• Sat. Dec 9th, 2023

North East Connected

Hopping Across The North East From Hub To Hub

Pic 1 - Katie Guastapaglia (left) with dog Jess, and Rachel Spencer (right) with Patch RESIZEDKatie Guastapaglia (left) with dog Jess, and Rachel Spencer (right) with Patch

NatWest is highlighting its support for start-up pet businesses in celebration of April’s National Pet Day, with two North East entrepreneurs seeing their businesses continuing to thrive, despite concerns about the cost-of-living crisis.

Rachel Spencer, from Gosforth, Newcastle, founded of Publicity for Pet Businesses, which helps pet-related businesses raise their profile after 25 years working as a journalist. While Katie Guastapaglia, from Darlington, founded Scentventure in 2020. The business offers an in-person and online training programme to support owners whose dogs pull on the lead, bark and lunge on walks.

Both entrepreneurs had concerns about the cost-of-living crisis affecting their businesses but have yet to see any signs of customers cutting back on spending where their pets are concerned.

Katie, who started her business after experiencing issues with her reactive rescue dog Lao, said: “Lao was pulling on the lead, barking and had terrible recall. Daily walks became really stressful for both of us so, after trying lots of existing methods and not getting the results we needed, I reinvented how to walk him and created a way to not just get through the next dog walk, but to actually feel excited about it because it was easy and fun! I knew Scentventure could help other families struggling with the same issues Lao and I had, and so the training programme was born.

“It’s hard not to worry about the cost-of-living crisis but so far it hasn’t affected my business. Pets are part of the family and people will always need help with their dogs as it’s not instinctive knowledge to know how to walk them, or what to do for the best. In the last year my business has grown to support more than 350 families and I have members as far afield as America and Australia using my online programme.”

Like Katie, Rachel has also seen her business venture grow despite the cost-of-living crisis. She said: “I’ve always loved dogs and in 2009 I adopted my friend’s dog. As a former journalist, this led me to write more about the pet industry, and I started a pet blog in 2017. From there, I wrote a book and this grew to a coaching programme, a membership and a podcast.

“I joined the NatWest Accelerator programme as I wanted to launch a mini membership for people in my community, so pet businesses could get help with marketing in a way that is affordable during the cost-of-living crisis. I have over 100 members now and my goal was 50, so it is good to be able to support small businesses so they can promote their products and services. People are still treating their pets, despite the current economic climate.”

Katie and Rachel are both supported by NatWest’s free business building Accelerator programme and are now planning the next stage of growth for their businesses at a time when national statistics show pet ownership is continuing to rise.

According to ONS data, pet ownership has been increasing since 2015, with people spending more than £9 billion in 2022 on their companions, up more than 85% in the last 10 years. While a March survey by UK Pet Food, previously known as the Pet Food Manufacturers’ Association, revealed that more than half of UK households (57%) are home to 38 million pets, up from 35 million in 2022, a rise of 9%.

Rachel hopes to further grow her customer base for the mini membership package, while Katie, who is just about to employee her first full-time employee, intends to offer her bespoke training programme to other dog walkers, trainers and behaviourists.

Nickie Kilkenny, local enterprise manager at NatWest, said: “With pet ownership continuing to rise, start-up businesses in the pet industry can play a critical role in providing innovative solutions for the care and well-being of our beloved pets. It’s fantastic to be able to celebrate Rachel and Katie’s success to date and support both of their innovative business ventures to thrive on the next stage of their growth journey.”

The free NatWest Accelerator programme gives business owners six months of free support, with guidance on how to scale and grow their business. Support is tailored to the needs of the business and includes one-to-one coaching on topics including pitching, finding funding and leadership development.

The programme is one of the largest of its kind across the UK and entrepreneurs do not need to bank with NatWest or give up any equity in their businesses to benefit from the support. For more information visit:  https://www.natwest.com/business/business-services/entrepreneur-accelerator.html

National Pet Day is an annual event celebrated on April 11 to raise awareness and celebrate the importance of pets.

By NatWest