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Young entrepreneur

Young entrepreneur

Millie White is We Love Pets’ youngest franchisee and the first to open a Welsh branch of the award winning animal care services business. Trevor Johnson reports

It was a sad time for Millie White. When her beloved chocolate Labrador Rollo became ill, Millie was at school and her mum was working, which meant they had to call on outside care.

“We picked the Reading branch of We Love Pets,” Millie remembers. “We couldn’t have found anyone better. They were so kind to him that even when he wasn’t feeling 100 per cent, he was happy to be with them.

“It was so reassuring to know that someone else has your animal’s best interests at heart. That was the kind of company I wanted to work with.”

Career path

Now she does. Last summer, 21-yearold Millie became We Love Pets’ youngest franchisee and the first to open a Welsh branch of the award winning dog walking and pet services franchise.

While others advised that the university graduate should consider such conventional careers as law, human resources and teaching, Millie had other ideas.

“I wanted an outside career involving animals and We Love Pets ticked all the boxes,” she says.

“It was absolutely the right decision. I love it and I can’t think of anything better to be doing - even when you come back soaked from a walk in the pouring rain.”

It was a canny decision commercially, too. There are now 54 million pets in 13 million UK households and the number is expected to grow over the next five years. And as more people are returning to work, they need someone to keep an eye on their pets.

Real demand

Millie moved from Reading to Wales with her family, took over the Bridgend and Vale of Glamorgan franchise in July and is busy building up a clientele for her dog walking, boarding and pet sitting services.

“New inquiries come in every day and there’s obviously a real demand for what we can offer,” she says.

“People just want to be absolutely sure we will treat their animals with care and responsibility and our record speaks for itself. All our plus-30 franchisees are devoted to animals and so are the people who work for them.”

Jo White (no relation), who founded the franchise with husband Ryan, says: “We are delighted to have Millie on board and wish her the very best of luck. While she is her own boss, she has the back up of our successful brand, which is always ready to help.”

“To be honest, I didn’t know what I wanted to do when I was at university, other than be my own boss and work in the countryside,” Millie says. “In fact, it’s worked out very well because I learned many skills at college, which have proved invaluable in the new business.”

Visitors coming to board with Millie are welcomed by her own two rescue dogs, a Springer Spaniel-Basset Hound and a Labrador-Pointer cross from Cyprus.

“They love having visitors,” Millie says. “There’s some beautiful countryside for walks and we never take out more than four dogs at a time, and usually three, so that each one gets our full attention.”

Customer guarantee

We Love Pets’ guarantee to customers means than all franchisees are police checked, pet first aid trained and fully insured. They are also local authority licensed to board dogs for holidays and day care.

A franchise costs around £10,000 and can turn over up to £7,000 a month. The company claims to be the only franchisor to offer City & Guilds qualifications in dog walking and pet sitting.

“Our business model works so well that we guarantee to return franchise fees if franchisees don’t get enough customer inquiries,” Jo says.

“We’re a family business, with people and their pets at the heart of what we do. We set up We Love Pets in 2008 to meet the demand for pet care for busy pet owners and it was a success from day one - and just grew and grew.

“We started franchising in 2013 and haven’t looked back. Our head office team includes a solicitor, veterinary nurse and marketing experts to give franchisees all the support and help they may need.”

Emerging franchisor award

This year We Love Pets won the coveted British Franchise Association Emerging Franchisor of the Year Award. Judges said they were impressed by the franchise’s investment plans, approach to business and hands-on training through dog walking and pet sitting national qualifications.

“We were thrilled with the result,” Jo says. “The success is down to the hard work of our team and successful franchisees. The pet industry is growing and we’re excited about what the future will bring.”

Back in the beautiful Vale of Glamorgan, Millie says: “Being part of the We Love Pets family makes me feel very secure. I can’t imagine finding a job that suits me more.

“Walking my dogs in the countryside has always been a highlight of my day and doing it for a living is a wonderful bonus.”

Franchisees who are passionate about pets

After 18 years working in customer service, Cirencester franchisee Claire Newport had thought about setting up her own pet care business, but was so glad she went with We Love Pets.

“Knowing you’re not alone is extremely reassuring,” Claire says. “I love the business and am extremely proud we have customers who have been with us since day one.”

For Stroud and Chippenham franchisee Sophie Baldwin, We Love Pets was a logical progression from her 25 years as a consulting veterinary nurse.

“I was used to working with animals and clients, but I wanted to try something new,” she says.

“I started looking at how I could run a business in the animal industry and this franchise was exactly what I was looking for.”

Jayne and Mike Walker took on the Didcot franchise because they had always been passionate about pets. Jayne remembers: “In our last jobs, we were under tons of stress. We Love Pets is more relaxed because you feel part of the business and you’re happy.

“If dogs need help and assistance, you feel you’re doing something worthwhile and important.”

Danielle Judd was a Battersea Dogs & Cats Home animal welfare manager before she took on the Swindon franchise. She has owned and fostered numerous dogs, hand reared puppies and cared for dogs with special needs.

“I was looking for a chance to work for myself and with my previous experience We Love Pets was exactly what I wanted,” Danielle says.