What happens if your pet business goes VIRAL? Niki French from Puptalk knows all about it.
Earlier this year she launched her first #Dontwalkyourdogday and it reached millions of people all over the world..
Niki, a dog trainer from Twickenham in London, is author of the book Stop Walking Your Dog and created the awareness day to shine the spotlight on her book.
She pitched it to the press and her story was picked up by over a dozen outlets, leading to hundreds of thousands of posts and discussions on social media.
Niki has featured in the Times, Mail on Sunday, Daily Express, Mirror, Sun, Daily Star, LadBible and on the radio and TV in Australia!
In this episode, Niki shares her advice on how to put your pet business out there, the impact of being in the press and how to cope with being in the limelight.
You can listen on the player link below or read the key points as a blog post.
Hi Niki, can you tell me about what led to you becoming a dog trainer?
“Yes, I was always animal mad but I ended up in a completely different career, sales and marketing in the property industry. Then I had a bike accident, in 2014.
“Nothing was broken, I was very grazed and bruised and a bit shaken. And over the following months, I started having panic attacks and little memory problems.
“I’d gone from being all conquering, working in a very male dominated business to being really fazed and feeling teary.
“I thought, ‘I need to reappraise my life. I need to do something different.’
“I had a chance conversation with a friend and she said, ‘I’m thinking about becoming a dog trainer.’ In that second, I knew exactly what I was going to do.”
How did you go about it?
“I went from not having a dog to resigning 48 hours later and signing up to a dog training course.
“For the first time in my adult life I could have a dog, so I went to Battersea and adopted Bodie, a Collie Lurcher cross, who was eight months old at the time.
“Three months after quitting, I launched my business as a dog walker, while I trained to be a dog trainer.
“Walking was about getting my hands on lots of different types of dogs, while I was training to be a dog trainer.
“Anyone who struggled to find a dog walker, or to find doggy daycare, they were the clients I took on and they knew that I was training at the same time.
“They were happy to have conversations about what I was doing, so I got to work with dogs who were struggling and it was really good experience.
“Then, in March 2020, lockdown hit.”
How did you cope?
“I knew I wanted to take training online. It was the perfect opportunity. I’d already had a number of videos that I’ve been creating with my dog Bodie and I learned how to be an online dog trainer.
“It works incredibly well. Through Zoom, you can show them a training video, they can be working, playing the game, and you can coach them exactly as if you’re in the room.
“For dogs that struggle with strangers or get really overexcited or worried, it’s a perfect environment.
“Then I started a podcast, a Facebook community and that grew to a membership.
“I was grateful as it made me fast track all the things that would have taken three or four years to do.”
Tell me about your book, Stop Walking Your Dog
“I’ve always loved writing and I knew I wanted to write a dog training book.
“I was seeing clients who had dogs that struggled on walks and I was saying to them, ‘Stop walking your dog, you need to stop walking your dog and do other things instead.’
“And I woke up one day and thought, ‘That’s the title of the book.’ Then it was learning how to write a book, writing a plan, and writing it and launching it.”
You went against what we’re always told – ‘you have to walk your dog’ so how was it received?
“It landed really well. I was getting emails saying, ‘Thank you,’ from people who were having rows with partners about what was right for their dog.
“Having someone else say, ‘your gut is right, do something different,’ helped. It’s been amazing, it’s touched me in ways I couldn’t have imagined.”
What has helped move your business forward?
“The book and the awareness day that went with it. Things were growing slowly, really steadily. I was doing all the things. And it was working. But it was slow going.
“It was big decision to write it, I took a cut in revenue, because I had one day of my week without having paid clients.
“But there was a big step up after the book launch and the awareness day.
“Those two things have been been the biggest in terms of getting me in front of new potential people.”
Tell me about the awareness day!
“I did lots to get people involved in the run up, and on the day I planned to do a video diary with Bodie, not having a walk, and showing the games you could play at home.
“The day before I’d had an article in the Mirror online about why you don’t need to walk your dog every day.
“I’d had a call with you at the start of the week and we’d put together a pitch and some places to approach, so I had the interview and the journalist wrote a great piece.
“It got picked up by other sites. From The Sun, to Wales Online to LadBible. I was getting tagged all over social media.
“The articles mentioned the book and the book sales went mad. I went to the top of the Amazon bestsellers for dog training and other categories too.
“By April I’d sold 700 copies and now (May 2022) I’ve sold over 1400. So 1400 People are now thinking slightly differently about what their dog needs when they’re struggling.”
What was it like having the exposure as a relatively new dog trainer?
At the start, there was doubt in my mind, ‘Who am I to be doing this?’ But because I’m still fairly close in terms of experience to a lot of the people I work with, that makes me more relatable.
“Seeing all the other dog trainers share something I’d created when I was a relative newcomer, it has helped with Imposter Syndrome. It has pretty much left the building.”
What’s your advice to anyone who is thinking they’d like shake things up like you did?!
“Focus on the people that you’re going to help. Whenever anything feels difficult, or scary, use that to help you find those big girl pants. Break it down into really little tasks.
“If you don’t do this thing that scares you, the people you want to help aren’t going to get to get that from you.
“Things that really used to scare me I enjoy now, like the podcast. I enjoy the connections it’s given me with talking to people in the industry and you never know who is listening.”
You’ve done so well with your press coverage, any tips?
“If the journalist likes your idea, drop everything and be on it quickly! And have some great photos to go with your story too.
“Having someone to bounce ideas off. When you have a conversation about your idea that’s when it starts flowing rather than sitting with a blank piece of paper.
“And set aside time each week or month to work on your publicity too, because it does pay off.”
Find out more about Niki
Check out her podcast on her website: www.puptalk.co.uk
Buy her book: https://go.puptalk.co.uk/stopwalkingyourdog/
Follow her on social media
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