treats which are then decorated with icing and sprinkles.
“We have a lot of regular customers,” Gerry says, and her stand is often covered in paw prints. The occasional dog will clamber up onto the display, but it’s a price Gerry is happy to pay.
The idea for No Bones was hatched when Gerry’s sister, who fundraises for Guide Dogs for the Blind, served canine chocolates in an old chocolate box at a family party. Arriving late, and unknowing, Gerry couldn’t resist a nibble, only to be yelled at from all directions. “They’re for dogs!”
“I looked, and thought they looked fab. I pondered and thought there was an idea there I could run with,” she says. Since then, the business has grown bit by bit to become beloved of dogs everywhere.
Take the guide dog at a craft fair in Gateshead. “My husband Tony said, ‘I think we have a thief. Look under the table’, and there was the dog with his head in the Chester’s Cheesy Delights,” says Gerry.
Then there is the shitzu owner who tests each confection against her dog’s nose, buying only the ones that make it lick its lips. “That’s one spoilt dog,” someone once muttered. “That’s one loved dog,” the owner trilled.
At 54, Gerry might not be the youngest to throw herself into a new business venture, hauling herself out of bed at 5.30am to bake, decorate and package before heading out to the day job of financial advice.
“It just shows that if you really want to do something, then you can, no matter where you are in life,” she says, adding that she hopes soon to move from her kitchen to outside premises and employ the family members who are supporting her.
Meanwhile, the new Easter range includes bunnies and chocolate nests filled with eggs. “We’re thinking of new ideas all the time,” says Gerry. “It’s important to have new things so customers come back and people tell us the stall is fab.
“Some will spend 35p on a cupcake, others might buy a pizza for £5.50 and a few extras on top. We have one Dalmatian owner who buys 40 cupcakes at a time. When you get those kind of reactions and you enjoy what you do – well, you can’t get better than that.”
No Bones is at Newcastle’s Quayside Market every Sunday, at Durham Market on Saturdays and at various independent shops, which means treats galore for pampered pooches. Woof!
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Summer Bee
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