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How losing her job in lockdown inspired Lisette Van Riel to start DoggyLottery

by | April 22, 2021

When Lisette Van Riel lost her job at the start of lockdown she decided she wanted to try to make a difference.

She’d been working in marketing and after adopting her dog Beautie from a shelter in Dubai, she started researching about the situations dogs in rescues faced.

Heartbroken at the lack of funding and the many thousands of dogs needing homes, she teamed up with her cousin Lee Brown and founded DoggyLottery.

That was back in July 2020 and since then DoggyLottery has raised £19,000 and helped 45 small, independent rescues across the UK.

Lisette has worked really hard on raising the profile of DoggyLottery so they can help more dogs and in this episode she shares lots of information on how to secure publicity.

You can listen in on the player link below or carry on reading as a blog post.

How a three legged rescue dog named Beautie inspired DoggyLottery

Lisette worked for a firm in Dubai looking after the marketing for a range of clients and had always loved dogs but, living in an apartment, never thought she could have her own.

Instead, she volunteered at Animal Action and it was during an open day where people were calling in to adopt dogs that she fell in love with Beautie.

She recalled: “There was about 15 dogs running about. But this one dog just caught my eye. She was the most happy dog running about, getting all the dogs engaged. 

“But she only had three legs. And it was like, wow, if I was looking for a dog, this would be the dog. 

“Then a few weeks later the person who fostered her couldn’t look after her. She was in a crate at the vet and no-one could take her.

“So I spoke to my husband and said could we foster her. And she never left us.”

Lisette and Beautie

Having rescued Beautie, she started looking into why people abandoned dogs

Lisette returned to the UK and found that 130,000 dogs were handed over a year and vowed she would do something to help.

She said: “I had to do something and I spoke to my cousin Lee, a retired businessman and huge dog lover about how we could find a way to do something that was more than donating.

“I wanted to create a way that the rescues could get involved and we’d work together and that’s how the concept of DoggyLottery came about.”

It was when Lisette lost her job that she went all in on DoggyLottery

She said: “We were working on it in the background and I was trying to figure out how I could do it with a full time job too,” she said.

“Now looking back I am happy I didn’t have a job as DoggyLottery is full time and not working meant I could put everything into it.”

How DoggyLottery works

Each month they partner with five rescue centres, tickets cost £1.50, and 60 per cent goes to the charity fund.

A further 30 per cent goes to the prize fund which is divided by 20 guaranteed winners each week, and then every participant votes for their favourite dog.

The rescue centres profile a dog each week and the more votes a centre gets, the bigger the share of the charity fund.

The last year has been harder than ever for rescues.

Lisette explains: “They need every penny we can give them, they can’t run their normal events, the charity shops they own have been closed because of the pandemic.

“It is so important that they find a different way of getting money into the centre. Dogs need feeding, there’s neutering and vet bills to cover. It’s been a really hard time.”

And Lisette says she has so many heartwarming conversations with the rescues, including Paws2Rescue who named one of their dogs Lotto as a thank you.

Lee, Beautie and Lisette

Social media and getting the word out there on Facebook

When she first started with DoggyLottery, Lisette said she had to work hard to build momentum.

Now, thanks to the rescues sharing how the funding had helped them, she has lots of support on social media.

Lisette also consistently creates educational content on her website that’s shared but she says it’s Facebook that’s really helped get the DoggyLottery mission out there.

She said: “Our most successful platform is Facebook. The only commitment we ask the rescue centres when they come on board is they share it with their supporters on social media. 

“The majority of the rescue centres only use Facebook so the majority of our content goes out through there and it’s where we’ve been able to reach people most.

“I’m also in a lot of dog related groups and follow people who are interested in dog charities, and start in a conversation with them.

“I’ve worked really hard to build the connection and the impact has been that we’ve raised nearly £20,000 for 45 rescues in nine months which is brilliant.”

Getting publicity and dealing with knock backs too

Since launching, Lisette has been featured in the Sun, Yorkshire Post several times, the Dogvine, Pet Gazette and the Portsmouth News.

But it took several attempts and a lot of knock backs the start. Her advice to anyone who is pitching and not getting a ‘yes’ straight away is to keep at it!

She said: “Keep creating those press releases. I think it was the fifth press release before somebody actually picked it up. 

“The first time I sent out a press release, I was so excited,  ‘I was like, oh, I’ve got the journalist, I’ve sent a good pitch, it’s a lovely story, I’ve sent the right pictures.’

“Then you get silence. And the silence is even worse than a ‘No.’ But you’ve got to bear in mind, this journalist doesn’t know about you.

“You have to keep trying, find the right headline, the right angle, and then it just clicks and you get that momentum.”

What’s next for DoggyLottery

Lisette says she is on a mission to help every small rescue in the UK – and there’s 800 of them.

So far she’s made a difference for 45, and her future plans are to keep growing DoggyLottery and possibly launch a merchandise range.

She said: “One of our longtime goals, apart from raising money is raising awareness and making a positive difference to the number of dogs that get abandoned through education.

“We’d love raise as much as we can for the rescues too and help dogs who really need it.”

Learn more about DoggyLottery on their website www.doggylottery.co.uk

Read about Lisette setting up the DoggyLottery in the Yorkshire Post

DoggyLottery and how they raised £10,000 in lockdown in Pet Gazette

Lisette’s co-founder Lee Brown in the Portsmouth News

Lisette Winning Small Business Sunday in Yorkshire Post 


If you found this post helpful, you might like to read How Kim went from ‘invisible’ to running a global pet brand or How Suzanne went from shy dog trainer to giving tips to the stars!

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