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Success Stories

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We’re hugely proud of our success and the success of our business franchise partners.

There’s no such thing as a ‘typical franchisee’ or a ‘typical day’ with Barking Mad. Here are just a few individual stories which we hope you’ll find interesting and inspiring:

Donna Cotton – Business owner Nottingham

Donna Cotton joined Barking Mad after 27 years in the corporate world, working for a large health and beauty brand as a buyer. Here, she shares her best pieces of advice for running a business and making franchising work for you.

What advice would you give to your teenage self?

I wasn't academic at school, but I didn’t let that stop me from believing I could be successful - I just had to find the right path. When I was 16, I applied for a variety of jobs in the local area and received some offers, but a job working at Boots' Head Office really jumped out at me. I completed a three week trial and was offered a permanent job. By the time I was 25, I was an established buyer –something I always thought was only available to people with a degree. I guess you could say I had beaten the ‘graduate gremlin’ – the idea that it’s only academics that can climb the career ladder. That couldn’t be further from the truth.

How do you de-stress after facing tough situations?

At Barking Mad, we benefit from a strong network of likeminded businesspeople who are likely to have already experienced any challenges you are. So, you can always rely on someone being around to chat things through and see if you took the right steps or if there’s anything you can learn from in the future. I always try and take a positive from a bad situation and if possible, find the funny side of what’s happening. Keeping your sense of humour is important. And of course, I get to enjoy the company of dogs and their owners all day, so 99% of the time I’m having fun and enjoying what I do!

How do you stay motivated?

I’m absolutely not money motivated – what keeps my interest, and what makes me want to get up and go every day, is seeing people happy. I’m motivated by hosts having a fantastic time with their new companions; by families coming back from their breaks and reuniting with their pets, and by helping people who think they’ve exhausted all their options of support.

How do you learn from your mistakes?

Mistakes are a natural part of life. You can’t run a business or work in a people-facing role without making the odd mistake. It’s what makes us human and gives us a chance to learn. If I make a mistake, I think about what went well, where in the journey things went wrong and try to change that path in the future.

Why did you decide to go into your industry? 

When I worked at Boots, a job share partner ran her own franchise which performed very well. I could see it wasn’t just about the commercials, though – she was thriving in every part of her lifestyle, too. I always give 110% to everything I do, and knew if I bought my own franchise, I would do everything in my power to ensure it succeeded. By chance, Barking Mad came up on my Facebook timeline and as soon as I watched the video showing what it was all about, my decision was made. I love dogs, I have two of my own, and knew I could create something valuable for other dog owners in my community.

What's the best career advice you ever received?

An old line manager once said to me that it’s not until you leave a job that you realise the value of your skills. When you work for a blue-chip organisation, it’s so target and profit driven that you can lose sight of what you’re learning along the way. What she said gave me a lot of self-belief that I could one day work on my own and apply all my skills in another environment – and she was right.

Amanda & Alan Hartley – Business owners in Leeds

Amanda and Alan were dog sitting hosts for many years and fell in love with the business concept. When the business came up for resale they immediately knew this would be the perfect opportunity for them.

We consider ourselves well and truly Barking Mad and are proud to be part of the family!

“We became a dog hosting family because our children constantly begged us for a dog but we just couldn’t commit to having one full time. We loved the companionship of looking after dogs on a part-time basis, which kept us fit and active. It worked very well for us and over the years we had many visitors to stay, ranging from Jack Russells to a Scottish Deer Hound.

Needless to say, we fell in love with the whole concept of Barking Mad and when the opportunity arose to run the business we jumped at the chance and have never looked back. We knew immediately that Barking Mad was the business for us. We have always been interested in finding a career that we would find more fulfilling and active and one where we could work with animals.

Their previous jobs are a far cry away from their daily routines now. Alan was a roofer and a joiner and spent too many cold winter days up a ladder, and Amanda worked in the fitness industry.

We now set our own schedule, enjoy the flexibility of our work and meeting new people and dogs every day. It’s still hard work, but very rewarding and a lot more comfortable on those cold winter’s days!

We were amazed at the positive response and scale of enquiries when we started. Being hosts ourselves, we understood what was important to our hosts and still do to this day. We hold regular gatherings, lunches and BBQs for all our host community, and we know the key is to never stop moving and growing. Our business has grown significantly which has enabled us to employ our members of staff. They are all real dog lovers and it gives us great pleasure to be able to help others in their work.

We have been delighted to be recognised as multiple award winners at the annual national conference especially as competition is so fierce. We received the award for ‘Best Newcomers’ and then ‘Brand Builder of the Year’ and our business growth was recognised again in the ‘Roots for Success’ category. Our Brand Builder award was dedicated to ‘Popper’ – our Barking Mad mascot. He goes with our customers on their holidays around the world and he is a regular guest on our Facebook and Twitter pages. People expect the best from our dog holidays and we make it our mission to provide it, every time.

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Jakki Gunn & Trudi King – Business owners in North Glasgow, Lanarkshire & Falkirk

Jakki started with Barking Mad North Glasgow back in 2004 and is our longest serving franchisee. Trudi joined the buisness in 2007 and they expanded their empire to cover Lanarkshire and Falkirk in 2013.

Jakki had spent her previous 15 years working for a ship management company progressing to a senior role but took her away from family and involved exceptionally long hours.

“Shortly after my son was born I was offered redundancy which I willingly took in order to spend more time with him, but after a year and an awful lot of baby talk, I decided it was about time I went back to work. Having always loved animals, I decided to investigate different ways of combining a career in pet care whilst improving my lifestyle. I was delighted to discover Barking Mad and contacted them immediately – and here I am, still enjoying every minute of it.

Running a Barking Mad business gives me the perfect work – life balance and the chance to set my own work schedule. I am able to run a successful business and still spend quality time with my family and my six dogs! In 2007 Trudi joined me in the business on a part time basis – fitting around her career as a registered veterinary nurse. She has also worked in one of the UK’s biggest wildlife rehabilitation centres and in 2012 received the prestigious Veterinary Nurse of The Year award.

Our business and our team grew year on year and we are honoured to have received the Barking Mad award for ‘Franchisee Of The Year’ not once, but twice – the only franchisees to have ever received the accolade twice!

In 2013 we decided to take on the Lanarkshire territory next door to us so we could offer the fantastic Barking Mad service to a wider field. We now manage a team to help us continue to grow both businesses, and the support and guidance from Head Office is as important today as it was back in 2004. We have seen many changes over the years as the company has grown, adapted with the times and responded to both customer and franchisee needs.

We love being part of a franchise network where we can share ideas to push our ever expanding businesses forward into the forthcoming years”.

Kevin Matthews – Business owner in Central Lancashire

Kevin had been a Barking Mad customer for several years and jumped at the chance of running his own successful pet care business.

“Having been a Barking Mad customer for several years and keen to run my own business, I jumped at the opportunity to take over this successful franchise and offer the same service to others.

I was a retail manager for a large chain high street store and I loved all the interaction with customers and the hustle of the job but after 9 years I decided I wanted something I could call my own. I also wanted something that would fit in with my lifestyle and I’ve never looked back.

What I really like about Barking Mad is that you are in control of your business and the growth is down to you. It’s great because you reap the benefits and you get a great feeling of satisfaction. I now feel in control of my job which is wonderful. What makes it work for well for me is the franchise support. All the elements of the business that I was less experienced in I could be taught and get support whereas at the same time I could make use of the skills that I did have to grow my business.

A highlight for me is seeing the hosts’ faces when the dogs arrive and them running around wanting to play. It’s also lovely to see the customers happy and know the system works so well”.

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Nicola Sheard – Business owners in Southport

Nicola bought an existing franchise in 2013 and immediately developed it’s full potential and grew the business by 50% in just eight months. She now has two members of staff working for her and is looking to further increase her team.

“I discovered Barking Mad whilst searching online for a holiday home for my own dogs when we went on holiday. I definitely didn’t want kennels and above all, I needed peace of mind. Barking Mad offered me a first class alternative to kennels.

However, I quickly discovered that all surrounding areas of Barking Mad were fully booked for the summer and unfortunately I had to search elsewhere. Staying within the ‘home from home’ idea, I found a registered dog sitter who promised that my dogs would be the only dogs in the home. The day before my holiday the dog sitter advised me she had taken another booking and my dogs would no longer have an exclusive booking. As they are both rescue dogs, I was worried how they would cope with other dogs in the home, but at this late stage I had no alternative – there was no back up and a dog owner’s worst nightmare.

After returning from my holiday, I decided to research Barking Mad in more detail and register my dogs with the service so I would never be faced with this dilemma again. I contacted my local branch and not only did I realise what a fantastic concept it was, but that the franchise was available to buy as a resale. I had been considering a change of career for some time and had always wanted to run my own business – I was just never sure in what profession. I’ve had a variety of jobs over the years including working as a civil servant, a holiday representative and a primary school teacher. I vowed never to work in an office again – wanting something exciting and not so 9 to 5.

The more information I was given, the more excited I became. I met with the Managing Director Lee and the rest of the team at Head Office, to discuss how they would all help me start my business and build it to its full potential. As the old saying goes “I liked it so much, I bought the company!” and I before I knew it, I was attending training to launch my very own business.

Here I am, combining my love for dogs and working with like-minded people. Running my business from home gives me enormous flexibility as a mother of two, and also means my overheads are kept to a minimum. I’m very proud to be part of such a professional, friendly, caring and experienced team who are undoubtedly dog lovers. They literally are all Barking Mad!

That was back in September 2013 and Barking Mad Southport continues to grow from to strength to strength. I am so proud to be part of the nation’s number one pet care provider and I absolutely love my job“.

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Tina Young – Business owner in Northumberland

Tina made a life changing decision and launched her Barking Mad business. With her team of Carol Ann, Colin, Brian, Jenny & Roly she runs her successful franchise as well as bringing up her two children.

“Hello, my name is Tina. When I was younger, I can’t recall telling my careers advisor that I wanted a job arranging holidays for dogs!

So, how did I get here?  I had been working in call centre management for two blue chip companies and although there were financial rewards, I had very little job satisfaction and I felt “like a square peg in a round hole”. I just didn’t fit.  My husband was in a similar position with his job and we both came to the conclusion that things really needed to change.

It is a well-used cliché, but we do only have one life so we didn’t want to waste it doing a job that made us unhappy.  So, we sold our house, moved into a little cottage in the country and resigned from both of our jobs. My husband went back to college and now runs his own photography business. I spent about 9 months searching for something that would fulfill me. I’ve always been very passionate about my job and I like working hard, so it was so important to me to find something that suited me. At the time, we had a Foxhound dog called Elvis. He was quite a challenge and I spent all of that year attending dog classes to try to socialise him with other dogs. I also read lots and lots of dog behaviour books and took advice from dog behaviour experts. As I was having some time off work, I volunteered with a local dog charity. Suddenly, my corporate life was replaced with dogs, dogs and more dogs. Somebody somewhere was trying to tell me something!

And then, a friend told me about Barking Mad. It turns out that she was a dog groomer and she groomed Lee Dancy’s auntie’s dog. Lee is the founder of Barking Mad and at the time, she did not have anyone representing Barking Mad in the North East. After a chat, we arranged a meeting at Head Office. We talked in detail about the business and I loved the fact that my ‘interview’ kept getting interrupted with Bronte, Lee’s Dalmatian, who would stick her nose in for a stroke or a treat! I thought, this is the type of business that I want to be involved in! I could see that Lee was absolutely passionate and professional about her business and she had made it a success through lots of hard work. But, she could still be herself and fuss her dog mid interview, because after all, this business is all about giving pleasure to and caring for our dogs.  The business model really appealed to me. I could run my own business and be part of a franchise organisation that would clearly support and guide me. As I had never run my own business, I felt this would work really well for me, so the decision was made and in April 2005 I launched Barking Mad in Northumberland.

Many successful years on, we are now a big team.  In April 2009 Colin came on board, followed by Carol Ann in March 2012. I first met Colin & Carol Ann when they became Barking Mad hosts. In March 2014, Jenny joined the team to help with admin. Jenny is a customer and her lovely dogs have lots of Barking Mad holidays. My husband Brian has also joined the team!

Franchisee of year winner bfa barking mad business

In Feb 2017, Susan and Roly joined the ‘Dog Chauffeur’ team alongside Colin & Carol Ann.

Buying my Barking Mad business has turned out to be a life changing decision. My business has continued to grow year after year which has boosted my confidence and happiness. My family has also grown, as I now have two children. Running my business and looking after my family has worked very well for me. It’s such a great feeling to be able to say that you love your job“.

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