Sandra James, 52, is the founder of The Cat Butler
Sandra turned a negative (being made redundant after 23 years), into a positive by following her lifelong dream to work with animals.
I was made redundant in 2010 after a 23-year career in financial services. I hated getting up in the mornings and going to work. But, like many others, I was trapped in a comfort zone and didn’t have the courage to leave the job I didn’t enjoy and be my own boss.
Redundancy made that decision for me. In 2015, I launched The Cat Butler due to my own experience of struggling to find a quality cat care service alternative when I went away.
People often ask me why I chose to work with cats. Some of them don’t understand why or how I could have walked away from a finance career to spend my days “going around people’s houses feeding cats.” Well, it was the best decision I ever made!
I knew I wanted to work with animals from a very young age. I was six years old when I convinced my parents to adopt a cat, and the rest is history! I’ve had a cat in the house ever since!
We decided to launch the franchise in 2020, but then COVID happened, and we went into lockdown. It was really scary and uncertain at the time. I wasn’t sure whether I’d even have a business left once we came out of the pandemic.
I have a business manager running my core business, leaving me free to oversee The Cat Butler franchise. I’m always on hand to provide support and mentoring to our franchisees. I also manage our social media accounts, which I absolutely love!
I love being my own boss and the flexibility and the independence it gives me, not to mention that I am earning much more than I ever did in my previous job. My work/life balance is so much better – I get to work from home – no more long commutes, and I can choose my hours.
When I’ve had a particularly bad day, I will go for a long walk in the fresh air to clear my head and re-focus. Also, I will talk to and cuddle with my kitty, Billy – cats are the best therapy!
Working remotely affords Sandra the luxury of having her beloved pets nearby at all times whilst she works on building and promoting her ever-growing business.
I wake up when Billy decides it’s feeding time, otherwise around 7.00 am, sometimes earlier. He will scratch my arm very gently to wake me up and let me know he wants to cuddle.
If he is on the bed, he will follow me and I will feed him. I will make some tea for myself, read my emails and I will feed Savanna [the parrot] and prepare her cage. I just wear what I wear around the house unless I have a meeting and need to look more professional.
Most of the day I am doing admin and social media, recruitment and I also deal with the financial side as well.
My home is my office! I have my laptop, a big screen, phone and my pen. And then the bird cage because Savanna stays there as well. I have my bookshelf and my son’s certificate on the wall when he graduated from university.
I also have a picture of the ocean because I used to live by the sea. I lived in South Africa and I grew up by the sea so whenever I get stressed, I just look at that picture and imagine I am there.
I am hoping by 5.30 pm I can switch off and go for a walk. If I wanted to take a day or week off, I could do that because a lot of the work I can do remotely on my laptop or phone. But because it’s my business I do choose to put more hours in.
I have dinner… at home with my partner and cat, Billy. I have always liked having a cat on my bed when I sleep. I love to feel him and put my leg out and he will put his paw on me.
Get to know…
From her love of Kate Bush to her enjoyment of fruit cake topped with marzipan and royal icing, we get to know the woman behind The Cat Butler a little better.
What is your least favourite chore?
Ironing. I am a restless person and I find it so monotonous and tedious.
What’s the funniest thing to have ever happened to you in your career?
I arrived at a client’s house for a cat visit – only to find the couple asleep upstairs. They had forgotten to let me know they were leaving later – oops!
My guilty pleasure every day/week is… wine and crunchy Wotsits!
My favourite song is… Wuthering Heights by Kate Bush.
The film I could watch over and over is… Wuthering Heights – the original version.
What was your dream job when you were little?
What is your biggest regret?
Not starting my own business sooner.
What is your proudest achievement?
There are two so far – watching my son graduate from university and being a finalist in the Encouraging Women into Franchising (EWiF), New Woman Franchisor of the Year 2022.
If you could eat one food until you die, what would that be?
Fruit cake topped with marzipan and royal icing.
What is something you could never forgive?
Cruelty to animals.
If you could be any animal in the world, what animal would you be and why?
A cat – I would get to sleep a lot without anyone questioning it.
If you won the lottery, what is the first thing you would buy?
A house by the sea large enough for a cat sanctuary.
Which talent would you most like to have?
To be able to dance like a ballerina.
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