How to make sure your pet business is everywhere with Carol Ashworth
Putting you and your pet business out there can feel like a minefield.
We are continually told about what we should and shouldn’t be doing, what’s right and wrong.
It can feel like we’re pulled in so many directions but the reality is to be visible, it’s about finding what works for you.
In this episode I’m speaking to Carol Ashworth who has been in the pet industry for 40 years.
She’s a successful dog trainer and is a mentor training people to become dog trainers.
Carol shares her advice on creating a pet business that thrives and the many methods she’s used to stay visible.
You can listen in on the player link below or continue reading as a blog post.
Carol lives near Portsmouth in the South Downs and runs the Walkabout Way, a dog training business which she started 40 years ago.
She loves German Shepherds and has had 32 over the years, and she supports many local rescues in her area.
One of her specialist areas is working with street dogs from Romania, Bulgaria and other places outside of the UK, helping them settle into their new homes.
Her passion for dog training led her to set up the Walkabout Academy, where she mentors people who want to be dog trainers.
Academy students range from dog walkers, groomers and other pet professionals who want to boost their skills to owners seeking to better understand their dogs.
Building a business before online and social media
While it’s easy to rely on social media and the internet, Carol started out back in the 1980s way before Facebook’s creator Mark Zuckerberg had even been born.
And she says the key to her success was simple – she talked to people – and listened.
Carol explained: “When we first started our dog walking business, we wanted to be regarded as professionals.
“We started off by talking to the vets to ask for recommendations. Before that I’d been working with pet food distribution companies.
“I knew who I needed to be talking to. It was the pet shops; other people in the business. Anybody actually working with dogs.
“We did promotions in pet shops. We went to all the shows, we ran our own shows. We were standing outside garden centres or going to the local country parks and promoting responsible dog ownership.”
Why it’s important to be generous with your knowledge
She says that by giving them the basics when it came to training their pets, a ‘quick win’ it meant her reputation thrived.
Carol said: “Dog training; it’s a personal service. I’ve had over 32 dogs of my own that I’ve trained, and when it come to clients, I would say 12,000 dogs plus.
“When you’re a dog owner, you need support to build a relationship with your dog and that doesn’t come overnight.
“I wanted to be the person people came to for help, and by being seen, listening to people, that’s how it happened.
“Yes, you tell them the basics, but they’re still coming and asking you for help.
“And if you’ve got that relationship, and you’re a friendly, approachable person that’s willing to give, you’re probably more likely to get people knocking on your door.”
Fast forward to the digital age and Carol is using loads of different methods to reach clients
Carol pops up in Dog Business Support groups on social media, and uses her website to educate potential clients.
She also collaborates with other businesses including The Woodland Trust which saw her appearing on ITV news just before lockdown.
Carol said: “The Woodland Trust collaboration came about following me connecting with the owner of a local dog field which has continued.
“We do regular competitions, promotions and events together. It’s beneficial for us both, not always immediately.
“But what you’re doing is growing gradually. Every time you do something, the phone rings, you have people asking more and more questions.
“The recent promotion I did for a recall package I had we did a very simple competition with people liking and sharing our posts and I gave them lots of free advice.
“And from that I’ve probably got seven or eight new clients from it.”
How blogging has helped Carol’s business
She’d have the meetings and calls with local pet professionals like dog field owners, groomers and walkers, and create useful blog posts about them.
She says: “It’s more than sharing their posts on social media. It leads to a more lasting and beneficial relationship.
“You know it’s working for them as well. I’ve done interviews for my website with several secure field owners and dog walkers.
“You talk to people, dog groomers, other pet professionals, work with them, write a blog about them.
“I always meet them first and have a chat. If we like each other, we can go further, and I’m pleased to say it’s always been beneficial for both of us.”
How a range of things work when it comes to publicity
Instead, it’s about working on what works for you, trying new things and being prepared to adapt.
Carol said: “I think you just have to keep at it. There are no short cuts. But every time you do something, whether it’s being in the local paper or on TV, it’s an experience.
“People are getting to know you and you’re also building your own confidence. The first time, you might be shaking, but you get much more comfortable with it.”
Carol’s advice for anyone who is feeling nervous about putting themselves out there
Carol says to begin by striking conversations with dog owners and pet businesses where you live.
Even if you’re feeling shy, start by making a fuss of their dog.
Carol says: “Talk to people and find out what people need and want.
“You could go and support a rescue and find out what people need support with.
“Whenever I meet somebody, I’ll always say ‘let’s have a cup of coffee,’ and I sit down and talk to them and ask them what their story is.
“Because their story is probably just as valid as anybody else’s.
“I’ve lost count the number of times I’ve stood outside a garden centre or a country Park and talked to people. It is just literally that.
“And it’s not much hardship when you bend down and stroke their dog is it really?”
Want to learn from Carol?
Carol is running a workshop for pet professionals who would like to become trainers in June on Saturday 12th June at 2pm.
During this hours workshop, which is completely free, Carol will share her story about how she turned our small dog walking business into one of the top dog training centres on the South Downs.
Carol says: “We have never been busier and there is plenty of work for everyone.”
Find out more by e mailing email@example.com
Click here to find out more.
If you enjoyed this post, you might like to read How Suzanne went from shy dog walker to trainer to the stars, or How dog trainer Karen secured 30 pieces of publicity in a year.
Hi, I’m Rachel, a freelance journalist and PR and content consultant and crazy dog lady!
I’ve written so many stories about animals and pet brands that I wrote a book on how pet entrepreneurs can do their own PR.
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