Cornwall LivingIssue #110

Paws for thought

Outset Cornwall has been helping start-up canine businesses across Cornwall realise their potential.

It’s true; we are a nation of dog lovers. According to the PDSA’s most recent Animal Welfare report in 2020 (or The PAW Report as it’s more commonly known in such circles), 26% of UK adults now own a dog, with around 3.2 million households acquiring their pet since the start of the COVID pandemic. Accompanying such a love for our canine companions comes the necessity of looking after them responsibly, resulting in an industry that’s now worth over £7.9million and counting, according to the latest figures released by the Office of National Statistics in 2020.

Outset Cornwall has seen a number of dog-friendly start-ups come through its doors since launching in 2009, with ideas ranging from home-made nutritious dog treats to doggy day care, and everything in-between. Jo Wolforth, founder of Newquay-based Wolfies Walkies, is one of those businesses. Realising she could no longer physically continue in her role as a postal worker gave Jo the push she needed to combine her love of dogs with her dream of running her own business.

After hearing a radio advert, Jo decided to approach Outset Cornwall for help in setting up a dog walking and dog sitting service in her local area, and Wolfies Walkies was born. “Outset gave me the confidence I needed to stop procrastinating and just get started,” says Jo. “It’s been a real journey so far, and it has been stressful, as there’s so much to take in and think about. But now that it’s all coming together, it’s really exciting.”

Offering a relatively contact-free service, using her own dog leads plus putting trackers on her charges when she walks them for peace of mind, Jo is now starting to build her customer base and finding it much easier to meet clients as more restrictions are lifted. “Although the pandemic did impact my business initially, now I have lots of enquiries coming through,” says Jo. “I’m working on collaborations with local surf schools to look after their surfers’ dogs while they’re surfing and as soon as I’ve had permissions granted, I can start offering a doggy day-care service at my home. My long-term plan is to open my own dog sanctuary, taking in strays and unwanted dogs, and providing a free service for terminally ill patients to give their pet a home when they’re no longer able to.”

Another Outset client developing and launching a dog-friendly business is Desney Ryan, who plans to open Southpaw Dog Store, a quirky dog boutique in Falmouth’s high street, offering good quality accessories and products for dogs, as well as a range of dog-themed human products, carefully sourced from independent local and UK-based brands.

“My journey started five years ago, when I adopted my Tibetan Terrier Otis from a puppy farm,” says Desney. “He had behavioural issues, so I started studying canine behaviour and psychology to help him and learn more myself. I’d visited Cornwall regularly, and I loved being by the sea, so I decided to make the move during lockdown, in February this year.”

After finding the shop and making enquiries, Desney was signposted to Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Growth Hub, who recommended she contact Outset Cornwall for help and advice in getting started. “It’s an incredibly scary thing to do, and I was nervous about my abilities, but the support from Outset has been invaluable,” says Desney. “I’ve made some fantastic friends through the sessions and been given great advice by the team, even helping me apply for a government-backed Startup Loan. Now, my dream is becoming a reality, and the shop is on track to open this month.”

With plans for eye-catching, creative window displays, a website and blog featuring a ‘doggy directory’ and tips on behaviour, nutrition and local walks, plus becoming involved with the local community through beach cleans and other events, Desney hopes Southpaw Dog Store will be more than just a shop.

“My best piece of advice would be just do it; you have nothing to lose! Be clear about your idea, and use the Outset team’s knowledge and practical advice to hone and develop it while you have the opportunity. I’m so glad I did.”

Outset Cornwall

01209 311063

Discover More

Funded by the European Regional Development Fund, HM Government and The Outset Foundation, Outset Cornwall provides a flexible programme of business start-up support, helping individuals explore their business idea through information sessions, specialist workshops and one-to-one coaching.

“My best piece of advice would be just do it; you have nothing to lose! Be clear about your idea, and use the Outset team’s knowledge and practical advice to hone and develop it while you have the opportunity. I’m so glad I did.”