Katie Tovey Grindlay shares how she built her pet business
Meet Katie Tovey-Grindlay – founder of Business Wonderland, formerly known as Woof Woof Network, a consultancy and membership community for entrepreneurs.
Katie helps business owners from all kinds of backgrounds by taking the overwhelm out of social media and content creation.
She’s still connected with her pet clients, some of whom date back many years, via Facebook community The Barking Tribe, and her events and merchandise company Crazy Dog Lady.
I chose Katie to be the first ‘If I Can’ interviewee because she supported me when I first set up my pet blog, The Paw Post, which led me to where I am today.
She shares her journey and the things she learned along the way, plus her tips for budding petpreneurs.
Can you tell me a little about your life before you worked in the pet industry?
I’m one of those people that never knew what they wanted to do when they were younger. Some people know when they’re eight years old they want to be a doctor, that was never me.
I went to university and studied geography because that was my favourite subject and worked for the environment agency and had quite a dull job writing reports for the House of Lords.
But it wasn’t fulfilling, so I went traveling to Hawaii and it was there that I decided I wanted to join the Royal Navy after visiting Pearl Harbour.
I served three years and I really wanted to love it but it wasn’t for me, so I came out and me and my then boyfriend Noel, who is now my husband, got our first dog Bertie, a Labrador.
How did that change your life?
We had Bertie from being a puppy and we were both absolutely smitten. I was looking for work so had time to settle him in which was lovely.
I got a new job in an office and it was only part time, so I thought that Bertie would be okay on his own for a few hours.
He would chew everything, so I changed my hours so he was only alone for two hours but he was still chewing up everything and it was obviously stressing him out, stressing me out, so I quit my job.
One day when I was out with my friend who is a dog walker, she said, ‘Oh, why don’t you become a dog walker?’
She let me go out with her on her walks. She was a dog trainer and behaviourist so I learned more about dogs, their body language and how they express emotions.
So I set up my own dog walking business and managed to grow it really quickly through social media, mostly Facebook and Twitter, and other pet business owners were asking me how I did it.
Were there any other support services at the time?
Not really. I had the same questions over and over and realised there was a real gap in the market. Pet business owners needed help with promoting their products and services.
I formed Woof Woof Wednesday and Woof Woof Network as huge part of me growing my business was on Twitter and on Facebook and I set out to help others do the same.
And you were still dog walking and learning about digital marketing?
Yes, I carried on the dog walking as I enjoyed going out with my dog and the other dogs. I did the walking in the morning and worked on the other business in the afternoon and evenings.
I was soaking up more and more information about social media and I thought, ‘If I can build up a dog walking business then anyone can.’
I wanted other people to succeed in doing something that they loved – just as I did. I started dog walking in 2011 and Woof Woof Network in 2014.
What was the most challenging thing in those early days? It sounds quite full on!
It sounds like I was doing so much, but I was enjoying all aspects of it. The hardest thing was saying, ‘no’ to people who wanted me to spend time with them because I was busy building my business.
At times it was hard. It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in, there’ll be highs and lows and it’s a massive learning curve.
In business, everything that you do, whether it works out or not, it’s never a mistake. It’s a lesson and I think that’s so important to be able to make these mistakes and learn from them.
Try to see it as a journey. You’re not going to get everything right first time, because that never happens.
I totally get that. Did you ever question yourself or suffer from my personal fave, Imposter Syndrome?
From day one until present time, there’ll be times where I think, ‘Oh my goodness, what am I doing? Who am I to say this is how you do this on social media?’
It’s all about mindset. Even people that I know who have six and seven figure businesses, they all have these moments.
The important thing is being able to lift yourself back up. It could be meditation, taking the dog for a walk, having a day off, playing your favourite music really loud, listening to an inspiring podcast.
As long as you know how to get out of those real horrible imposter syndrome moments when your mindset’s on a negative you’ll be ok. Remember it’s just normal to have those days.
Do you have any processes that work for you?
Yes, one thing is to go back through testimonials, reviews that you’ve got from people that you’ve helped and it’ll pick you back up really quickly.
It will show you that actually you can do this and you are good enough and you do know what you’re talking about.
Who do you turn to when you need support?
I’m very thankful that I have some amazing business friends who I’ve met over the years and I can message or call them and they’ll listen.
They’ll encourage me, make suggestions and give advice and empathise. Having that support system is vital, ideally with someone in the same space as you.
Whether they’re a fellow entrepreneur or they’re someone who runs their own business, it’s important to speak to someone else who totally gets it.
My husband doesn’t get it. He’s an employee, so a lot of the time, I won’t even go to him for that support because it’s really unfair to ask him for it.
I do that with a blogging friend and it keeps us sane. So now you’re working with entrepreneurs from all kinds of backgrounds?
I absolutely love working with pet business owners but I kept having people approach me who were outside of the pet industry.
I wanted to be able to work with them, but my website was very heavily to do with pets and I was concerned that unless they knew me, it might put them off.
I was stopping myself from expanding so I decided to rebrand from Woof Woof Network to Business Wonderland so that I was able to then help all business owners in all industries.
What advice would you give to pet entrepreneurs starting out?
Don’t feel like you have to be on every social media platform. Stick to one, maybe two and do them really well or you’ll spread yourself too thin and not market yourself at all.
Marketing yourself is super important. Even if you’re a dog walker, a dog groomer and all you’re putting up is pictures of the dogs you walk or the dogs you groom, that’s fine.
People want to see you have a presence. If wanted to hire a dog walker, the first thing I’d do is have a look at their social media, see what the dogs are doing on walks, and how they’re interacting with customers.
Remember, you’re just starting out so don’t compare yourself to someone who’s been going for example, seven years. You are not them, your businesses will be completely different.
Everyone has a chapter one so don’t compare yours to someone’s chapter ten. It is a journey and you will get there.
What lessons have you’ve learned?
For me, it’s to not compare yourself to someone else, especially if someone has just started and you think that they’re doing better than you.
You’re only seeing the front of their business and not the whole picture. When people are starting out, everyone has a different budget.
So some people begin with zero and some are very lucky and have a huge budget and can plough lots of money into advertising and all kinds of things.
Go out of your comfort zone. My motto is always, ‘What’s the worst that can happen?’
This is something I can relate to with Lives and video which I’m trying to overcome.
Yes, so if you’re really petrified of doing a Facebook live, think of the worst possible scenario and what would be the issue if that happened?
You can delete Facebook lives if it goes absolutely horrendously wrong, you can come off of it and delete it, and do you know what?
Only the people who were live have seen it, that’s it. It’s gone then from the internet.
Go out of your comfort zone on a daily, weekly, monthly, yearly basis because that’s how you grow yourself and your business.
Do you have any kind of highlights from working in the pet world?
You connect with the nicest people and some of them have just become amazing friends.
You think, ‘It’s so weird that I met you through social media.’
During Woof Woof Wednesday, it would be the people who joined in like Google UK, Sir Paul McCartney, English Heritage, Channel 4 and MTV Music.
To some people they might not be anything special, but yeah, to me, those are my highlights.
Thank you for everything you shared. Where can people find you?
My website is www.BusinessWonderland.co.uk and you can find me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
I’m usually hanging out somewhere on social media somewhere. I have a free Facebook group called The Barking Tribe for Petpreneurs and anyone is welcome.
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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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