Alby and Eric is a dog-walking, pet-sitting, pet care and dog-grooming business, catering to the animal loving community.
Set up by Lisa Davies, an RSPCA volunteer who has experience of owning and caring for a variety of pets, including dogs, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs and hamsters, Alby and Eric is a reliable and trustworthy facility where pet owners have the confidence that their pet will receive the highest standard of care.
Known for her love of animals and passion for animal welfare, Lisa has been a volunteer and fundraiser for the RSPCA for a number of years, and has also recently become a fosterer with the Hedgehog Helpline where she has already helped to rehabilitate an injured hedgehog so that he could be released safely back into the wild.
What they did
"Following redundancy in my previous job, I arranged to meet a Careers Wales representative. I explained that I wanted to set up a business as a dog walker, groomer and pet sitter and he put me in touch with Caerphilly Council and Business Wales who gave me plenty of advice and contacts to help me research and prepare my business plan. I also researched the best place to do my training and received funding through REACT to help with the cost. I spent a lot of time researching, preparing, meeting with people, asking questions, attending courses and volunteering, all in preparation for my launch. I promoted my business on social media and worked with a Graphic Designer on my branding and website.
I planned my launch for just a couple of weeks after finishing my training. I then wrote to all my neighbours to tell them about my business, I did leaflet drops locally and in places where people walk or take their dogs, left business cards at the local Vets and Rescue Centres and set up an account to advertise with Yell. I did everything I could think of to generate interest and when I launched, I had 22 clients – this has now built to 150 within 6 months," explains Lisa.
What would they do differently?
"I would try not to worry so much. It was a huge change but I should have had more confidence in myself. I could have saved costs in marketing because some of the advertising did not work, it brought me few clients and was costly. I got most of my clients from social media and recommendation. Yell has also brought me some good clients but that has been a slow build, whereas social media gave me my initial client base along with neighbours who had received my letter. Also, I could have saved money with some of the products and tools/equipment that I bought. Although I researched and asked lots of questions before buying, it’s not until you use it that you realise it’s not quite suitable."
Their proudest moment in business
"My proudest moments are whenever I receive a good review, when a client is happy with the service and when a dog is excited to see me because they enjoy their walk or groom so much. One of the dogs I walk has a special bark for me, he gets very excited when I’m due to collect him and waits by the door at the same time every week."
Describe the type of support (financial / non-financial) they’ve received from Business Wales / Welsh Government
Business Wales’ Adviser, Carla Reynolds, helped Lisa with business planning, cashflow projections and financial forecasts. She provided comprehensive start-up support, which helped Lisa successfully launch her dog-grooming business.
Carla explored funding opportunities and helped Lisa obtain a Caerphilly CBC start-up grant of £500 towards the purchase of salon equipment.
As Alby and Eric is growing quickly, Lisa has also attended a number of Business Wales Marketing and Finance workshops. She is currently working with Carla to explore best ways to utilise sub-contractors and identify suitable premises to accommodate the business’ expansion.
Additionally, Lisa was matched with a business mentor, Hugh Edney, who is guiding her with the future growth of the business.
Lisa commented: "Business Wales have been a tremendous help. I had no idea that there was so much information and support available to me. I have attended several of the start-up courses and I have also had extremely helpful advice from my adviser, Carla Reynolds, about developing my business. I have also worked with Hugh Edney, my Mentor, who has challenged and guided me. In my previous role, I was responsible for reporting monthly on financials and business progress. I have been able to do this and discuss with my mentor to ensure I am on the right track, he is also guiding me with building my business and taking it to the next level."
Here are Lisa’s top tips for anyone else looking to start or grow their own business:
- ask questions
- talk to people who are already doing what you want to do