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Barking Mad: Luxury dog holidays in a loving home

Describing itself as the UK’s alternative to kennels, Barking Mad recently scooped the title of Micro Business of the Year at the Amazon Growing Business Awards. We caught up with co-founder Richard Dancy to find out more.
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Describing itself as the UK’s alternative to kennels, Barking Mad recently scooped the title of Micro Business of the Year at the Amazon Growing Business Awards. We caught up with co-founder Richard Dancy to find out more.

The business was born in 1999 when founder and MD Lee Dancy spotted a gap in the market. With a trip to America on the horizon she began searching high and low for pet care and was “dumbfounded by lack of alternatives to traditional kennelling”.

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Richard Dancy, Lee’s husband who also works for the business, describes their offering as “luxury dog holidays in a loving home”.

“Those in the Barking Mad community or ‘family’ really do love us, which means we have passionate support and our unique selling point is that we are involved at every stage. We know and meet everyone involved so we simply can’t miss anything.”

The ethos of the business is “Happy dog, happy holiday, happy you!” said Dancy.

“It’s all about excellent customer service and delighting everyone involved, including our customers, our community of host families and the dogs.”

The original business was an instant success, and the decision was made to extend the business nationally by means of a franchise. While at HQ there are just nine members of staff, there are more than 100 across the franchise network, and it doesn’t stop there.

“We have grown year-on-year since launch and we were recently acquired by Franchise Brands who has big plans for its portfolio,” said Dancy.

Looking to the future, the business has a lot on its plate.

“Whether it’s our team at HQ, our franchise network, their staff or our dog loving communities, we focus on providing professional support and training whether we are discussing business accounts, the cutest latest puppy or marketing plans.

“We are really focussing on improving the support we provide for our franchise network and engaging the right potential business owner as well as maintaining our top spot with our TrustPilot five star reviews.”

For Barking Mad, the biggest challenge so far has been finding the right people to represent the brand.

“We have an amazing team, but it’s not an accident and we are truly grateful,” said Dancy.

There are of course also particular challenges that come with being such a small business. He explained: “We can’t do it all with our budget and so have to focus on what makes a difference. Never chase the money, simply concentrate on what you love.”
Although the company is still unsure who nominated them for the Amazon Growing Business Awards, the team were very pleased to scoop the prize for Micro Business of the Year.

Speaking after picking up the award, Lee Dancy, co-founder and managing director, said: “It’s incredibly exciting to go from putting up a poster in 2000 asking for a dog-sitter, to standing here tonight with the accolade of Micro Business of the Year, for our leading dog-sitting business. It’s a fantastic achievement for everyone at Barking Mad and it’s a great feeling to be rewarded at the Amazon Growing Business Awards. I’m excited to get back to Kirkby Lonsdale, to share the award with our talented team (including Lotti, our office dog!).”

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About Author

Letitia Booty

Letitia Booty is a special projects journalist for Real Business. She has a BA in english literature from the University of East Anglia, and since graduating she has written for a variety of trade titles. Most recently, she was a reporter at SME magazine.

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