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A love of animals from a young age led Sarah Richardson to set up her own business looking after dogs. Initially however, Sarah was unsure about a career choice. After graduating from the University of Chester with a BSc in biology, Sarah 28, who lives in Farndon, travelled around Fiji taking part in marine conservation work.

Returning home, she took a job in the legal industry but after two years of working in front of a computer – and with a new puppy - she realised that she wanted to work full-time with dogs.

She set up a dog walking business offering one-hour walks, two-hour walks and puppy visits. Sarah explained: “We pick the dogs up for each walk in our van. We hold pool parties when the weather is too hot to walk, we have beach trips which the dogs love and pre-Covid I offered dog boarding in my home for the regular walking customers.”

Seeking business knowledge

Sarah joined the Business Growth Programme (BGP) in January 2018 to learn how to run a business. She was also successful in accessing funding, enabling her to purchase a van and expand her business quickly.

BGP guidance

Sarah took part in seminars covering all aspects of running a business which helped her to structure her own enterprise. She said: “I couldn’t have grown the business in the way that I have without the support of the Business Growth Programme. Joining was the best decision I made: I learnt so much and I’ll always be grateful that I managed to buy my van so early on and personalise it due to the grants I received.”

Engagement with other University of Chester support

Sarah was awarded funding from the University of Chester’s Venture programme, which since 2011 has supported over 1,000 students in their businesses, awarding over £46,000 via the Excellence in Enterprise and Entrepreneurship Scholarship and the Santander Entrepreneurship Fund. The funding allowed her to purchase a van which enabled her to double turnover within five months as she could cater for more dogs each day. The van has been kitted out with fitted crates, carpeting and displays her business logo.

Expansion plans

During lockdown, Sarah studied dog training and plans to run classes as soon as she is fully qualified. She has also taken on a staff member and had a case study about her business published in The Standard newspaper.

Satisfied customer: a testimonial

“We had secured a Golden Retriever puppy and as I worked full-time, I needed to find someone who was reliable, honest and great at their job. Sarah was recommended to me, and she has given puppy visits and walked Skylar four times a week before Covid. Sarah is very knowledgeable, on time and is switched on to all the best places to walk her. Sarah the Dog Carer is a great recommendation and we have been lucky to find her.” - Jo, Chester.

Eligible business support

The Cheshire and Warrington Business Growth Programme is funded by the European Regional Development Fund. Entrepreneurs, SMEs and pre-start businesses registered or trading in Cheshire and Warrington, meeting the eligibility criteria, can apply for support. Help is available from our team of Business Engagement Managers and access is also available to facilities at the University of Chester’s Thornton Science ParkRiverside Innovation Centre and the NoWFOOD Centre.

If you are a business seeking access to facilities and expert growth support, contact the

University of Chester’s Business Growth Team by emailing businessgrowth@chester.ac.uk.