A woman has opened a self-service dog wash after spotting a gap in the market. Victoria Shepherd set up the business called Happy Henry’s! at Amerton Farm, in between Stafford and Uttoxeter, after returning to the UK from America where she was working as a video production manager in the travel industry.
The 52, from Salt, moved back to Staffordshire two years ago to be near her elderly patients but was surprised to find there were no self-service dog washes in the area.
She said: “I went to Cannock Chase one day, got really muddy and went into a pet store in Stafford. I said ‘where’s the nearest self-service dog wash?’ and they looked at me like I was crazy.
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“I did some research, there’s only one place that is even close to being something similar but it’s not indoor and wasn’t anything like what I had in my head.
“That’s when I thought, you know what, this might be crazy, but instead of applying for jobs that fifty million other people have applied for, why not take a chance and use my life savings to start this business? So that’s how Happy Henry’s! cam about.
Victoria’s business is named after her dog Henry, a six year old Lab Hound that she describes as quirky and complex.
“I reached out to Stafford council to say I’m doing this but I’ve never run a business in the UK. That’s when I found out that they do a free mentoring program for startups. It’s a great thing because they give you twelve hours of one on one, you get digital marketing, finance and cash flow classes.
“Then at the end of doing the free programme, I was able to apply and got an additional £5,000 interest free loan. That £5,000 enabled me to not stress, and it gave me a little bit of breathing room to go back and learn how to actually groom.
“People are giving me feedback saying ‘we love the way we work with dogs’, I was getting such good reviews online. My goal is for dogs to come here and leave having had a positive experience.
“I want them to choose to get into this bath tub. I work with the owners in giving them techniques to get the dogs to feel comfortable in this environment and I do that with games-based training.
“Every dog deserves to be happy. That’s my goal with Happy Henry’s!. I get a kick out of it. I provide everything for adults and children, waterproof collars, waterproof aprons.
“If you’re an existing customer you go and do the washing on your own, but if you need help I’m always here. If I have customers with limited mobility I can help them too. If it’s your first bath, I give instructions on how to use the equipment correctly and safely.
“The goal is people can just come and do it themselves. Especially if they have nervous or reactive dogs. A lot of my referrals are from contacts who say ‘we’ve been told to come to you because you’re good with nervous dogs.’.”
Jane Harnett, from Stowe-by-Chartley, who has a poodle named Ruby said “If you feel you have a dog that’s slightly anxious, then Victoria is your girl. She’s different from most groomers, she takes the time and gets to know the dogs.”
For an appointment at Happy Henry’s! visit happy-henrys.co.uk. It’s £5 for the first bath and after that it’s £9. You can follow Victoria’s business at @happyhenrysdogwash on Facebook and Instagram.
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