Monthly Archives: October 2018

Our best friend’s best friend

Profiling a Prince’s Trust – supported entrepreneur

Lisa Sinnott has made it her job to understand man’s best friend (her service users) and their relationship with her paying customers. “Dogs and cats are members of the family, so you want someone you can trust” she says.

Lisa launched her business – Albany Pet Services – two years ago offering a solo dog walking service, reinforcement of existing training such as loose lead walking, and personal animal visits tailored to the particular needs of both the animals and their owners. But it was a blind colleague, not one of her four-legged friends, who inspired her to start her own business. As Lisa recalls…

“I got a maternity cover contract with the Guide Dogs charity and worked with this amazing lady called Sue who had been blind since she was 19. She also had cancer and had such a resilient spirit. I was with her in Chelmsford at a Scout and Guide event. My contract was coming to an end and I thought – she can do anything she wants – she’s not letting her disability stop her. It was then I realised I needed to be more confident and go for stuff I really wanted to do – which is when I decided to set up my business.”

It was at this stage that Lisa contacted The Prince’s Trust and was accepted on to the Enterprise Programme – with support that she describes as “amazing”. The business planning helped her structure the ideas whirring around in her head and, she says, “Got me thinking about things people often don’t consider, such as competitor research.”

Acknowledging that starting and running a business can be lonely, Lisa says “Meeting other people wanting to set up their own business – in the same position as me – was really good; to hear their ideas and knowing I wasn’t alone. Monthly meetings with my business mentor are really helpful – for bouncing ideas around and coming up with new ideas I hadn’t thought about.”

It’s ironic, but not so unusual, that people in caring businesses sometimes fail to take proper care of themselves. Lisa has learnt the hard way that it can be very difficult to separate home and work life. She warns against letting the heart rule your head.  “I’m terrible” she says “I can be up at 7am working in bed, then doing a full day’s work. You must have self-care – you can’t keep going all the time. It’s hard when you’re passionate about something. But you must make time for yourself – spending time with friends, doing things you enjoy. I love improvisation and have recently joined a girls Gaelic football team and played in Dublin which was fun! I’ve had to create business boundaries – there’s only one of you at the start so you have to look after yourself.”

That Lisa puts the welfare of her service users (as well as keeping their owners happy) at the heart of her business is reflected in comments she makes about the lack of regulation in the pet-care industry. There’s a problem because anyone can call themselves a dog walker. Everyone should at least be qualified in first aid.”

Lisa also acknowledges that the wellbeing of her dogs can run counter to the income-generation needed to sustain the business, “In terms of group walks, some people make £100 in an hour because they take out ten dogs at a time. But that’s irresponsible – it’s not good for the dogs’ welfare, what would happen in an emergency – if one of them needed the vet? It would take a lot of time to get all the dogs all bundled in the back of the van again. And how would you protect the dog that was unwell? These are all questions to consider when choosing a pet care provider.

What advice does Lisa have for anyone starting their own business? “Value your time – remember that your time is precious. Ask questions, get advice, and if you don’t know something read and research! Become an expert in your field.”

It would seem that providing a successful pet service is as much about disciplining yourself as guiding the four-legged friends in your care.

https://www.albanypetservices.co.uk

https://www.princes-trust.org.uk/help-for-young-people/support-starting-business 

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What’s in a sandwich (van)?

When I started my second proper job in London 35 years ago (my wife says she’s still waiting for me to get a proper job…) an exotic sandwich was ham with coleslaw. In the 15 years in that job, the street in EC1 where I bought my sandwiches [Exmouth Market] changed beyond all recognition, and the status of those two slices of bread with something edible in between was similarly transformed. Fast forward 20 years to the present and you’re offered an almost infinite variety of breads, fillings, and names.

I was thinking about sandwiches on my drive to work last week when, within about a minute, I saw two small sandwich vans. As a man with 40 years in marketing, the vans said everything to me about the differences between the two companies involved.

The traditional sandwich board has been largely updated by the sandwich van as a mobile expression of an offer, exemplified by the two vans belonging to URBAN Eat and Day’s Bakery.  A great case study in branding for the young people I support as they consider setting up their own businesses. So, what did those two vans say to me?

  • New (URBAN Eat launched in 2010) for young snackers, vs established (Days having been baking since 1741!) for the older customer
  • Fast food – URBAN Eat talk about ‘bursting’ on to the food scene, creating wholesome ‘eat now’ food for a ‘hungry public with no time to spare’, vs family tradition – the business was in the Day family from 1741 to 1996 and the recipes have, of course, been handed down from one generation to the next.
  • National – URBAN Eat supplies over 3,000 stores across the UK, vs local – Days have 11 shops in North Herts, Essex and Cambridgeshire [note the different images created by ‘store’ and ‘shop’].

The contrasting writing styles on their two websites perfectly portray the different personalities of these two providers of the humble sandwich (other products and providers are available) …

“Since bursting on to the Food On The Go scene back in 2010, URBAN eat have been creating innovative, delicious, wholesome ‘eat now’ food with an urban cultured twist. Our food is designed to be convenient and tasty, providing inspirational food experiences and freeing the public from lunch fatigue. We aim to create ‘Exciting Everyday Moments’ by celebrating the little pleasures in life.

URBAN eat create a handcrafted range of sandwiches, salads, prepared fruits, hot eats and indulgent snacks with the aim of creating an oasis in your day! Our passionate team of development chefs work round the clock to create a host of exciting new products inspired by emerging food trends across the globe… so watch this space!”

https://www.urbaneat.co.uk

“Days Bakery was founded in 1741 in Ashwell and must be one of the oldest remaining bakeries in the country. It was run by family members throughout its long existence and prided itself on quality, very much a village bakery. The business has continued through the generations and Howard Day took over in 1953 after surviving two plane crashes in the Fleet air arm during the Second World War. Howard was all about high quality and expanding the business. In his later years he became very ill and was forced to sell the business to Nick Dorrington and his brother James in 1996. Howard was a great support in the last year of his life to Nick in passing on his family business and enjoyed handing on all his personal recipes which many are used to this day. Our current manager Clive Draper was trained by Howard Day.”    

     http://www.daysbakery.co.uk

Don’t always believe the supermarkets when they tell us we shoppers want choice – sometimes it’s all too much. My favourite sarnie (as we used to call it when growing up on Merseyside) remains plain cheese and onion on thick white bread, with maybe a little salad cream. What’s your sandwich of choice?