– Do You Want To Start A Doggy Daycare Business? Here’s How…
So you love dogs and perhaps like me, have even dreamt about one day giving up the day job to find a way to combine your love of dogs with work? I caught up with Paul Wycherley, a former Great Britain athlete turned corporate banking consultant who ditched corporate life, to find out how he decided to start a doggy daycare business in London.
Who knows perhaps this will inspire you (and me) to stop being fed up with the day job and follow your four-legged dreams…
So Paul, how did you decide to start a doggy daycare business?
For most of my life I was a professional athlete racing kayaks with the Great Britain team, I got a couple of world records and then retired in 2012. After that I went into the banking world as a anti-money laundering consultant which was a bit of a wake-up call as a career after sport! At the end of the last year I was lucky enough to be able to take some time out and think about what I really wanted to do. So I left my job in November and thought it would also be the perfect time get the puppy myself and my girlfriend had always wanted. Frank, a long haired Vizsla (who of course has his own insta @iamfrankthedog) came into our lives soon after and it was love at first sight.
I was still going for job interviews in the corporate world but I wasn’t enthused about them and would come home and think…I don’t want to leave my dog, I just want to hang out with him. At the same I was doing those interviews, we needed someone to look after Frank and that’s when I stumbled upon City Paws Club. We started to send Frank to City Paws Club and every day he would come tired, contented and it was clear he was having a wonderful time. Meanwhile it was becoming clear to me that the corporate tie-wearing office job wasn’t for me and that actually I wanted to go back to something more active and outdoorsy as that’s the kind of thing I find fulfilling.
So the idea came to me to see if I could somehow get involved in City Paws Club as it clearly made my dog so happy. Taking a chance, I gave Matt Boyce who runs City Paws Club a call to see if there were any opportunities to work together. This was in May and co-incidentally Matt was looking to set up a franchise model for City Paws Club so we talked about working together to build out the first franchise model. And that’s how I got to start a doggy daycare business!
Did you need to do any kind of training to get you started?
Yes! I started my City Paws Club training in mid-June and started taking on customers at the beginning of August. Before that I had spent time shadowing the other City Paws Club staff and Daycare manager as well as working in the daycare business to learn the ropes.
How does the City Paws Franchise work?
There are different catchment areas available and you agree with Matt which area you will ‘own’. My area is Kensington as I live in Fulham so I know the area, did some research about potential doggy daycare service required in the area and tested my ideas. Thankfully it was well received!
City Paws Club has a massive 16 acre outdoor site in Chessington so as a franchisee you hire a dedicated field and that then becomes your doggy daycare site. You will need to kit out your space as you would like it e.g. with play and activity areas.
What else do you need to think about to start a doggy daycare?
A whole host of things! Of course a van was essential (which I hired), insurance for the van and of course for the dogs. Plus all the things that go with running a company that were new to me. Google was definitely my friend and I’ve learnt a phenomenal amount. Matt gave me lots of ideas and pointers based on his experience too which really helped.
That sounds both exciting and daunting at the same time! What were you most worried about when starting the business?
On the one hand I was really excited but on the other I was absolutely terrified as I’d never run a business before let alone a doggy daycare business. You of course have self doubt and think ‘who am I to think I can go and do this?’ And as with any business, there will be a few months whilst you build your customer base and so you don’t know if it will be a success or fail.
What for you has been the hardest thing about starting a doggy daycare?
The first couple of months when it was all about where am I going to get my customers! Also, dealing with all the business stuff you’ve never had to deal with but at the same time juggling this with the full day you need to spend actually on the business. I’ve tried a whole host of things… leafleting, google ads and standing in the park and meeting people to name a few. Fortunately my business is now growing 50-60% a month. The best form of marketing is definitely happy customers. If you can get one happy customer in the first month that’s a job well done as hopefully they will then refer you to their friends.
Do you think you need to be a certain kind of person to start a doggy daycare? (I’m thinking the male, outdoorsy type…)
No, women could absolutely do it! What you need is a genuine love for dogs and enough finances to cover the first few months when you’re growing the business and the set-up costs. In reality you should probably budget for about 6 months as a minimum to cover yourself. As long as you don’t mind getting muddy and cold and getting your hands dirty then you’ll be fine. But I’d much rather do that than sit through another HR briefing!
So what’s next for you?
I’m really excited that I’ll be looking to take on my first employee from December as there has been such good customer interest which is fantastic. Apart from being a huge milestone, this will give me more time to focus on growing the business as well as some of the other things I’ve been doing such as events.
Events…what are the events all about?
For me it’s not just about running a doggy daycare but building a community and enjoying time with your dog. So I’ve been running Dog and Human Kayaking events with the Great Britain Olympic Kayaking Team (all profits from the events go to supporting the team as it’s an amateur sport). Although it’s a bit chilly now to be kayaking on the Thames so I will be organising more Dog and Human Kayaking events in the Spring.
Finally, what advice would you give to someone thinking of starting a doggy daycare as a City Paws Club Franchise?
Try it first. Come down to City Paws Club and try it out for a few days and give it a go. That way you can see if it’s for you.
How To Start A Doggy Daycare – City Paws Club Franchise Key Benefits
- Proven Franchise model
- Use of City Paws Clubs Private centre in West London
- Ongoing training, support & guidance
- Great reputation
- Years of Experience
- Unique Branding
- Dedicated marketing team
- Bespoke online booking system
- In House management team
- Lead generation
Matt, pack leader at City Paws Club will be holding meetings in the New Year to discuss potential new partnerships in the West London area. Email: email@example.com for more info or check out the City Paws Club Partners page.