I was at Reid Kerr college, learning computers. I loved it! It was the 90’s, Oasis were battling against Blur to top the charts and I learned I had a brain after years of disinterest at school and I was doing really well. Then one day I quit and became a carer for a family member – I was 18 years old. It was a tough life, living on nothing but benefits, working as a full time carer. I saw people I went to school with progress, build careers, find partners, buy homes, have children but my life never changed. I did this for 14 years, but in 2009 my role as a carer ended. I tried to find work but was unemployed for 6 months. Who’d hire a 32 year old with no job experience? With the recession and having no work experience finding a job, any job was hard.
On May 10th 2010 I sat on the train from Bishopton to Paisley and watched the trees fly by as an unemployed man. It had taken the last 3 months for me to get to the stage where the job centre was ready to sign me off after letting them know I wanted to be a self employed dog walker and had an a business idea called “Bishopton dog walking services”. The HMRC told me I needed to ‘sign off’ and then register my business to get working tax credits while the job centre told me I needed to register my business first and then ‘sign off’! It had been 6 months since I’d been made unemployed when I arrived at the job centre for the very last time! An hour later and after sorting out some forms I sat back on the train and watched the same scenery go by. The same trees… the same buildings… the same blue sky… yet my whole world had changed. I was now self employed and suddenly there was a future beckoning, good or bad!
Being my own boss and owning my very own business felt amazing, it was empowering but there was a major problem – I had no dogs to walk, no transport, was making no money, had no money to invest in my business and not to mention the three other established dog walking businesses strutting their stuff in my area! I had to let people know that Bishopton dog walking services existed, was ready to roll and tell people to choose me over the others… but how? I started by making all my own leaflets on the computer, printing them out and then posting them through every single door in Bishopton. I then saved up and got business cards made. With time on my hands and no other options I even learnt how to make a website! With no car I borrowed a bike from my brother so I could cycle to any dogs I needed to walk. I posted all the leaflets I made through every single home in Bishopton and made my website, weeks passed but I never received a single phone call – things became pretty desparate. Then one day the phone rang with someone asking me to walk their dog. They were from Renfrew and their dog was a show cocker spaniel named Jay! I was now a professional!!
As summer turned to autumn and I found more dogs to walk and pets to care for I managed to get hold of a 23 year old Volvo estate. It was a very nice looking car that came with a massive boot and all the toys including heated seats which were a god send for the winter of 2010. Sadly the ownership of that car came at a price. Because I never drove far I didn’t think that owning a car (especially a v6) would be too expensive, but it was. In the end and with many repairs to the vehicle I had to let it go.
For over 6 months I went back to using the bike, cycling in the rain, back into that head-wind but eventually and after a bit of saving I bought another car. Slowly but surely a foundation was being placed and I began to get known, became better at making my website and promoting my biz and 1 year after I started I began to blog about my pet care. In October 2011 I bought a 2005 Chevrolet estate but frustratingly that car was a lemon too, I felt I was jinxed as it cost £3000 in repairs in one year and in April 2013 I gladly replaced it with a 2004 Citroen Berlingo!
Walking dogs from Renfrew, Bishopton, Erskine and Langbank was getting too much, especially the time and cost it took to get to and from dogs and I knew I needed to localize the area.
After the owners of some dogs I walked in Renfrew no longer required a dog walker and I got some new dogs in Bishopton I decided to let Renfrew go and concentrate on the Bishopton and Erskine areas. It was such a tough choice but I knew that eventually I would either have to choose Bishopton & Erskine or the Renfrew area and that there would come a point where I couldn’t do both.
In the past I used to walk dogs in Langbank around 2 o’clock and meet and chat to many Langbank dog owners and would even meet up with an owner when I visited so our dogs could play. Nowadays the Langbank dogs I walk get taken to Finlaystone or Parklea in Port Glasgow.
In October 2012 I was now established and had several group walks a day. To improve my skills as a dog walker I arranged with a Paisley vets a first aid course for myself and other local Renfrewshire dog walkers! You can read about that here!
So after being first aid trained, I continued with my blogging and quietly worked away, collecting more dogs to walk and cats to feed and with the help of a canine dietitian I began adding homemade dog food recipes to my website.
On May 2015, exactly 5 years after starting my business I bought a brand new van after my old one died. It has fitted cages and is ideal to safely transport dogs. And that’s it… that’s how it began.
*Photo of myself with my dogs was taken by photographer Matt Liengie.