A North Somerset dog-walking service offering everything from canine exercise to doggy sports car rides to wedding preparation services for man’s best friend, has celebrated its first successful six months in business.
Churchill-based Mendip Dog Walking and Pet Services was launched by Andy Cleary. Having taken voluntary redundancy after 20 years’ service for a large American Corporation, Andy found himself outside of the business world for the first time and “scared but excited” pledged his next career move would be doing something he loved.
Having had dogs in his life from an early age and identifying a local need, Andy decided to launch his own dog walking services.
Now, serving areas within 10 miles of Churchill, Andy spends his days providing exercise to a multitude of dog breeds of all shapes and sizes in the safe and very stimulating environment of the Mendip Hills.
Mendip Dog Walking also offers a “pooper scooper” garden service, helping people who struggle to bend down or are unable to clear up after their dog, a wedding service for customers who want their beloved pets at their special day and “canine thrill rides” for pooches who enjoy the wind through their ears in an open-air sports car!
“Our philosophy is that there is dog walking – then there is Mendip Dog Walking!” explains Andy.
“Our customers are usually busy people and responsible dog owners who want to ensure their pets get proper exercise even when they are unable to take them out personally. We also help other people who need more specific help with their pets and provide additional services for those special occasions and doggy treats!”
In just nine months the business has built a reputation for stimulating, safe and trustworthy pet services and an expanding customer base.
Andy has been supported by North Somerset Enterprise Agency (NSEA) in the start-up of his venture.
“I was able to qualify for the Job Seekers Allowance Scheme which not only helped me financially with weekly payments in the early days but also referred to me to NSEA, who quickly took me under their wing, initially providing a free one-to-one meeting with a business advisor.
“I then took part in a 3 day Starting in Business course run by NSEA advisor and exceptional tutor Abdullah Ali-Ahmadi. It was an eye-opener and made me consider issues I had not even thought of!”
The Starting in Business service provided by NSEA is sponsored by North Somerset Council and funded through the Enterprising West of England programme.
The Enterprising West of England programme has been commissioned by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) aimed at supporting SMEs to support business growth.
The programme is funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), Business West, The Prince’s Trust, YTKO Group, Bristol City Council, Bath and North East Somerset Council, North Somerset Council and South Gloucestershire Council.
“I also undertook a great deal of research and training before stepping into self-employment – from reading books by people who have started dog walking businesses to training in dog first aid and walking safely for the benefit of the dogs, people and livestock.” Andy adds.
Andy benefited in more ways than anticipated from the NSEA advice and connections provided.
“On the course I met a person who was also setting up her own pet services company and we meet up regularly to discuss progress and ideas and will cover each other’s businesses if the situation requires. This is a huge boon, as it means if one of us is sick or unavailable, we have somebody we trust to step in and help.”
With Mendip Dog Walking and Pet Services building month on month, despite being in a highly competitive market, Andy has a clear vision for the future.
“In the short term I want to keep on growing until I have a sustainable business. In the medium term I would like my wife to be able to join me in the business and in the long run I would love to employ some family members and friends who are as passionate about animal services as I am.” he says.
“It’s a different type of pressure from the corporate environment I was used to, but it is great to make a decision and be able to immediately implement it as opposed to have to get it approved ‘up the chain’ which may take months!
“I am a naturally shy person so having to promote myself has not come easily! However you have to have faith in your service and what makes you unique. You also need to recognise the risks of running a business and work hard for the rewards.
“I would certainly have made more errors if it was not for the business start up course. So to anyone else starting out, I would say reach out for help, because there is plenty of support out there.
“Above all make sure you are doing something you believe in and that you love.” Andy adds.
Mendip Dog Walking and Pet Services can be contacted on 07811 153180, via mendipdogwalking.co.uk and through the Mendip Dog Walking facebook page.