I met Suz West through the wonder that is parkrun (a free, timed 5k run that happens every Saturday morning in locations all over the UK and, indeed, the world) but I hadn’t realised she ran her own business, SB Pet Sitting Service, until recently. Although obviously she keeps fit with dog walking, too, running is a really great activity for the self-employed person, as you can fit it in any time, anywhere, you just need your trainers and a bit of kit. I certainly wouldn’t be without it. Anyway, Suz and Alan have a well-established business, but of course they have learning points to share and still have plans for developing the business, as any sensible business owner would. Let’s meet Suz and Alan!
Hello, Suz and Alan, and welcome to Small Business Chat! First things first: what’s your business called? When did you set it up?
Hello! It’s called SB Pet sitting Service and I set up in 2005.
What made you decide to set up your own business?
I had worked with animals since I left school, I always worked with rescue animals, working with RSPCA and Battersea Dogs Home. I moved back to Birmingham after working for the RSPCA in South Wales. I really wanted to still work with animals but in a different way. I felt the time was right to set up and see where it would lead (no pun intended).
What made you decide to go into this particular business area?
My background is in Animal welfare and it gives me great pleasure seeing those pets who have been through a tough past being in loving caring homes.
Had you run your own business before?
How did you do it? Did you launch full-time, start off with a part-time or full-time job to keep you going … ?
I started off part time and also worked in retail part time. I worked in shop work in the evening so I was available for dog walking.
What do you wish someone had told you before you started?
That things don’t happen overnight. The biggest lesson I’ve learnt is patience, persistence and hard work all pay off.
What would you go back and tell your newly entrepreneurial self?
Always believe in yourself and what you are doing.
What do you wish you’d done differently?
Taken breaks and time out when it was needed. This is a lesson I have learnt: self care is important. Probably the hardest lesson to learn.
What are you glad you did?
I’m glad I never gave up!
What’s your top business tip?
Look after your customers, they are the important ones. Don’t forget the clients you have by trying so hard to get new ones, as chances are, new clients will come your way from happy clients. That is what I find.
How has it gone since you started? Have you grown, diversified or stayed the same?
SB Pet Sitting has grown since I started out, with my partner also working in the business, as there was too much work for one person. I have, since starting this business, become a qualified counsellor. I offer a pet bereavement counselling service too.
Where do you see yourself and your business in a year’s time?
We are working on promoting our cat feeding and my Pet Bereavement Counselling Service. Our dog walking side I hope will stay about the same as we offer a unique one-to-one dog walking experience.
I completely and utterly agree with Suz and Alan’s top tip. I quite often ask new enquirers to wait for quotations, etc. until I’ve finished the job in hand, and always put my existing clients first. And I haven’t had to advertise or do a huge amount of marketing (apart from maintaining this blog), because the vast majority of my work comes through recommendations and word of mouth. I’m excited to feature this lovely small business and thank them for their insights!