- Start Up Cost:
- Franchise Type:
- Sector Type:
- Investment Type:
- Home Based, Mobile
- Pet Services
With over 50 franchises operating across the UK, Petpals provide a comprehensive range of home from home and in your home pet care services.
Our services are tailored to the needs of our clients and their pets and our franchisees play a vital role in the ongoing development of our business.
Our in-depth training and operating systems provide the perfect basis for launching a home and van based business on either an individual owner/operator or management franchise basis.
Don’t just take our word for it, listen to what our franchisees have to say via our video here.
Developed from the original pet care business model operated by our founder in the late 1990s, Petpals offers much more than a home boarding or dog walking service; it is a professional, tried and tested, successful business format which is fully supported by the Petpals team and nationwide network of franchisees.
We have a successful track record of both franchise renewals and resales and are proud to be full members of the bfa.
Our training is both classroom and field based, including time in the field with an experienced franchisee. Training includes 4 days at our head office in Hampshire along with pet first aid and practical dog handling skills. Topics covered include operating procedures, administration, accounting and marketing.
Ongoing support includes: head office support throughout the franchise term, regular business development reviews, annual conferences, invaluable knowledge and encouragement from fellow franchisees.
Day-to-day activities will be largely based around caring for clients’ pets, walking dogs or visiting cats/small pets.
You will also need to find time to visit clients in their homes to discuss their pet’s requirements and carry out assessments for new business, plus all the usual administrative and marketing functions required to run your own business. With a head office team and a network of experienced franchisees to call on, support and advice is always available.
Clare Stafford is the owner of Petpals Fleet, one of the longest running Petpals businesses in the network. She bought her business in 2002.
The animal lover
Clare has always loved animals; as a child she had dogs, budgies and guinea pigs and once reared a gosling at the request of the farmer’s wife, taking it from a farm in Northumberland, where she spent a lot of her youth, to her home in Newcastle, much to the amusement of her friends! She returned it two weeks later, happy, healthy and ready to re-join life on the farm. She has owned cats and dogs as an adult, all of which lived happy lives into their late teens and twenties.
Originally Clare worked in an IT technical support role in large manufacturing and an insurance company, installing and maintaining software on the mainframe computers (back in the day!) When the last company wanted to relocate her job out of the area, Clare took voluntary redundancy and started to look around for something else.
With two young children, six and eight, and a young dog, Clare decided to look for a pet or child related franchise operation, taking a trip to a franchise show in London to get a feel for the industry. At the show she met many different businesses, quickly decided that the child related franchises on offer weren’t for her but instantly fell for Petpals and left, brochure in hand, to do her research.
In 2002 the internet wasn’t as useful or quick as it is today and there was no social media so research options were limited but she attended her Discovery Day, met with the franchisor and spoke to some of the other existing franchisees (currently we have over 50) before making her decision to join.
Successful franchise business
With full support from the franchisor, Clare launched Petpals Fleet, which has grown into one of the most successful in the network. Clare is still fully involved in all daily walking and caring duties but also employs two dog walkers, a cat helper and four home boarders to help her out. Many of her staff have been with her for a long time, with two of her helpers having been part of the team for 12 and 15 years.
Clare says being part of a network is an important part of her success, ‘I really enjoy going to the Petpals conference each year, it fills me with renewed enthusiasm and I love getting ideas from the other franchisees, top tips to drive my business forwards that I would never get if I had simply set up on my own. I also find our private Facebook group particularly useful; we all ask questions and everyone contributes answers, it is a valuable pooling of experience. Despite being one of the longest running franchises I’m still learning things every day.’
Pet care services
Clare and her staff offer the full range of pet care services, they walk and board dogs and visit cats and other small animals in their own homes. She also offers puppy and elderly dog visits and a pet taxi service.
For more details of Clare’s day, see ‘A Day In The Life Of Petpals Fleet’
What makes Clare’s business such a success?
Clare says, ‘I think it helps that I was one of the original businesses in the area and that Petpals has always stood out as a very professional brand. We had brightly sign-written vehicles a long time before our competitors and our nationally recognised brand really helps keep us at the top of the list. I also have some amazing staff; several of them have been with me for a long time and my clients know and trust them. We have many clients who have been with us for years and continue to use our services for their subsequent generations of pets.’
Clare says the things she loves most about owning her own Petpals are fairly simple, she loves being busy and outdoors with animals, and the positive feedback from happy pets is very rewarding.
Clare’s final words of wisdom for anyone thinking of buying a Petpals franchise are, ‘Go for it! Do your research first, make sure you don’t have too much competition in the area but even then, with such a well-established brand as Petpals, you are always going to be a cut above the rest.’
Wendy Turner (58) is the owner of Petpals Grantham. Before buying her Petpals franchise, she was the Tourism Officer for South Kesteven council for over 12 years. She also ran Tourist Information Centres in Stamford and Grantham.
Becoming overworked and stressed in her job and a chance conversation with an ex colleague, Ginny, who had already started up Petpals Grantham, Ginny suggested that she come work for her. Within a few months, in April 2005, Wendy had handed in her notice and bought half of Petpals Grantham. The pair ran things together until 2011 when Ginny’s circumstances changed and Wendy bought out her share of the business and became the sole owner.
Says Wendy, "I was so stressed at work it made me seriously ill, I knew I had to find a healthier, more mindful way of living. I had neglected my own well-being for far too long and my body was telling me it was time to put that right. I could see that Petpals would offer me everything I needed, a business that was financially sound and had potential to grow and most importantly plenty of fresh air and a virtually stress-free working environment. Thirteen years on and I can still honestly say it is everything I wanted, and needed it to be."
Wendy’s daily routine is now made up of looking after people’s pets, walking their dogs, feeding their cat and mucking out their rabbits and guinea pigs, so they can go to work or go on a much needed holiday. After so many years of running the business, she now counts many of her clients as friends having gained their trust and loyalty over many years. One client, a family who emigrated to Switzerland begged her to come with them and, despite her refusal, still send her Christmas cards every year asking when she is going to visit.
Wendy explains why she loves her job, "The best thing about owning a Petpals franchise is that no two days are ever the same. Alongside the regular walks and visits on sunny days or snowy afternoons, I may receive a call to do an emergency pet run, another day I’ll be juggling my own employees when one of them goes sick and I have to cover their walks, it is wonderfully diverse and I love it."
She continues, "It is also the only job I can think of where you never get that Monday Morning Feeling. When I worked at the council I used to lie on the sofa on a Sunday evening, dreading the week ahead; those days are gone. I never get the dreaded Monday Morning feeling anymore because my job now involves receiving unconditional love from the pets that I visit not meeting deadlines or cutting budgets. I’ve never visited a dog or a cat that wasn’t thrilled to see me!"
In the 13 years since Wendy first joined Ginny at Petpals Grantham, it is true to say the level of competition from other dog walkers across the UK has increased, however Wendy doesn’t see this as a problem, "The great thing about being a Petpals franchisee as opposed to simply being a self-employed dog walker is our professionalism, our reputation and our history. Despite there being much more competition around, a quick internet search or a look at our Facebook page, or a chat to people locally will demonstrate to potential customers that we have huge experience, we have been doing this for years and we have a great reputation. We may not be the cheapest, we certainly won’t cut our prices to win clients, but we know that our clients care deeply about their pets and want the very best care for them and THAT is the Petpals difference."
When a new franchisee joins Petpals they receive a huge amount of support from head office as they launch and build their businesses, they also benefit from an online forum available to the network’s 50+ franchisees. On the forum people can ask questions, no matter how small or ‘silly’ they may perceive them to be and within a very short space of time will have a variety of responses from people operating in a number of different territories, giving a variety of different answers. They can be sure that one of the other franchisees will have been in the same position or asked the same question before and will have a tried and tested answer to hand. This online and volunteer-led support is one of the biggest, yet least advertised, advantages of owning a franchise and something that Wendy finds invaluable, virtually on-call support delivered by experienced individuals, each experts in running a Petpals franchise. Franchisees also use it to trade uniforms, vans and any other equipment they happen to be selling from their franchise.
Of her future plans for the business Wendy says, "I’m very much hoping my daughter is going to come and join me in the business, doing the Marketing/Advertising/Social media tasks that I’m not such a fan of, but that I know have to be done!"
Would she recommend buying a Petpals franchise?
"Absolutely yes I would; the great thing is you have the power to use your own creativity to make the business what you want; you can reap the benefits, financial and life-style wise and take things at your own pace. The rewards are endless; you have the wonderful relationships with the pets and the owners and it is also really stimulating. It is hard work, make no mistake, you do have to be quite single minded and determined, but with the support of head office and the other franchisees, there’s no reason your business shouldn’t be a huge success and if you are looking for a healthier, happier lifestyle then you couldn’t want for anything more than a Petpals franchise."
Alex Mees, 45, is the owner of Petpals Basingstoke. She lives with her partner and has a 8yr old son. Before buying her Petpals franchise, Alex worked in a managerial position working with the elderly and latterly, adults with learning disabilities.
Alex said, "I have spent the vast majority of my working life caring for people whether elderly or more recently adults with learning disabilities, so caring is absolutely in my blood but it was time for a change and I’m so excited to be running Petpals Basingstoke, caring for the furry, fluffy and scaly pets of Hampshire."
Alex’s business offers everything from dog walking and home visits for cats and small pets to pet transportation and vet visits for owners who can’t get away from work or who simply haven’t got the time to attend those vital appointments. She runs the business from home, fitting it around the school run and being a mum to her family.
Before buying her Petpals franchise, Alex did plenty of research, looking for the ideal business opportunity for her to invest in. She looked at selling wedding dresses or being an events organiser before eventually settling on Petpals.
Alex says it was the professionalism and size of Petpals that convinced her it was right for her; she knew that by buying a Petpals franchise she would be fully supported and have the advantage of a nationally recognised brand from day one. "I have received fantastic support from head office, they have been there to guide me every step of the way, from those very first leaflet drops to showing me how to advertise and market my business. I also have my secret weapon of the 50+ other franchise owners to call on for advice. We have our own online forum where we can ask questions and someone who has ‘been there and done that’ will always know the answer. It is truly invaluable."
As with all Petpals owners, Alex is a true animal lover; she grew up in a house full of animals and she now owns two cats and nine tropical fish.
On a day to day basis, Alex will be out and about driving her fully branded van that comes complete with secure pet cages to transport the dogs in. Her daily routine includes visiting client’s homes to see to their pets while they are out at work, on holiday, sick, less able or elderly. She feeds guinea pigs, rabbits, snakes and cats and takes client’s dogs on walks in the countryside. She has small caged animals to stay in her own home when their owners go away.
Alex concludes, "I am very happy with my decision to buy a Petpals franchise and would recommend it to anyone. It is hard work, you have to get out and look for your clients and keep marketing your business but very soon you have a regular client base who come to know, trust and rely on you. That’s a great feeling. The support you receive from head office is great too; always there at the end of a phone if you need them. I’ve also learned a lot from some of the most experienced franchise owners in the network via the forum; it’s great to hear the ways they built up their businesses and try out the ideas for myself. My aim for my business is to carry on building a reputation for delivering high quality pet care services in my area and increasing my regular client base. Thank you Petpals!"
Joanne Davies, 43, changed her career in 2009 to become the owner of Petpals Salisbury, after spending nearly 20 years working in offices.
Born in Portsmouth, Joanne couldn’t wait to get working when she left school and immediately embarked on a couple of the then-named Youth Training Schemes (YTS), first as a chef and then in photography. With a bit of work experience under her belt at the age of 20 she moved to Salisbury with her boyfriend.
“I went for an interview at a well known car rental franchise and got the job,” Joanne says. “I became the manager, running the office and absolutely loved it. I was on the go all the time and stayed there for 10 years.”
Joanne decided she was ready for a change after meeting her current partner, Leon Antone, at the rental company and began working for a local pension company. “At first I didn’t like it as it was entirely office-based, but after a while I really began to enjoy it and worked my way up to team leader.”
Seven years on, the company was bought out and Joanne didn’t enjoy working under the new management so started to look around for new opportunities.
She explains: “I’m an animal lover, and have always had cats, mice, rabbits and rodents as well as a dog when I was younger. A friend of mine had used Petpals and mentioned them to me. I looked it up online and couldn’t believe that such a business existed! I thought, ‘that’s the job for me’.”
“I contacted Petpals head office, filled out the necessary application forms and was then sent on a Discovery Day with an existing franchise owner which gave me a really good insight into what is involved on a day-to-day basis.
“It was all very useful hands-on experience and really helped me to make my mind up. And once my mind is made up there is no stopping me!”
Petpals encourage all potential franchisees to do their homework and some market research in their area, until they are sure it’s the right business for them. Joanne spent a couple of months researching and then spent time at Petpals head office receiving training in every aspect of running the business from marketing, bookkeeping and invoicing to health & safety, and dog training. In January 2009 Joanne began trading as Petpals Salisbury and was accompanied during her launch week by an existing franchisee for additional support.
“It may sound silly but it takes time and skill to learn how to walk more than one dog at a time! It was really helpful to have someone by my side giving me the benefit of their experience,” she says.
“People had been contacting me before I started, so I already had customers and hit the ground running so to speak.
“It’s very different from anything I’ve done before but is the best job I’ve ever had. I get to spend all day with animals and I love all the exercise and fresh air. My customers are so appreciative and their feedback makes it even more satisfying. I look after their animals as I would want someone to look after mine.”
Joanne already had extensive experience of working within a franchise operation, for the car rental company, so had a good idea of what franchising was about. She says: “The main positives about franchising are that you get a really strong brand name that people recognise and if, like me, you don’t know how to run your own business, they will teach you and support you. They do all sorts of things like working on your Google rankings to make sure you stay at the top of the list. I wouldn’t have time to do that. It’s just good to know there is someone there if and when you need them.”
Joanne now employs a strong team of eight to cover Salisbury and the area to the north. She simply loves her customers and their animals and has no desire to change anything!
Leaving the rat race well and truly behind, husband and wife team Sallyann and David Gray realised a lifelong dream to work with animals when they set up pet services franchise Petpals in Darlington in 2006.
By the end of the first year former nursery nurse Sallyann had cared for more than 400 pets and was busy enough for her husband, David, a former police officer, to join her in the business. In fact demand has been so high for their cat and small animal sitting, dog walking and boarding services that David established neighbouring franchise Petpals Tees Valley, which covers Middlesbrough and surrounding areas, a year later.
"Not that long ago people wouldn’t have dreamt of paying someone else to walk their dogs," says Sallyann, “but we are all so busy now that we are used to paying for extra services, including looking after pets, to make our lives a little easier.”
The Gray’s youngest child starting at senior school helped catapult Sallyann into the world of pet care. She said: “I could now focus on what I really wanted to do with my work life without having the time restraints around school runs.”
The family raided savings and even sold their caravan to raise the finance needed to get the new franchise off the ground. Already experienced pet carers thanks to their menagerie at home – comprising three dogs, two cats, two rabbits, a corn snake, tropical fish and a pony – Sallyann and David felt the move was right for them and their three children.
Sallyann and David set up their second territory just over 3 years ago and have been so successful that they have expanded even further with a third territory in Redcar & Guisborough.
Sallyann and David said: “We thoroughly enjoy working for ourselves. Growing the business and maintaining professional standards is still a great buzz. We love the work and our customers can see our passion. They know that this is more than just a job – it’s the lifestyle change we dreamed of.”