Being my own boss will enable me to be free to be me. After four decades of working for others, I will be the boss. But more specifically, I will be the boss I always wanted.
I started a business in 2016 which took me from an employee of some 4 decades to a new and unfamiliar place. I learned a lot which was the foundation for this new business. With a love of animals and being a lifelong carer of them as well as being a paid pet sitter for the past 2 years, I am armed with the additional and necessary experiences in animal care to support me in this venture.
What made you decide that WLP were the right franchise to enable you to be your own boss?
The holistic support provided by the experienced head office team is invaluable to someone like me who is starting a new business. The team’s expertise provides my customers with the assurance that they are not just hiring a dog walker or pet sitter, they are hiring a professional brand to look after their beloved family pet.
I already knew that a franchise was pretty much a business in a box. This business, however, is so much more supportive to its franchisees than I ever imagined.
Now, I see a franchise as a model for growth. That is, growth for the business, but also for the franchise and, this particular model certainly delivers. From when I first came across it to present day, I have already grown and can’t see myself ever stopping. The We Love Pets model represents an education in a box!
How has WLP made sure you’re the right person to carry the award-winning brand forward?
When I met Ryan, he asked me about my experience in looking after pets. As a registered cat sitter and a lifelong carer of family pets, my love and passion for animals was clear. Testimonials from my happy customers cemented my application and with a head for business and a willingness to learn the franchise model, I have become a We Love Pets brand ambassador.
What do you think you’ll find most challenging being a business owner?
For me, it’s recruiting and managing a team. For my business to grow, I will need to not only have the fun experience of dog walking and pet sitting, I will also need to expand my services by building a team locally. Head office offer training and support in all areas of business, and not just in the first year, so I can safely expand without neglecting any other aspects of my business.
The head office support I received even before I became a franchisee was phenomenal. Anything I mentioned about not having experience with, was dealt with through calm reference to being taught and therefore learning the business step-by-step using the We Love Pets proven model. The success of this alone was and still is, a comfort.
Did you at any time during the process worry that you can’t do this? Can you explain what it was that worried you?
I’ve never felt that ‘I can’t do this’. Ever in my life! I actually got the feeling that this ‘job’ was made for me as it encompasses everything I love – animals plus people who are passionate about animals. It’s a win-win situation/business. My only fear was that I wouldn’t be accepted as an applicant – and that was over pretty quickly.
How do you feel now?
I’m still excited and passionate yet calmer and more focused, as I learn the business and meet even more people who love this industry. My challenge about recruiting is a minor concern, as building my confidence is the best solution.
Andrea offers dog walking and pet services in Sutton as well as the surrounding towns and villages.
Surrey is a magical County. The green spaces are lush and plentiful just outside of and with easy access from the central Sutton town. Walking with or without dogs is thoroughly enjoyable throughout all seasons.
Do you have a family on this exciting journey with you?
I live with Martin, my partner of 9 years. For the past 8 years, we have brought up Martin’s nephew, who’s Mum died when he was just 10. He has now left our cosy nest and Martin and I are busily planning our future.
How did you fund the franchise?
I have savings from my freelance writing positions but decided to fund the franchise with a loan and use my savings to support the start-up months of my business.
What lifestyle changes are you hoping to make when you’re up and running?
I’ve long yearned to spend more time at home and out in the open air of the countryside. I can now do both. This will provide an opportunity to become more healthy both in mind and body. Whilst my business grows, my partner and I will be able to spend more time together, instead of my old experience of commuter-working where I spent 12 hours getting to work, doing the work and getting home again, tired and bleary. I’ve already noticed how energetic and alert I have become, which is a direct result of having a work/life balance.
Since I was 11 I have suffered with a lung condition. My breathing has often been poor due to lack of exercise whilst sitting in over-warm offices. When I walk in the clean fresh countryside air, I feel much better. Oh yes, my health will be better, because of the exercise too.
Do you have pets of your own?
I have always kept cats since my Mum had a cat which watched over me whilst I was an infant. My Brother had dogs including a male Irish Wolfhound and a loving female Staffordshire Bull Terrier; it was a joy to see both species get along together when they visited.
My last cat Minosh sadly died on 11th November 2016 aged 19 from a stomach tumour, having previously nurtured and medicated her through an 8-year hyper-thyroid condition with guidance from the Vet. My pretty black longhair Suki aged 10 and my handsome 15 year old black & white British shorthair Felix, both died at different times because of car accidents on the busy road where I used to live. My 2 previous cats, engaging twins called treacle and Podgie died of natural causes within a year of each other at 18 and 19. They were given to me by their birth Mother who was a ginger feral and had been accompanied by 2 larger Tom cats, all of whom I allowed to freely roam in my home and garden. At one point, I had 6 cats visiting me which I have to say, thrilled me no end.
Grieving for Minosh who had become my shadow over the 15 years we lived with each other, meant I wasn’t ready to adopt immediately; my heart hurt badly. Her closeness and sudden passing was traumatic and took me over 2 years to accept. It was because of her passing and my empty nest that I began caring for other people’s pets on a part-time basis, leading me in September 2018 to make the decision to help more people by looking after their pets full time. As I have always had contact with animals, I felt the hole in my life left by the passing of Minosh could be filled through my customers’ pets. I was right.
It was only this year, 2019, that I was able to contemplate adopting again. It took meeting the cutest pair in Steve and Nick via a Blue Cross rehoming centre, for me to fall in love. Unfortunately for me but fortunately for them, they were already spoken for. However, with Steve having spoken to me so vocally, I gathered that I was being guided to look around for a new feline companion – or two – and so I did.
Just a week later, I found Mother and Daughter pair Kikay (6) and Lilo (4), through the RSPCA, and formally adopted them both. Though timid at first, it took just another week for them to adapt to their new surroundings and bravely wander around their new home. My heart is healing through their love and my arms comforted by holding their grateful bodies. What this means to my customers is heartfelt gratitude that you are choosing me to care for your beloved animals, which I continue to enjoy with a heart full of love and a promise to nurture them throughout your absence.
I thank all those who use my services, as you are helping me to pass gently through my grief, rebuild my life and ultimately move from pain to purpose, as I use my lifelong expertise in animal welfare to care for your much loved animal family members. I look forward to seeing you real soon.
Find out more about Andrea’s dog walking and pet sitting business in Sutton.