After a decade as a teacher, Jenny Rasbeary is now running her own dog and cat services business in Richmond, Catterick and the surrounding areas. Here, she talks through a day with the dogs (and cats), as well as her plans for the future of WaggyDayz.
What’s the story behind your business? How did you get started?
After being a primary school teacher for 10 years, I had some massive life changes. It’s hard for it not to be a sob story, but I have to credit my change in career to my husband. The reason I decided to set up a dog walking and pet service business is because life became too important not to change. Life was about taking every opportunity and making sure it was worthwhile. This was all because my childhood sweetheart, the man who I had worked so hard to create a career with, died tragically of leukemia in May 2017.
Being a teacher was so consuming and we had always discussed what I would do if I could afford to not work quite so many hours – or at least take advantage of earning more, because I worked more hours. I loved working with children, but I had also always loved dogs. As soon as we had our own house, I was looking for a puppy. Getting our own dog, Riley, showed me I could train them well and I felt I had a natural affinity with understanding dog behaviour. So why not change and use my love of dogs in my career instead of my love of children? WaggyDayz was therefore born in August 2018.
What’s a typical day like for you?
Every day seems to start differently. Walking dogs tends to happen more in the middle of the day, as my customers are generally out at work. After my morning coffee (or typically with) I get up to date with the other parts of running a business, such as marketing and invoices. I love the fact that when I wake up, I can always be doing something different. One morning job that makes it even easier to get up though, is checking in with the cats. Letting a cat out for the day and them choosing to hang back for some fuss before going out makes me feel that what I am doing is really helping. A cat cuddle can set me up for the day! I then have to get in the car and round up my pack.
Depending on where my dogs are depends on where I walk them. I love Billy Bank Wood to Round Howe, but sometimes the river is too fierce; the Old Race Course is a main stay, but can be busy, windy and rainy; and also the Easby Loop, though styles with two or three dogs on a lead can be tricky! I try to not pay for parking, so knowing little local places has always been helpful when thinking where to walk my dogs. I then do a check-in for my older dogs that can’t go out on a big walk, and then a walk with a different pack starts. I have definitely got fit doing this job! If I have had enquires from a new customer, I tend to have my meet and greets in the late afternoon or evening… So, all in all, WaggyDayz can mean a busy, full-on day. However, it’s so much more enjoyable than teaching as the dogs are always so happy to see me!
What’s the toughest part of running your own business?
For me, the toughest part of running WaggyDayz is when I have to say goodbye to a pet. I get to know the animals with such affection. Many I see every day, so when a customer has to move away, or worse, the animal has just got to that time in their life when the Rainbow Bridge is calling… it can feel like losing a part of the family.
And the best part?
Having pivot moments with training dogs has been my highlight, mainly. One dog was a terrible lead puller and is now one of the best in the pack when I take him out. Many dogs have been very anxious around other pack members but I have managed to help them gain confidence, and now they can’t wait to jump into my car.
Personally, another great part of the job is reviews: I have five stars on Google and Facebook, and one of my customers is a vet at a prestigious practice in the North East (almost like The Supervet of the North!). She moved to Richmond recently and her review reads, “The best dog walker I’ve ever had.” That was particularly special for me.
What are your top three business goals for the future?
I have really enjoyed doing basic dog training, and so building that part of the business would be where I would like WaggyDayz to head. Walking has really helped my fitness and I have loved it so much, so I would also love to have a facility where I can do dog training and agility. Lastly, I would just like to keep a good work/life balance! I started the business so I could get that back – I want to make sure I don’t lose sight of that goal.
What’s your top marketing or social media tip?
Networking, networking, networking. Firstly, people love to buy business off people they know, so getting out there and being known makes them more confident in what they are buying. More than 50% of my business has been through word of mouth, but that “mouth” is generally from networks rather than people I knew before I started up WaggyDayz. This is why DBW has been so great for me, as networking is also about socialising and picking up business tips. Being in such a social and team environment as a teacher and then becoming self-employed hit me hard at first. DBW gave me that social part back again.
Networking can seem like a chore, but you do get to know people that have been in similar situations and it can be so reassuring to hear them going through the same struggles, or puzzling over the same problems as you. Marketing yourself at network meetings for your business, and your own wellbeing, is definitely my top tip.
How can people find out more about what we do?
I love to update my Facebook page – you can, quite literally, see my daily movements on there. I also have lots of funny dog videos on my Instagram account so please do click on through to those just for a good giggle, even if you don’t have a pet!