Most people realise that starting your own business isn’t the glamourous, fast paced, high octane activity seen on TV. It’s hard work, risky and decidedly unglamorous but many of us still dream of finding a business idea that could earn us a living, allow us to be our own boss.
Finding the idea is hard enough but it takes a leap of faith to give it a go.
Paul & Carol Gallagher of Carmarthen have done just that. They run their own successful business HOUSE MARTINS (http://www.housemartinspetsitters.co.uk/) that provide a range of services to pet owners in West Wales from walking your dog or grooming your horse through to a House/Pet-sitting service for holidays or longer periods of time.
A far cry from 5 years ago when after caring for a relative they felt isolated, had lost their purpose and their identity had been taken over by their role.
Moving to Carmarthenshire to start a life together their plans were soon put on hold to care for an elderly relative. Giving up a life to care for another can be a selfless, noble and generous thing to do but being a carer is a full time role that becomes the primary focus of someone’s existence. Often everything that went before is abandoned for this new “occupation”. And so for 7 years Paul and Carol identified themselves as “carers”.
But when the caring ends, what then?
The couple signed up for the STARS Project on 2011. STARS was a four-year project to help people in their situation take greater control of their lives by increasing their life and employability skills. The project ran in mid and south west Wales until 2014 and came at the right time for the Gallaghers.
Paul says ““STARS gave us the opportunity and support we needed. We were very isolated and it was a relief to meet others like us and find people that actually cared about us and could help.”
Paul had previously run a Graphic design consultancy but, having moved to Wales, he didn’t have the same networks and local connections and described himself as out of touch with developments in Graphic Design and “basically unemployable”. However they had the germ of a business idea.
Over the last 20 years there has been an increase in people living alone, doing jobs that require a great deal of flexibility and moving away from families into towns to find work or retiring to the country. With pets playing an increasing role in the lives of such people Paul and Carol wondered; if they don’t have a local network of family and friends, who looks after their pets when they are away?
On The STARS Project they updated computer skills, did a business start-up course and wrote a business plan with their pet-sitting idea in mind. Their research backed up their initial thoughts and there seemed to be a gap in the market the business could fill.
Most responsible pet owners do not want to cause disruption for their pets but sometimes life gets in the way. Having someone go around to feed and let the dog out when an unexpected late meeting comes up is preferable to leaving them on their own. Having someone house/pet sit when on holiday is preferable to putting the animals in kennels or a cattery.
“We approached the business plan as a feasibility study, to see if it was actually possible. The course also encouraged us to find a way to promote what we were offering in a way that suited the business but also suited us. We still use that approach, now”.
It seems to be working.
Paul and Carol saw a new opportunity and, with a lot of hard work and determination, set up and established House Martins; a business that satisfies and unmet need. They are now contemplating taking on staff to meet an increasing demand for their services.