Yorkshire’s largest pet care service, The Dog Walker, is celebrating success after annual turnover at its Ilkley franchise increased by 600 per cent to £30,000.
Benjamin Barlow took over the struggling Ilkley franchise two years ago, and has since built up the business by expanding the daily dog walk, pet boarding and taxi services.
He has also taken on a leading role in the wider business as assistant director working alongside founder and managing director Richie Womersley. The Dog Walker has a latest reported group turnover of £640,000 per annum.
Ben, who lives in Leeds, took over the Ilkley franchise for a change in lifestyle fuelled by his passion for animals – swapping his job as a rehabilitation coach for ex-offenders for daily dog walks on the Ilkley Moors.
Ben said: “I took over the Ilkley franchise in difficult circumstances. Personal problems/issues meant that the previous franchisee had allowed the business to run down and it didn’t have a great reputation with local dog owners.
“Starting almost from scratch, I knew that I had to differentiate the business from others with similar services by offering something better and adding real value to customers.
“My attitude has always been to never refuse a reasonable request and I will put myself out to help pet owners if I can. Initially I had a lot of early starts, out of hours and weekend work and that has built a lot of trust with my customers that we have a truly animal-focussed ethos.
“That said, without the support of a strong brand like ‘The Dog Walker’, it would have been much more difficult to develop the business.
“Such an established brand offers customers peace of mind that they will receive a pedigree service and that, combined with my hard-work, means that the business is now more successful than ever with considerable potential to expand into neighbouring areas such as Otley and Poole.”
Two years on the business is in a very healthy state and Ben is now looking to sell the Ilkley franchise and move onto his next challenge – expanding The Dog Walker services into the North East.
Richie Womersley, managing director of The Dog Walker, said: “It has been a real pleasure to work alongside Ben. The Dog Walker has enjoyed tremendous success in Yorkshire – growing through word of mouth recommendations over the past eleven years and this is the exciting start of our plans to roll out the franchise framework nationally.”
Richie (35) established the business in 2006 with his life savings of £500 because he believed animals deserve better care than they receive in kennels. This passion continues to drive the business forward.
The first business of its type within ‘the golden triangle’ between Leeds, Harrogate and York, the business walks in excess of a thousand dogs a year and provides fully insured and registered care for customers’ pets in the stress-free environment of their own home. The Dog Walker now employs 15 people, operating nine franchises and has a client base of more than 920 people.
The Dog Walker won Best Small Company at the Harrogate Business Awards 2015 and previously won Young Entrepreneur of the Year at the same awards in 2013 and the regional Local Business Accelerator Award in Yorkshire.
The business was previously a finalist in the Small Business of the Year categories at both the Yorkshire Post’s Excellence in Business awards and the York Press Business Awards.