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From the classroom to canine care

When former teacher Gemma Birks decided to start her own business last year she could not have envisaged how successful it would be.

Gemma decided to follow a totally different career path by opening the UK’s first canine "super centre" in Shrewsbury.

The Waggy Warehouse centre provides a wide range of services for dogs from across Shropshire and mid Wales, from day care to pampering, brain training to accessory sales.

It was a big step for Gemma but only a few months later she is seeing the business thrive and is about to employ her fourth member of staff.

“It is absolutely manic – I cannot believe how successful it is,” says Gemma, who attended a two-day start up workshop run by Shropshire-based Good2Great, which is funded by the Marches Growth Hub.

During the workshop, which was led by Sally Themans, areas such as planning and marketing and, most importantly for any new business, time management and prioritising were examined.

“It was a brilliant course,” said Gemma. “I learnt a huge amount from it as I had no real idea about running a company - so even just becoming familiar with the terminology like cashflow and revenue – and dispelling some of the myths around business finance was helpful. Sally also made us really understand about break-even and how to plan and manage our cashflow in the early days.

“I was very wary about social media as I had only regarded it as a form of silly gossip before but I soon saw, thanks to Sally, that it was an invaluable marketing tool and now I have fully embraced it and get lots of new clients from posting news about Waggy Warehouse. I also think the booklets provided by Good2Great are fantastic – they are so simple to understand and I refer to them all the time.”

Gemma stresses that there was one point made during her workshop which she found completely invaluable.

“Sally talked about different ‘grades’ of customers and she encouraged us to learn about what they bring to the business and what we provide in return. I will never forget this advice and encourage my staff to be mindful of it every day. We know that our Grade A customers have high demands and expectations and in return we go the extra mile to look after them and it pays dividends.”

The start-up workshop was part of the Building Business Confidence programme funded by the Marches LEP. The next Good2Great business start-up boot camps will be held on May 30 at the University Centre, Guild Hall, Shrewsbury, and on May 30 and June 6 at The Marches Centre for Manufacturing and Technology in Bridgnorth. 


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