I worked for British Gas in their customer service department, and I was made redundant. I spent some time temping afterwards because I didn’t want to rush into anything else immediately.
It was a bit of a coincidence really; I’ve always loved looking after cats and I knew I wanted a job where I could be self-employed, so I’d started looking at possibly doing pet sitting then one day my partner Nicola came home and said, ‘look at this, it’s perfect for you’, and it was an advert on Facebook for The Cat Butler.
Lots! Although I hadn’t ever owned my own business, I had worked in businesses for a long time, so I knew what ‘red flags’ to look out for. I also thought everything on Facebook was a scam so I was highly dubious.
I first had a chat with Sandra on the phone and got a good feeling from that conversation. Then she sent me the figures for the business which felt realistic, and I liked the sound of the support she offered too.
From there I did a lot of my own due diligence and spoke to the other franchisees. At the time there were only two but nonetheless, they were able to give me a very realistic view of the franchise opportunity I was potentially about to invest in.
Then I had another conversation with Sandra, specifically about my area in Oxford. Luckily my territory is very affluent so I knew from the start that the clients would be there.
Because I am aware that any new business takes time to make money, I applied for a Government Start-Up Scheme loan which would tide me over financially until such time as I was making a profit. I’m very glad I did because although I only needed it for a few months, it was nice to know the support was there initially, it also gave me access to seminars and information targeted at people starting their own businesses. A year on and I could have paid back the loan twice over.
Because I know my limitations!
Seriously, I would never have been able to get set up and be in profit in this kind of timescale. Starting with the most simple thing, the website. Yes, I could probably have put together a basic WordPress site but it wouldn’t be nearly as good as The Cat Butler website and we all know that having a bad website is worse than not having one at all and it certainly wouldn’t have had all the ‘back end’ capabilities that The Cat Butler’s does.
Then there’s the name; I’ve been in sales for long enough to recognise a fabulous hook and The Cat Butler is brilliant. Every time I mention it people giggle and ask what on earth it is. They love it.
Then there’s the support I had when I started, the training, a professional PR launch in my own area, featuring in local magazines, not to mention all the business stationary, business cards, uniforms, checklists, policies, procedures etc, the list just goes on.
With The Cat Butler, it is all set up for me, I’ve got all the systems and all the support I need to just get on and build my business, plus the bonus of great support from all the other franchisees, it really is very good.
I simply couldn’t have put all this together on my own without spending tens of thousands of pounds and months and months of work, plus let’s not forget that Sandra has ten years’ experience of running pet care businesses, so there isn’t anything she doesn’t know about the day to day running of the business and her experience is invaluable.
My business is doing brilliantly; well ahead of all projections and yes, I’m most definitely making a profit. I’d put measures in place in case the business took a while to get going but it has literally exploded since I started in June 2022. It was immediately busy that summer and Christmas, much more than I expected.
I had no idea it was going to get this big this quickly; my partner Nicola helps me carry out some of the visits but, despite already employing two other Cat Butlers who operate in specific areas in the county, I could do with about two to four more Cat Butlers so I could say ‘yes’ to all the enquiries I receive.
I’ve actually had to stop advertising because I found it was bringing in too much work that I was having to turn away. If I could get my hands on five new Cat Butlers I’d have them all working full time this Christmas.
Handling the demand for our services has been a big challenge. I’ve had to learn to work smarter. I simply can’t take on every request we have for our services because I may simply not have the resources to fulfil the task and I won’t let people down.
The same as above, the demand for our services. It’s a two-headed beast. It is my biggest success and my biggest challenge but what a lovely challenge to have.
Buying my The Cat Butler franchise was always about taking back control of my own life, and it’s given me just that. Coming from a corporate background where someone owned me lock stock and barrel from 9-5, Monday to Friday it is wonderful to be back in charge of my own life and be able to set my own diary. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve worked incredibly hard to get to this point but if I want to take some time off to do something special with my partner Nicola, I can, and that’s a very special feeling. I know I am building a business for the future and that’s really important to me.
The support from Sandra has always been excellent and it’s still there if I need it, but in a different way. As I’m now one of the ‘old ropes’ who actually helps with the training of the new franchisees, the support I need is different. I don’t need help on how to attract clients anymore, but I may need it on how to employ staff for instance. I still have questions, they are just different. When I was beginning to employ staff, Sandra furnished me with all sorts of checklists and showed me how to set new members of staff up on our system. She also produces handbooks for our employees which really helps, by the time they start they are already well versed in their duties.
I still have a monthly catch up with Sandra which is always nice and a quarterly business review meeting when we look at the figures of the business.
I think there are a few questions you need to ask yourself; firstly do you have a real passion for cats and are you willing to work really hard to make the business work? If you can genuinely say yes to both of these things then I’d say go for it.
Buying my The Cat Butler franchise was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made and I don’t regret it for an instant. It has been really hard work but I expected that and I know I’m building a strong business for the future and I’m really proud of what I’ve built so far.
Read more on Mark's journey >>>>> From redundancy during lockdown to business owner
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