This is my story. In 2019 I made the decision to leave my 15 year career in Social Work, and pursue my lifetime dream of working with animals, people's pets to be precise. I absolutely adore animals of all shapes and sizes, and have my own little gang of 3 dogs, 2 cats and 2 house rabbits at home. I would love to have more, but my house really isn't big enough.
I started my business with no customers and advertised on the likes of Gumtree and Facebook and posted leaflets to houses in the local neighbourhood. I took several courses, which included a certificate in Pet first Aid and a Diploma in pet sitting and dog walking. I also had a vast of experience and knowledge from always having pets myself. I wanted potential customers to know that looking after their pets in the best way possible was my ultimate priority. Over time I was contacted by more and more people wanting help with their pets whilst on holiday or at work, and before I knew it I was spending my days walking dogs and visiting cats and small animals at home. My little business took off so quickly, and was successful beyond anything I could ever imagine. People were leaving me amazing reviews on Google and Facebook and I was getting more and more clients through word of mouth. My clients told me that they loved how personal I made my services, and the fantastic care that I took of their pets. They really enjoyed the photos and videos I sent them after every walk and visit. I had repeat customers on a weekly basis. I always go above and beyond what is needed, and my customers really value me for that.
Then Covid-19 hit...….. Within a matter of days, the majority of my bookings were cancelled as people worked from home, and had to cancel their holidays. I had a few clients, who despite working from home, chose to continue to hire me as they wanted to support my business. I will be forever grateful to them. I wasn't able to access any of the first three Government SIESS grants due to not being self employed long enough, nor could I get any benefits. I've recently found out that I will also not be eligible for the 4th or 5th SEISS grants from the government either. This is because during my first year of business, I also worked as an employee for a care agency, whilst my business got established. The income I recieved as an employee was approximately £1000 more than my self employed income. And because my self employed income has to be more than 50% of my total income to be eligible for the grant, it means that I am not eligible. I am absolutely gutted by this. All I did during my first year was work a second job to support myself, and it feels like I am being penalised for this.
I had a small amount of savings which I was glad of, although was worried about not having anything left and my business not making it through Covid-19. I remember thinking that it would probably all be over in a few months, and I'm made of tough stuff so tried to ignore my worries.
During all this time, I was using a little Ford fiesta that I'd bought for not a lot of money, to collect dogs for their walks. I had seatbelts set up in the back for them, and a dog guard in the boot. Legally I was meeting all the requirements, although I always felt a little worried if I needed to brake hard or swerve. Causing any injuries or distress the animals in my care was something I wanted to avoid at all costs.
In June last year I found a small used van for sale from a private seller. It looked perfect for what I needed, and that was to have two crates built in the back so that all of the pets were able to travel as safely as possible. I never walk more than two dogs at the same time because I like to really get to know each pet and build a trusting relationship with them, so two crates would be plenty. If I'm asked anything about any of the dogs I look after I have no need to check my paperwork as I know so much about each of them in my head. The van also had air conditioning, which again was an important feature for the summer months and keeping the dogs cool.
I went to have a look, and a test drive...it seemed perfect. The seller told me that 'it would want for nothing' He had been 'doing cars up for years and there was absolutely nothing wrong with the van' At this point I still had enough money in my savings account to buy this van, and a little bit left to get me through Covid if needed. I really didn't know what to do. I was optimistic that Covid, and my lack of work wouldn't last too much longer, and I knew that I may not find another van, within my price range any time soon. So I took the plunge and bought it. It came with a full years MOT.
Two weeks later it broke down. I was towed to the garage, who a few days later told me that all four injectors needed replacing at a cost of £1103.00. I was absolutely heartbroken. I didn't know if to cut my losses and scrap it, the van itself had only cost me £1000.00....but then I would need to buy another vehicle. After lots of deliberation I decided to go ahead with the repair...and then I was skint!
A few weeks later the air conditioning didn't seem to be very cold, so I booked it into to be re-gassed. An hour later I received a call to say there was actually a leak in the air con, and to begin to source where the leak was coming from, and then fix could turn out very costly, so I didn't go ahead with this. At the same time I was also having problems with boot not opening with the central locking, nor did the rear window wiper work.. When I went to view the car he had the boot open so I didn't think to check. That turned out to be the wiring and the motors connected to the lock and to the wiper. Also the boot door was a replacement and none of the wires had been attached. To repair would be in excess of £400, so again I decided not to go ahead. I was in no position to buy another van, work still wasn't very busy but I thought I could sort these things out once work picked up. Surely Covid, and the restrictions wouldn't last much longer....
Then, a couple of months later, the van broke down again. I was towed to the garage again(thank god for breakdown cover) A few days later they phoned me to tell me that the fuel lines had a leak, and needed replacing. I was also encouraged to replace the fuel filter at the same time. The cost would be approximately £550.00. I must admit I cried my heart out at this point. I had really had enough, enough of Covid and the restrictions, enough of not having enough work, enough of cancelling my wedding, setting a new date only to have to cancel again because of Covid restrictions (three times to date) and more than anything, enough of this van. It was meant to be a wonderful addition to my business, a small step up, but instead it was dragging me, and my business down. I had little choice but to have the repair done...this time I used my credit card. I had no choice. Oh and a few weeks later it broke down again, this time it was the battery, .an easy fix but none the less still more money needed to be found.
So here we are, April 2021. I've had my first Covid jab, my wedding looks like it will go ahead next month, although we have now opted for a small ceremony with just us and two witnesses. I'm so over getting married now lol. I've been fortunate enough not to lose anyone that I care about because of Covid, and me, my loved ones and my pets are all safe and well. I am slowly beginning to take bookings for later in the year. Things are looking up.
And then there's THE VAN . I have lost all confidence in the van. Every time I go out to it I have anxiety that it wont start again but I'm not in the position to buy another vehicle at present. I need to build my savings account back up once work starts coming in. I worry that it wont start and I'll let my clients down, and the good reputation that I have built up over the past two years will be lost.
Recently I was given the opportunity of buying another van, off a family member who is upgrading, for a price much lower than he could actually sell it for. He's asking for £2500.00, and its an absolute bargain. It has all the things I need from a vehicle, and there's a little more space in the back so the crates can be bigger. Kieran knows a lot about cars and I trust him completely. He knows the van well and will ensure it is in nothing but excellent condition before he sells it to me.
So that is why I'm here, and my reason for using Crowdfunding. I may get donations, I may not. But if I don't try I'll never know. If you have managed to get to the end of my story, without falling asleep thank you so much. And if you could make a donation, however small you have my heartfelt thanks.
So that's the end. Thank you for taking the time to read and if you would like to have a look at my facebook page or my website to see what I get up to then please do.
My Stretch fund target amount of £5000 would allow me to insure, tax and fit the van out with crates and whatever else is needed for the pets safety and well-being. I would hope that I also might be able to contribute to some of the bills that I have fallen behind with during Covid.
If you would like to know more about what I do please take a look at my Facebook page or website.
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