Becky Lodge Founder of Little Kanga Ltd and StartUp Disruptors (a business club and community for start-ups and small business owners) interviews Jarvis Clothier owner of local startup Jarvis Dog Boarding and Training providing luxury doggy day care and training, including online education. This is the fourth article in a new series exploring the impact of Covid-19 on local businesses and start-ups in Portsmouth.
Jarvis is 29 years old, originally from Kent and grew up on a smallholding and started dog training from the age of five at home in a field. She told me, ‘my world was full of animals from birth and I later went to university and studied for a philosophy degree. At this time, whilst studying, I did a ‘side hustle’ and helped ‘problem’ dogs with behavioural issues to make some extra money as a student. Following graduation, I got a full time role at the University of Winchester and I later left my job to start a business to help to train dogs and provide luxury day care for them, which is my true calling and I haven’t looked back.’
Becky Lodge: Tell me a little bit about yourself and your background?
Jarvis Clothier: I had a lot of little jobs in my late teens and early twenties. By nature I’m a polymath (I am good at lots of different things) and I learn quickly and am quite creative. I really enjoy learning and ‘reading’ both animals and people and have worked with everything animal wise from koi carp to dogs.
People were very sceptical that I would be able to ‘talk to the animals’, but this is what comes to me naturally and when I opened up my business, I was glad to be able to ‘try things on’ job wise from working in customer service in Debenhams café – I was the person that spoke German, which was handy when the Olympics was on as we had a lot of tourists! – to working in the Rare Breeds Centre in Kent, where the profits go to help people with disabilities to live independently, this is where I started off. I really have done it all when it comes to animal care, including cleaning out fish tanks!
I’ve always had lots of business ideas and have tried things out along the way that have had varying degrees of success. I guess being an entrepreneur is part of who I am and who I always will be.
What have been the challenges for you as a female business owner?
What isn’t a problem for women in business? Firstly, you aren’t taken seriously; most people think that business is a ‘part-time’ concept for women and that a woman has a business as a ‘side bar’ to her husband or partners income. This simply is outdated and untrue.
Health and safety is very important in my business too as a lone working female, especially walking dogs, which men don’t have to think about in the same way, so there are lots of considerations and risks that have to be overcome. I have found that a lot of mansplaining happens with men particularly trying to tell me how I should run things (often unsolicited advice).
It’s a massive barrier for women to overcome so many things at once and there should be more help for women and female entrepreneurs, who really want to have a business that will grow and employ people and have fast growth.
Women seemingly are always defined by the fact that they have kids and are married and that the business should fit around that. This is a totally outdated concept. There is no space for women with growth business ideas to thrive and this is where StartUp Disruptors helped me immensely, as the community is inclusive and progressive.
How did you feel about the COVID 19 pandemic?
When lockdown was announced, it was my first day off for 3 months. We sat down in shock and discussed how to get through things. Nick (my partner) and I decided that we would need a routine that would keep us busy, as we were not going to be able to go out at all. Nick started on writing a novel and I started to get into arts and crafts.
We also decided to not drink during lockdown as our health and mental health would be a priority, [and we came up with] a plan for weight training and yoga. We are both introverts by nature, so we enjoyed the peace and quiet that this time brought. Financially, it was concerning, but we were lucky to have each other and I got to spend all my time with my beloved dog Pablo the West Highland Terrier.
What helped you as a small business during lockdown?
I was able to innovate new online products for dog training during this time. I decided that I needed to pivot the business to create an online education programme and share my knowledge with other people to help both them and their dogs. It was highly liberating to be able to have time to think and to come up with new ideas for the business.
I looked around and decided to join StartUp Disruptors, it’s the safest place to be able to do business with people and it’s totally different to anything else I have experienced, in terms of the care and compassion that the community shows to one another on a personal level as well. I was able to access the COVID government self-employed grant and this helped immensely as my business had to close for the duration of lockdown. Social media was a lifeline to re-connecting with people that I had lost contact with.
What do you think will happen in the next 6 months with your business?
The business is doing very well and we are nearly booked for the rest of 2020. Allowing for a financial buffer is important and I am planning to expand the business and am hiring a PA and also some operational staff to help with the dog-walking side of the business.
I am working on plans for expansion and growth with StartUp Disruptors and will be looking at funding and apprentices as the next stage of growth.
What’s the next move then both for you and the business?
Expansion is key for the success and future of the business; planning and making sure that the business is sustainable for me for the rest of my life. I am on call 24/7/365 and it would be great to devolve some of that responsibility as I am past this stage now and need to look at the team-building side of things.
How have you found operating a business in Portsmouth and the wider Hampshire area?
The Portsmouth people truly love their dogs! Portsmouth is a very diverse city to work in and I have had a lot of positive experiences with dog owners in the city and wider Hampshire area. StartUp Disruptors as a community knows the local area and its business community inside and out, this has helped me to pick up customers more quickly and helped me navigate the business community and bring on more customers faster, which is extremely useful. This has saved me a lot of time and money in the early stages of business growth.
Were there any periods in the last few years that were challenging for the business?
Some people in the past were dishonest about their dog’s behaviour which was a health and safety risk but fortunately these were few and far between!
Also in the past, I have had a serious head injury and this has made it more important to focus on my mental health and wellbeing, as well as just to think about the business and how it will develop into the future. I have to pace things and make sure that all that I do centres around the sustainability of the business and ensuring that my health and the welfare of the dogs that I look after are the priorities.
You can find out more about StartUp Disruptors and how to join them, and follow them on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn and you can follow Becky Lodge over at LinkedIn. You can also telephone: 0333 444 0364 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
S&C has been awarded funding from the European Journalism Centre Covid-19 Support Fund to explore the social impact of Covid-19 on diverse communities and sectors in Portsmouth:
- voluntary sector, including charities, community groups and social enterprises
- small businesses and self-employed people
- POC communities
- people with disabilities
We have also been awarded funding from the Public Interest News Foundation Emergency Fund to explore the social impact of Covid-19 on migrants, and asylum seekers and refugees.