Samantha is the proud branch owner of We Love Pets in Dursley
Stroud is perfect – I am in the Cotswolds – it has a wonderful history due to the canals and old mills, the views are amazing and I am surrounded by greenery, trees and nature and will be able to enjoy it all every day now on my dog walks.
Approachable, helpful, not pushy
What made you decide that WLP were the right franchise to enable you to be your own boss?
The franchise side of We Love Pets had been established for several years, which made me confident that they had a good business model as they were still in business! I could see how they were growing and had many franchisees coming on board each year – so if other people were keen to join they must be doing something right. Also, I liked that they had an established brand in the pet industry and were winning awards. It was important too that they were part of the BFA (The British Franchise Association) and linked with several other organisations.
Finally, they were approachable, helpful, not pushy and I could see that they were supportive, provided good training and were flexible and open to new ideas.
Maybe I could do that – run my own pet service business…?
How long have you wanted to run your own business?
On and off over the last few years but particularly in the last 12 months when things had become particularly challenging in my current role.
I had been with my previous employer for over 15 years and I felt that if I am going to make a change, it needs to be now. Things change in any organisation as they had done in mine and I found that those changes no longer reflected where I wanted to head. I had also been suffering from stress and anxiety in my previous role, which had reached a head. I basically could no longer, for my physical and mental health, continue in that organisation.
I was looking for a career change, something that allowed me to manage my days. I was Googling dog walking jobs and a link popped up and led me to the WLP website, and that is where I started to read about franchises and it was like ‘Oh maybe I could do that – run my own pet service business and not only be a dog walker?’
As a business opportunity it ticked a number of boxes – working with animals and being my own boss.
If I didn’t do this now when would I do it?
Why did you choose a franchise over starting your own business from scratch?
Franchise means ‘opportunity’! It means that I can grow and mould a business independently. It means that any effort, pressure or stress is my stress if you know what I mean? Not generated by someone else. It also means that I will be working with and supported by other likeminded people within the We Love Pets business. I suppose ‘franchise’ means that you aren’t alone!
What do you think you’ll find most challenging being a franchise business owner?
To be honest, initially it is probably accounts and budgets – even though I have experience of doing budget management in other job roles this is slightly different – it is 100% my own accounts and budgets! And maths has never been my strongest subject!
But I’ll utilise the ongoing support from head office and get a good accountant.
What’s going to come naturally?
My final position as an employee was as head of a team of marketers, so I am used to recruiting, managing and supporting staff. I am used to representing a company and promoting their services. I like meeting new people, so I think that will help too. Obviously, my understanding of marketing will also help in my new venture.
Speaking to other franchisees was key
Did you at any time during the process worry that you can’t do this?
To be honest I wasn’t so concerned about that I couldn’t do this – for me it is more the personal risk. I have been with the same employer for over 18 years, climbing the career ladder, getting a reliable salary each month. My income is the only income. However, if I didn’t do this now when would I do it and if I didn’t do it would I regret it 5-10 years from now?
Obviously, I have doubts cropping up, but I am in currently in the mindset of what I don’t know or haven’t experienced doesn’t fully affect/scare me? I have never run my own business and yes, I have gained as much information as possible and spoken to people but until I actually do it I don’t fully know what to expect.
Speaking to other franchisees was key and hearing their background’s and why they made the decisions. It was 100% reassuring to know that none of them regret the decision they made. Hearing their stories helped me make the final decision, yes there will be challenges but that is part of life.
How have WLP made sure you’re the right person to carry the award winning brand forward?
I made contact through email first and through that organised a meeting with Ryan. I took my parents along as well, which was great because it is nice to have further support when you are thinking of such a life changing venture. Obviously through the meeting Ryan learnt about me and I learnt about the business and the opportunity. Through further conversation I decided to take things forward and completed the application form, which involved getting references and checks etc. and I am now one of the team!
What will being your own boss mean most to you?
Independence, being able to grow something, better work life balance, that if I get stressed etc. I have more opportunity to change the pressures.
Work life balance, more fresh air, meeting more people from the local community.
Since before Christmas I have been volunteering at Slimbridge WWT and meet and greet visitors to the centre. I really enjoy talking to the visitors and explaining what they can experience during their visit. Even though I had visited Slimbridge until I actually started to volunteer I hadn’t realised how vast it is and what you can do – canoe safari, land rover safaris, see the otters being fed. What drew me to volunteer there is the birds – I love birds – they are so beautiful and fascinating to watch. The birds are starting to pair up at the moment so I can’t wait to see some baby birds. I saw my first baby flamingo while volunteering – they are like balls of fluff and sticks. I have also supported WWF for many years and always had an interest in animals – so going into this business direction suits my personal interests.
Find out more about Sam and her dog walking and pet sitting business in Dursley.