Close Menu
Our Branches Contact

Success Stories

To find out if this could be you – Call for a chat

03333 444972 (local rate)


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:

Hear from our franchisee Donna Cotton, on her experiences with Barking Mad

Louise Jones – Business owners in Market Harborough

Not many people can say they’ve worked in the world of celebrities, but Louise Jones can, and she cites years of experience of managing busy diaries for public figures as one of the key reasons behind her success as a Barking Mad franchise owner.

High flying career

When Louise originally moved to Leicestershire, she became PA to Rosemary Conley – a job she enjoyed for 15 years. As well as organising the exercise guru’s appointments and TV appearances, Louise was also integral to the production of Rosemary’s books and videos.

“It was a very busy but absolutely brilliant time,” said Louise. “It meant I had to be super organised, as I basically ran Rosemary’s life.

“While working for her, I had my two sons, taking a short career break after each. Rosemary had inspired me for many years and was instrumental in me opting to change tack, as she knew I had an entrepreneurial spirit. I wanted to balance motherhood and a career, so I became a Virgin V make up rep, holding parties in the evening while my husband cared for our children.

Following her role with Virgin V, Louise was head hunted to work for the Peter Jones Enterprise Academy, an initiative created by the Dragons Den star to help young people start their own businesses.

What now?

Louise had always wanted to run her own business and was sure she had the credentials and acumen to do it. At Christmas time in 2021, she raised the idea of franchising with her husband.

“Our sons had grown up and were no longer in school, so it felt like a good time to invest in myself and start to build a business,” she said. “I knew I definitely wanted to work with dogs – I just didn’t know what.”

Louise began Googling opportunities for franchise businesses and came across Barking Mad.

“What appealed to me,” she said, “was that I’d have a national brand backing me. Barking Mad was obviously a tried and tested model, with a brilliant reputation. It would be my business, but with extra support when I needed it.”

A new start

Purchasing the Market Harborough franchise, Louise was working in a ‘virgin’ territory – an area which had never had a Barking Mad franchise before.

“I was starting from scratch, so I knew I had a lot of work to do,” she said. “But I had some help from a franchisee working close by who’d been looking after a few customers that would become part of my territory.”

A home for hosts

Louise took to social media to spread the word about opportunities for hosts and received some enquiries via the Barking Mad website from people who were interested.

“That’s where the benefit of working with a national franchise brand comes in!” she said.

Most important to Louise was developing a diverse group of hosts, to suit dogs and customers with all types of needs.

“My eldest host is 84 and my youngest is 32, and each has different reasons for becoming a host. One of the best parts of the job is meeting people for the first time and understanding their ‘why’.”

Key learnings

Though Louise had worked in some pressurised jobs, starting her own business from scratch was completely different and required a lot of learning in a short space of time.

“You must also be very organised, self-motivated and disciplined. When you go and see a customer, they’re buying into you, and they need to have 100% trust you’ll place their dog with someone who loves them as much as they do. You have to follow through on everything you promise, which is really important.

“I absolutely love being my own boss, having freedom and flexibility, and being in charge of my own destiny. The work I put in is for me, and for my hosts, and the success of the business depends on how hard I work. I’m prepared to give 110% to keep growing it, and I’m excited about where things can go.”

“Starting a franchise was a huge decision for me, but it’s one I’ll never look back on.”

Read more

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.

Watch the video
Read more

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”.

Watch the video

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.

Read more