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How We Became London’s Biggest Dog Walking Business

With an estimated 8.5 million dogs in the UK, dog walking just might be one of the quickest and simplest businesses to set up. And if you love being outdoors, moderate exercise, and the company of our four-legged friends, it’s got to be one of the most satisfying business ventures. There was even recent outcry that dog walkers actually earn five times more than the average salary despite working less hours. Where do we sign up?

Well, maybe it’s a bit more complicated than that. That’s why we caught up with Joe Thomason of Green Dog Walking, one of London’s biggest dog walking businesses, to find out what’s involved. 

 

How would you sum up Green Dog Walking in a sentence?

We provide daily adventures and stimulating exercise for London’s luckiest dogs!

 

Can you briefly summarise your background and what you did before?

I have always grown up with dogs and competed in shows with my own but my work background was in sales. I did a two-year trip backpacking around the world before moving to London to set up Green Dog Walking. 

 

What was the inspiration behind Green Dog Walking? Was there a lightbulb moment when it came to you?

Being from the countryside, I had never heard of professional dog walking. My cousin suggested it when we were brainstorming business ideas so I looked into it. I had only planned to start it as a little side-earner while I set up a “real” company.

It soon became apparent that there was a huge gap in the market for a proper dog walking service in London.

 

 

On the face of it, dog walking may seem like one of the ‘easier’ or ‘quicker’ businesses to set up – how true is that? 

It was relatively easy to set everything up to call myself a business. Anyone can set up a website, print flyers, get a van, but to actually get clients onboard and gain peoples trust as a young startup was very difficult.

 

So, gaining clients is where a lot of the work is. What other challenges are there?

Logistics was a huge challenge at first; learning where to go, timings, how many dogs I could take on one walk (it varies from borough to borough). 

 

How has the business grown since your launch? Have there been any particular milestones?

We’ve grown a huge amount. I now have a team of 20 full-time employees, seven new vans on the road and we walk around 180 dogs per day.

I’ll always remember the first time an employee drove away in one of my vans without me in it. It felt amazing, I really felt like I was now running a business rather than being self-employed. Since then we’ve had various milestones along the way such as getting our own office, hiring a general manager and developing our own custom made software. 

We’ve grown a huge amount. I now have a team of 20 full-time employees, seven new vans on the road and we walk around 180 dogs per day.

What are the most effective marketing tools for a business like yours? Has that evolved with things like social media and Google?

Our website is our business marketing tool as most people move into the area and immediately search for a dog walker. We have been using social media more and more as we’ve grown. Luckily we have a great subject to use…dogs! 

That does make it a lot easier to engage with people.

 

 

How do you mark yourself from the competition both online and offline?

We are now the biggest dog walking company in London which is great. It’s really exciting to be ahead of the competition as we’re always coming up with new ideas. Although sometimes it can be tricky/expensive as we have to ‘trial and error’ a lot of things.

 

What are the challenges on a personal level running a business?

It can be extremely lonely if you don’t have a business partner. Although you will always have advice and support from friends/family, it ultimately will always come down to you. It’s very exhausting at times and almost impossible to completely switch off. It’s definitely more of a lifestyle than a career!

 

What are your proudest achievements?

To have grown so quickly while maintaining a strong reputation has been hard work but certainly pays off. Hiring a general manager, getting an office and developing our own software have been three proud achievements too, as they are the foundations we needed to continue growing the company. 

 

What are your top 3 tips for someone looking to launch a business? 

Be ready for it to take over your life. Keep pushing through the hard times, you will always have challenges that make you feel like you want to give up at times but you can get through them. Once you get established, put systems and policies in place to stay consistent and allow you to grow.

 

For a comprehensive guide to getting your business up and running, download our how to start a business in 20 days eBook.

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