How can your local community help you grow your pet business?
Sandra Emmons from shares everything you need to know in this episode.
Sandra took her dog training business, Happipup, full time just over 18 months ago and causes so much FOMO while out and about with her clients that soon she was fully booked.
She’s now building a small team, her business is thriving, she’s supporting pet owners during the cost of living crisis and she LOVES every moment of it.
Sandra shares how she went about using the power of community to establish her business, and gives an insight into how she finds support and referrals in the most unusual of places.
Plus an insight into her sessions so you can see why clients love them! From dancing with a cactus to Danny DeVito cut outs, there’s never a dull moment!
If you’d like to learn more about how to work with other businesses and people locally to grow your business, you’re going to love this chat.
Listen in on the player link below or read the key points as a blog post.
Hi Sandra, tell us about your business?
I run Happipup Puppy and Dog training, working with pets and their owners in my local community to build essential skills and find confidence in being out in public and living life with their pets.
We run workshops, classes, out-and-about sessions, and one-to-one sessions.
My goal is to help people teach their puppies and dogs to be well-behaved, but in a way that makes it fun for everyone involved!
What does a typical week look like for you?
I offer classes two evenings a week and one to two workshops every Sunday.
I also do one-to-ones, going into people’s homes to help them train their dogs and then going out and about with them.
My out-and-about sessions are loads of fun.
It’s with the people that come to my classes, and we will practice different skills in the hall and then move outside into the local villages for real-life scenario training.
We’ll talk about what to do in dangerous situations and practice what to do in each of the scenarios. Then we finish it off with a cup of coffee!
What did you do before and how did you transition to a full-time dog trainer?
I started my career as a primary school teacher and from there transitioned to a job in the construction industry.
For the last 20 years, I worked in facilities management and maintenance.
While in that job, I started dog training part-time, studying and helping with classes for about 11 years.
When I got the courage to teach my own classes, I realized it was my true passion. But at the time I was too afraid to leave the comfort of a job I knew well.
I set up Happipup and worked it in the evenings and weekends. It turned out to be extremely beneficial because I was able to build up my contacts and my confidence during that time.
During COVID, the company I was working for was going through lots of changes and I had the opportunity to leave. I knew if I didn’t do it then, I probably never would.
What was it like when you went into Happipup full-time?
It was a total shock! I completely underestimated everything I’d have to be doing.
I quickly found that I couldn’t do it all – not well anyway – and found people to help me do the things I wasn’t so great at.
Networking has been extremely important! I joined lots of trainer groups that I felt I fit in well with and discussed ideas and challenges.
In the beginning, there were months when no one would sign up for my classes. Then the next month I’d have so many people sign up that I’d have to add more classes.
It’s truly a roller coaster and as long as you stay persistent, the highs start to outweigh the lows.
My number one piece of advice is that you shouldn’t feel like you have to do it all.
If you look, there are amazing people around you who can support you and help you when you need it most.
What do you do when you’re going through a really challenging time?
I like to look at reviews. They bring me back to my “why” and remind me that I can do this.
Running your own business can feel all-consuming. After a while, you just can’t think straight and things start to seem worse than they really are.
In those times, I have to step back and remember to take time for myself outside of my business.
I enjoy going to yoga at a regular time each week and recently started swimming. It clears my mind.
I also think it’s important to have people in your corner to use as a sounding board, just to be there to listen when you’re having a difficult time moving forward.
How have you been able to grow your business and be well-known in your community?
I’m not always so great at marketing, but I can really connect with people if I’m able to speak to them.
I have heard many times that people choose Happipup over another trainer simply because I called them to chat before moving forward.
I get a lot of inquiries from our out-and-about sessions. People see us out and are naturally curious.
Surprisingly, a big source of business comes from my hairdresser. We all like to chat and gossip and because I helped her with her puppy training she passes along my information.
I also work closely with pet shop owners and groomers and with the parish council.
What is a typical customer’s journey like with Happipup?
My puppy and dog training classes are called Superstar Classes, and we come together regularly; not just in the class but out and about as well, along with occasional social outings.
When they finish their five sessions, then they can come into the Grow Your Superstar Dog Class. They’re ongoing and can join in as often as they like.
I’m trying to build a safe community where pet parents can socialize with like-minded people.
What do you love about the community element of your business?
It truly makes me so excited! I want to bring people together, especially at a time when many are struggling.
We started a swap and share system where people can drop off their used leads, collars, and harnesses for sharing with others.
We are also helping improve the outside community’s perception of dogs. We are showing them they are beneficial, can have good manners, and really be a part of the community.
Our local baker and cheese shop now let dogs in because they see how well-behaved they are!
Do you have any advice for someone just starting this journey?
Start small and stay true to yourself.
Take one step at a time, find someone you can use as a sounding board for ideas, and know that you don’t have to be like anyone else!
What’s next for you and Happipup?
I’ve now got someone else working for me, doing classes, and now a dog training course.
I also want to help show other dog trainers that this method works and how they can implement it in their own communities.
I have several fun ideas for how we can expand as a company, like birthday parties and private workshops!
Want to find out more about Sandra and Happipup?
Head to the Happipup Website: https://happipup.co.uk/
Give her page a like on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/HappipupDogTraining
And you can follow her on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/happipupuk/