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Start-up Story: PetStay East Lancs & Bury

After having been made redundant from my job managing a health and social care watchdog earlier this year, I found myself in a quandary. Things at work had been horrible for some time before the axe finally descended, and I wanted to do something very different for a living. But what would I do? Whilst I was excited at the thought of change, being a ‘woman of a certain age’ (which sounds so much more romantic and mysterious than being within waving distance of sixty) I worried about the risks of starting a whole new career.

How it started

I’m very keen on animals, particularly dogs, so I decided to look in that direction. I considered dog grooming, even going over to Dublin for a few days to meet up with a cousin who’s a groomer and help out in her salon. She loves her job (it is good fun), but finds it physically demanding to the extent that she has regular appointments with a chiropractor. I knew whatever I was going to do, I was going to be doing it for some years (my pension pot is not fantastic), so I decided not to take on something which would require me to develop a whole new set of muscles and might result in repetitive strain injury.

I next looked at home dog boarding. This is a growing field as people nowadays tend to take more holidays and, as they treat their pets as members of the family, they don’t like to put their dogs in kennels while they are away. In home boarding, the dog is looked after in the carer’s home. Owners can specify the routine that is kept (where the dog sleeps, when it is exercised, what it eats etc.) so they come back to a pet that is not stressed out by being stuck in a foreign environment like a kennel. I came across a business called PetStay which had been set up in 2005 in Yorkshire. Carole Davy, the owner, had begun franchising the business a couple of years ago. I had a chat with her on the phone and then drove over to Hull to meet her and discuss taking on a franchise.

I liked Carole straight away. She’s a good businesswoman, but also cares deeply about dogs and operates her business in an ethical, honest manner. I decided to take the plunge and buy a franchise. Thus, PetStay East Lancs & Bury was born.

Two exciting weeks

I’ve been operating for two exciting and nerve-wracking weeks now and so far have no regrets. I’ve met some lovely people (carers and owners) and some gorgeous dogs. I’m completely shameless when it comes to plugging my business; you can’t take your dog for a quiet walk in the park near where I live without me appearing over the horizon, waving a leaflet.

My current priority is finding good carers (I’m very picky). They need to be at home during the day, so dogs aren’t left on their own for too long. They need to like to walk, they need to have a secure garden and, of course, they need to love dogs. Active retired people are ideal; caring for dogs is not going to provide an income you can live on, but it will allow you to save up for a holiday while you’re keeping fit enjoying walks, cuddles and playtimes with lots of delightful dogs.
I’m not going to make my fortune either, but by the second year I hope to be making enough to live on. Also, and most importantly, I will be doing a job I enjoy.

Written by Linda Healey. For more information visit http://www.petstay.net/.

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