Blogcast #13: Tara Lynch has Dogs In Motion

Rebecca: Hello and welcome to the Entrepreneurial Journey podcast. Today I have the wonderful Tara Lynch with me. Hello, Tara. How are you?

Tara: Hi. Yeah, I’m good, thank you. How are you?

Rebecca: Really well, thank you. Now you are involved in one of my favourite subjects in the whole world, and that is Dogs.

Tara: Yeah, yeah, Dogs In Motion is a doggy daycare pet service business.

Rebecca: Brilliant. How did that all begin?

Tara: When I was during lockdown, I worked in a boarding kennel and obviously everyone was in their houses. Nobody could go anywhere, so nobody could go on holiday. Nobody was using the kennels. So I was let go from that position and I couldn’t get in anywhere. So from my little box room in my bedroom, I got up my laptop and I thought, I’m going to make my own work. So with the help of my stepdad, who is an IT manager, we set up websites, social media, things like that. And then my mom, who is a finance supervisor, helped with all the books. And then we set up Dogs in Motion. And as I say, the rest is history.

Rebecca: That’s brilliant.

Tara: Yeah, it was a really successful business.

Rebecca: So just before we came on air, you were telling me you’d reached quite a high level of ranking in the area. Tell me a little bit about that and how you got to that.

Tara: Yeah, so I recently relocated from Bedfordshire to Norwich. So when I lived in Bedfordshire, Dogs In Motion was voted as one of the top three pet service businesses in the area, along with some competitors that had been there for quite a while. I wasn’t in the industry for very long before I got that title, if you like. It was hard work to begin with. A lot of just going around parks, handing out leaflets and everything like that, just because I’m quite shy person normally, I don’t really go up to people and just talk. So to put myself out there was a challenge that I had to push myself to do to make the business how it was. And yeah, there’s from relocating a lot of my clients that have not found another doggy daycare to live up to the standards. So they’ve just kind of tried to make do, but they’ve all said if I was to either move back or start up again, they would 100% be there.

Rebecca: Oh, that’s brilliant. That’s fantastic. So how old were you when you started the business?

Tara: How old am I now? I’m 24. I was 22.

Rebecca: Brilliant. Yeah. And before that point, had you ever thought about running your own business at all?

Tara: No. I have always worked with dogs. I’ve done a few other little jobs just to explore different avenues. For me, dogs are 100% my passion. So I’ve worked with dogs since I’ve literally left school up until now. So yeah, it’s always been dogs, but I’ve never, ever, ever dreamed of doing my own business. It’s just the lockdown. Obviously it became with so much negatives, but for me it came with the positive of the drive to start something and do something new. Sorry, my dog’s just walking around.

Rebecca: It’s all right. I’ve got two. They’ve just had their haircuts. They’re having a sleep, they smell really nice and long may that continue.  What sort of dog have you got?

Tara: I’ve got an American Staffy. So at the moment he’s actually been affected by the Bully Ban.

Rebecca: But he’s not an XL Bully, is he?

Tara: No. He has the characteristics, but no, he is not an XL.

Rebecca: Oh, what’s his name?

Tara: Dexter.

Rebecca: Dexter. Well, as you and I both know, it’s not the breed, it’s the owner that makes them aggressive.

Tara: Exactly. And he is as soft as anything

Rebecca: To say. Yeah, my best friend has an Alsatian and a Rottweiler, and they’re the two softest dogs you’ve ever met in your entire life.

Tara: They always are.

Rebecca: They always, it is. It’s just the owners and people, particularly my generation, remember Rottweilers from the film, the Omen, and they weren’t nice in that film. But what people don’t realise is Rottweilers were bred to herd cattle. So they’re not aggressive. They’re not built to be aggressive at all. No,

Tara: No. As well, these were bred to be nanny dogs,

Rebecca: Is that right?

Tara: Yeah, yeah. They’re the original nanny dogs that kind of quite a lot of people back in the olden days used to use instead of obviously people as nannies, they’d use Staffies and things like that just because of their kind nature.

Rebecca: I had no idea that that was the case.

Tara: Yeah, they’re known as nanny dogs.

Rebecca: Wow. I’ve met a few and they’re all really soft. I mean really stupidly soft.

Tara: He really is.

Rebecca: Oh, that’s a really shame. So we have a lot listeners to our podcast who are at different stages in their business journey. I interviewed a guy the other week who had exited for multimillions from his business and started another one, and I interviewed people who’ve not even started yet, so I get the whole range. What was it, do you think, when you were sitting in your room during lockdown and twiddling your thumbs? Did you think, all right, I’ll start a business yet, let’s go ahead. Or did you think, well, I’ll start business? Well, no, I can’t. What was the process you went through before you got going?

Tara: At first I was like, oh, how hard could it be? It’s just going to be like walking dogs. It’s going to be like that. But before you can even start advertising yourself, there’s so much you have to go through. So registering your business, I registered as a sole trader just purely because it was the best option for me. You then got all your advertising things to do, so you’ve got to set up all your social medias, your websites, you’ve got to register your website. You’ve actually got buy your websites and protect them. So for example, I had .com and then you’ve got net.com, .co uk. You’ve got all of the above that you’ve got to secure your business name with as well.

And then you’ve got your clients that you’ve got try and try and get, and I’d say that was the hardest part is going out actually and getting people to notice you. So social media is brilliant, obviously nowadays. It’s like the be at an end, all of everything. If you want something to know something, just pop post on social media and everyone will see it. But with a business that’s quite intimate with not only the dogs but the owners as well, obviously they’re trusting you with their babies. You’ve got to kind of get out there and show that you are more than just a face behind a screen. So yeah, getting out there as well. I recently relocated to Norwich. Dexter wasn’t always my dog. He was my partner’s dog originally. So I had my little Jack Russell back home called Reggie, and unfortunately Reggie isn’t so friendly, so I couldn’t take him out to almost be like a mascot type thing because you want a piece to approach you. So it’s using things that you’ve got nearby that’s kind of a free source of advertisement that can really draw people’s attention. So I would use my sister’s, partner’s, parents’, dogs.

Rebecca: Right, okay.

Tara: Yeah, just walk out with them and with the logos and the brands on and trying to make sure that you’re approachable. That was the biggest hurdle for me is trying to get that. Because normally, like I said, I’m not very, I’m just like, oh, leave me alone, please. I don’t want to talk to you.

Rebecca: Yeah, I prefer dogs.

Tara: Yeah, exactly. But then once I got my first client, then it was all kind of just word of mouth out there, and my first client was my very first client on my first day and my very last client before I then relocated to Norwich.

Rebecca: It must have been very sad to lose you.

Tara: Yeah, I’m sure if you were to contact any of them, they’d all say how gutted they were that I was leaving. It’s just because I feel like when you start up your own business, you’ve got to be quite flexible as well, and adhering to what your client’s needs and desires are. You’ve almost got to bend yourself in so many different knots just to kind get it working, but then it almost just becomes part of it. It’s easy to be flexible, and then that’s the thing that kind of drags people in, not drags people in, but draws people for in. I say,

Rebecca: Yeah, yeah, yeah. And you’re right. But I think it’s when you’re doing something you absolutely love, that’s okay, isn’t it?

Tara: Yeah. I mean, during Dogs In Motion, I also have trained in different areas as well to expand the business. So I donate canine and puppy behaviour training courses, so I was a qualified trainer, so I could then add another service in so I could then do one-to-one training sessions. I’m just waiting for my practical date to complete my canine hydrotherapy training. Oh, wow. So to possibly add that into the business when I do reopen, that will be another area of expertise that I could add to the business just to widen the range of services to suit most people and have a bit of everything that everyone’s looking for.

Rebecca: Yeah, that’s a really good idea. Yeah, no, the reason I asked about your age, some people going, why is she asked about her age, and it’s because you were nominated for where you’re finalist for, and let me get this right, the Great British Entrepreneur Awards for Young Entrepreneur of the Year and Startup of the Year, which is fantastic in the east of England. Now, sadly, you didn’t win, but that’s okay. There were about over 5,000 entries this year weren’t there, I think.

Tara: Yeah. Yeah. There were a lot of people. So to make the final in two different categories, it’s insane. It’s insane. Yeah,

Rebecca: No, so congratulations on that. Well done. Very well done. Now I know you’ve moved, so you’ve settled hopefully to Norwich, which is great. What are the plans now for the business? How are you going to reopen what you’re going to do?

Tara: Plans now are funding, we are planning on getting a warehouse property and converting that into a doggy daycare centre. So rather than it just kind of being base at home or just kind of in the community in general, it’ll be a warehouse and actual set place of where dogs will go, and then there’ll be days out and things like that. So there’s big plans, big plans, so it’ll take some time. But yeah, I’ve always been determined, and especially like I say, when it’s something you’re passionate about, you make it work. You make it work.

Rebecca: Yeah. You really do. And you said something earlier, actually, Tara, about how that phrase, how hard can it be? And then once you get into it, you think, oh my god, there’s a million moving parts to this seemingly simple business. So I really admire your determination. You’ve done it once and you’re doing it again, but you’re doing it bigger, which is fantastic. Absolutely fantastic. And where do you want to take it? Where do you think it’s heading

Tara: At the moment? Stay kind of local in Norwich and surrounding areas, but then I’m hoping this is long-term end goal and have a few different centres set up and down the country. But yeah, it sounds insane when I say like that. I’m just a 24-year-old girl just sitting at a dining table in our home in Norfolk talking about businesses up and down the country. I wouldn’t have even thought this would ever be the case, but here I am and I’m doing the planning. It takes a lot of time, a lot of effort, a lot of dedication, but in the end, it’ll all be worth it. And it’s not the case of setting up a business for the business to run itself because I wouldn’t have set up the business in the first place if that was the end goal. I want to keep getting stuck in, keep getting involved, because at the end of the day, this is what I would set it up for, is to say that this is mine. I’ve done this, and just build on it from there.

Rebecca: Everybody has to start somewhere. Exactly. And it doesn’t matter what age, what stage you are, whether you’ve been to a business school, you’ve never stepped a foot in a business school. I mean, none of that matters literally none of it.

Tara: Exactly. I’ve never done any kind of business. I’ve got no qualifications or grades or even in business or studies or anything like that. I went to a very traditional Catholic school, which was you didn’t have the options of business studies and things, so I had no experience, none at all. I spent four years in and out of psychiatric hospitals as well, just after school. So from that, from school to not having any kind of grades or knowledge in business studies or anything like that to then psychiatric wards in and out, not knowing what I’m going to do day to day, to then setting up a business that was voted top three in the area was just, it was mind blowing. It was mind blowing.

Rebecca: Yes. Phenomenal. Congratulations on your recovery as well, Tara. That’s really, really heartening to hear. And I don’t want to go into personal details, but it sounds like you’ve been through a lot and come out the other side. And for those people perhaps who are going through something tough, what advice would you give them?

Tara: Mental health or any sort of struggle in your life? It’ll only take as much as what you allow it to, right? If you roll over and allow mental health to take over your life, then it will, if you choose to fight, get up. Just get up each day, have a cup of tea. It can be as something as simple as that. I know a lot of people might be saying, oh, everyone says have a cup of tea, you’ll feel better. I’ve heard it and I think the exact same, but it’s just about the getting up and just get up, carry on. Each day is going to be different ever. Nothing is ever permanent. Everything in life is temporary. You’ve never ever have anything permanent.

Rebecca: That wisdom, Tara, is unusual in somebody twice your age. So I congratulate you on it. Getting to that stage and your thinking at such a young age, that will serve you extraordinarily well, particularly when you’re growing your business. There will definitely be hard times. Oh yeah, definitely. And there already are, no doubt. Yeah. Everybody did. I was speaking to my brother this morning. We run the business together, and he was saying he was speaking to her again, a mature woman, very well versed in business. She’s been doing it for four years, and she said it’s really hard to get it to take off and to get going, and it’s tough every day. Me and my brother were laughing saying it’s like those really brutal Japanese games they play on tv. Have you ever seen clips of them?

Tara: Yeah. Yeah. It is hard. It can be brutal when you’re trying to do it, but you just got to keep taking, almost take the knocks, take it on chin and get up. Get up and go.

Rebecca: Yeah. Yeah, you do. You absolutely do. I love that. So the template is a successful one. There’s a huge big warehouse, like you say, where the doggies go for daycare up here in Edinburgh where I live, and they must have five or six vans that go around the city and pick up the dogs. A huge business. Huge. Yeah.

Tara: That’s the aim.

Rebecca: Yeah. Now, when you go off and do different geographies across the uk, would you franchise it, do you think? Or would you be the owner still?

Tara: I haven’t got that far thinking yet. I’m not entirely sure I’d possibly franchise it because it does give other people the opportunity to learn about setting up a business and owning a business, running a business kind of, it almost gives you the opportunity before you think, oh, I’m going to give it a go myself just to see if you like the idea of it.

Rebecca: One of our podcasts, I can’t remember the woman’s name, it’s gone out in my head, but she runs a swimming teaching franchise business, and she’s set up, originally it was just training the swimming teachers, but she’s now setting up the franchisees, so they built their own pool. I’ll send you the link afterwards, but have a listen to her. Her story is really interesting as well, on how she’s grown it. But yeah, I think it is a really great idea. So how far away are you from getting that warehouse, do you think? And what do you need?

Tara: A fair amount? At the moment, I need quite a bit more funding, which is why I’ve been in touch with Spencer and we’re discussing different areas of funding. We’ve got them through yesterday, so I’m yet to explore them. But throughout this week, I think I’ll be just nagging on at people. That’s another thing you’ve got to do. Just nag on it people until they listen.

Rebecca: Yeah, Spencer’s great. And for those people don’t know Spencer. Spencer Hodgett  is one of our Tricres coaches and consultants, and he specialises in supporting businesses. They’re involved with dogs, which before I met Spencer was a niche I’d never even considered. But yeah, he’s a really good guy and he’ll put you in touch with all the right people, which is fantastic. All right.

Tara: Given me quite a lot of contact.

Speaker 4: Yeah,

Rebecca: He’s good. So if your business, and this is an obvious, well, it may or may not be an obvious question actually, Tara, so let’s just go for it. If your business

Speaker 4: Had personality or a character, how would you describe it?

Tara: If it had a personality or a character?

Speaker 4: Yeah,

Tara: Personality, I’d say bubbly. There’s always something going on. It’s very energetic or I mean dogs, they very hardly sit still, so always on the go, just quite structured routine and just fun. It’s a place for dogs to be dogs. There’s help if you struggle with finding time, because obviously people work most days and if they’ve got a dog and they don’t want to leave them, there’s always a space for a dog. So it’s kind of welcoming as well. Very open. I know what it’s like to own a not so friendly dog and a dog with them. That comes with quite a lot of troubles because of my little one. Back in Bedfordshire, he’s a rescue, so he comes with his own bundle of characters that we say.

So making room for dogs like that as well, because it is the worst feeling when you’re like, oh, I can’t let my dog do these because of their temperament. I can’t do this because of my dog’s temperament. But there’s always space. It can always work with the dog rather than against the dog and kind of separate them sort of dogs, just because of that temperament, because all they want to do is have fun as So there’s always space, I would say like that, a character bonkers. It’s mad. It is mad. It’s a mad work environment. Always coming home mad. There’s absolutely no point even trying to keep clean.

Rebecca: No,

Tara: Even on a sunny, dry day, you’re going to get dirty. So it’s just one of them things. But yeah, wouldn’t change it for the world, wouldn’t change it.

Rebecca: And if your business was a dog, what breed would it be?

Tara: I had say probably like a beagle or something like that, because beagles are very, they want to keep going and going and going and explore. They don’t really have a stop button. They dunno when to stop. They just keep going and going, and they follow any trail that seems that it would work and lead to something. So yeah, I’d say probably a beagle and better than nutty as well,

Rebecca: A naughty beagle. I really like that.

Tara: Beagle. Yeah,

Rebecca: I really like that. And this isn’t a question I normally ask, but I think it’s quite appropriate. What do you think business people can learn from dogs or people in general?

Tara: They can learn that things can happen in life that forgiven and just kind of staying true to yourself? Because dogs, all they do is stay true to what and who they are to please their owners and their masters. They’re just chilled, chilled animals. You could never, well, personally, I find it extremely hard to stay angry, stay up at my Dexter, but he’s a cheeky chap and he does like to test the limits. But yeah, he just makes you laugh. Dogs have a very strange way of communicating because we feel the love from these animals without actually saying any words. They can’t talk to us. They can communicate through body language, but ultimately they can’t talk to us. So we have this just four-legged animal in our home that we don’t talk to. We talk to using body language, but love unconditionally and they love you unconditionally. So it’s just seeing people for who they are, staying true to yourself in the meantime and just having fun.

Tara: Take life with a pinch of salt and just have fun while you’re here.

Rebecca: Yeah, I think that’s so true, that forgiving. They are. I’m just looking at my dogs now. One is laid completely flat on his back now legs in the air, totally chilled. Yeah, they are forgiving, aren’t they? And you can’t stay cross with them for long. They’re just so pleased that you’re there.

Tara: Yeah, it’s like our director. He’s very boisterous, as you can probably tell. He’s a big boy. So when you first come in the house and your dog’s really, really excited to see you, don’t be annoyed at them for jumping off and being excited. You’ve got all these different aspects of your life. You are their life, so enjoy ’em because they’re not here forever.

Rebecca: I know they’re not in

Tara: Forever, so let them be dogs, be happy. Play with them every day. Don’t let ’em forget that you are not forgetting them.

Rebecca: That’s how

Tara: I say it anyway, because like I say, I’ll have my family back in bed for show that I’ll go see. I’ve got my friends, I’ve got neighbours, for example, that I can just go out and just go and see. Dexter has us and we’re his world. We’ve got, we’re one in a big world and we are his world. So yeah, to see him excited when he comes in, it’s nice. It’s nice. They live life.

Rebecca: Yeah, they do. Yeah, they really do. That’s amazing. I wish you all the look in the world, Taran. I’m really looking forward to seeing you succeed, as I absolutely know you will with an attitude and an outlook that you’ve got. You’ll be phenomenally successful. Definitely. Thank you so much for your time today. Thank

Tara: You. Thank you so much.