When Sonja Carey’s mum passed away unexpectedly last year, it prompted her to rethink her life. She was 41 years old. She had worked in an office in the City of London as a P.A. for over twenty years.
It was time to do something different. “I wanted to do something that would make me really, really happy,” she says. “I had a good job. I liked my boss. I was paid well. Good hours. But it was not 100% fulfilling.”
Then she came across information about owning a dog franchise business on Facebook, and her mind kept returning to the idea. “I’d thought about dog walking before. But doing it on my own seemed a scarier option than buying a franchise. A franchise is a very big, security blanket.”
Now instead of working with managing directors every day, Sonja works with dogs, and every time she is greeted by a wagging tail, or heads out to a park with an excited four-legged companion instead of commuting to a desk, she knows she made the right decision to quit her job and buy her own franchise.
“This has been like a dream come true,” says Sonja, who is married and owner of the Central South London DogKnows franchise since April 2019. “It’s really exciting to own my own business, and to be doing something I love. Some days I have to pinch myself so I know I’m not dreaming.”
Deciding to invest in a dog walking franchise is not something that anyone does on impulse, but the more Sonja started looking into the details of owning a franchise, the more excited she became. “I always knew from when I was small that I wanted to work with dogs. I grew up with dogs. My mother was blind so we had guide dogs. When I did work experience at school, it was at the Guide Dog Centre. But somehow my career took a different turn and I ended up in a desk job. Then when Mum passed away last year, it made me rethink everything.”
Dog walking is one of the fastest expanding industries for small businesses in Britain, according to the Professional Dog Walkers Association. Sonja was tempted by the idea. But the advantages of buying a franchise eclipsed doing anything solo. “I knew that many start-up businesses fail,” she explains. “But when you buy a Dogknows franchise it comes with a well-established brand, a lot of training, a lot of support, a web page, social media. They already know what works and what doesn’t. They even show you how to do the accountancy aspect, so you’re not on your own trying to figure it all out.”
DogKnows is one of the only British Franchise Association approved dog walking franchises in the UK, and when Sonja looked into the founder Bobs Broadbent’s profile, she was even more impressed. With twenty years experience and qualifications in Canine Behaviour Management, and listed as an Animal Training Instructor with the Animal Behaviour Training Council (ABTC), Bobs Broadbent is highly regarded. “Bobs is so experienced in her field, and the fact that she shares all her experience is one of the most exciting things about the franchise,” says Sonja.
Sonja is out every day, rain or shine, in the parks around South-East London. “It’s taking a bit of getting used to going into people’s houses,” she says. “It’s quite strange at first. But then I get greeted by an excited dog, wagging its tail at me because it knows it’s going to be taken out. And I think to myself who would I rather be with today: managing directors or dogs?