Developing Dogs: Sian Ryan

After remortgaging everything she owned, former behaviour counsellor Sian Ryan has fulfiled a long-term ambition with her one-stop shop for dog owners

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Name: Sian Ryan
Company name: Developing Dogs
Number of employees: 1
Location: East England
Date launched: 01/06/2014

Tell us what your business does:

We are an innovative dog training centre; combining training classes, behaviour advice, education for other trainers and behaviourists as well as owners. We also provide a space for fun activities and secure dog walking.

Where did the idea for your business come from?

I have been working towards this since quitting my job as an NHS IT manager at the start of the recession. It’s the result of years of learning from others, working on my own ideas and the desire to bring the best dog training to somewhere with dedicated facilities.

How did you know there was a market for it?

The number of dogs in this country is increasing and spending on pets has not diminished with the recession. I have a good reputation in the industry as a speaker and trainer so I took a gamble that dog owners would like me too!

What were you doing before starting up?

I was working as a behaviour counsellor, trainer and researcher at the University of Lincoln to get as much knowledge and experience as I could from the best in the business.

Have you always wanted to run your own business?

Yes – I didn’t know what it would be at first, but this idea has been my goal for the last few years.

How did you raise the money?

We re-mortgaged everything we owned. We had been living in two places for the last three years because of work so we had two houses – and the London property market was kind to us!

Describe your business model and how you make money:

There are a variety of income streams: in-house puppy and dog training classes (fixed fee); behaviour advice and 1:1 training – usually in the owner’s home; subscription-style classes where you can pay as you go or by monthly subscription; seminars and workshops on site; outside speakers giving seminars / workshops and providing cpd for other trainers and behaviourists.

In addition to this Developing Dogs offers fun activity days and secure walking facilities, where owners pay for use of our field (this helps bring income in at times when the field would otherwise be unused). I also generate revenue by giving national and international seminars for other trainers, and through magazine and book articles – my first book is out in September and I have two more in the pipeline.

What challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them?

Too many! Delays with workmen, the land flooding, the barn leaking after the new floor was installed. Plus I am totally new to the area and therefore have no support network for advice. I also felt overwhelmed with having to borrow money from my family and putting my London house on the market.

What was your first big breakthrough?

The great response I have gotten to my blog posts and a lovely article in the local paper.

What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?

Prepare for it to cost more than you think! You have to believe in what you’re doing and articulate what makes you different from everyone else – and that will give you the motivation to keep going.

Where do you want to be in five years’ time?

We would like to add holiday cottages to our site – by converting existing disused farm buildings – and to expand the number of training classes we offer. I would also like to have my third book published and to have contributed to the research in dog behaviour.

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