Outdoorsy Dog: Dogs are our thing!

There can be no greater pleasure in life than working in a field that you love. And that is exactly what Jess Ford has done, figuratively and very often literally, with her business - Outdoorsy Dog.

A lifelong canine fanatic, Jess completed a degree in Business Studies but didn’t stop looking for opportunities that would let her integrate her love of dogs into her career. “I always wanted to run my own business with dogs,” Jess says, “and surrounding myself with other young entrepreneurs really pushed me to go for it.” She was accepted into the Graduate Scheme at Sheffield Hallam University, getting advice and support from them as she nurtured her business idea.

“We are dog walkers and dog sitters. We care for dogs 7 days a week by getting them out the house, boosting their social lives and keeping them active.” Jess’ clarity over her business purpose demonstrates the work she did with the start-up team to make her plans. “Happiness and safety of the dogs is the most important thing,” she says – and she seems to be doing that well, if the impressive range of testimonials on her website is anything to judge.

"We also take high quality, natural photographs of the dogs we spend time with." And that is absolutely true, as a visit to her Twitter page will attest.

“I did a lot of research online for tips of the industry and I read books. I also met with general and specialist business advisors at the University. This was unbelievably helpful and really gave me the confidence to get started. I also used their business incubation space, ‘The Hatchery’ which was a fantastic environment to be in.” Alongside that, she was able to access some financial support to help her make her service mobile.

“I am really proud that we give a donation to charity for each walk that we do. I think every organisation should be social to a certain degree. I love dogs, so I always knew I wanted to work with them, but also help dogs that I will never even meet by donating to hard working charities.”

So, how’s life as a business owner? “I am doing something I love, something I used to day dream about. That is very special and I really try and remind myself of that as often as possible,” Jess says, reminding herself just how easy it is to become complacent. “I love being in control of my business, but it is tricky to know which way to go sometimes. “

That lack of a ‘listening ear’ is something that Jess isn’t alone in missing. In fact, it’s one of the things we hear of the most – no pun intended. “I have a love hate relationship with decision making,” she admits, “and it can be lonely. Dogs are the most comforting creatures out there, but I’d like to collaborate with more people and work with more like minded dog lovers.”

“Expansion!” Jess tells us, when we ask her what’s next. “I need to offer additional services as the dog walking market is limited. I would like to buy a house so I can run a dog boarding house, alternatively I would like a rented space to use for dog day care. A safe place for dogs while their owners are on holiday.” She muses, “One day I’ll get some land out in the countryside and have more space for them, and have a swimming pool that the dogs can play and swim in.”

And if you could have anyone in the world as a customer, who would you choose? “If David Attenborough has a dog I would love to look after it and then maybe have a cup of tea and a chin wag afterwards. He is a true hero.”