Saturday 24 March 2018

New doggie career is a walk in the park

Eimear Hogg went walkies in her search for a career makeover, writes Hilary A White

Eimear Hogg goes out for a stroll with Patrick, Rosie, Jake and Lola. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Eimear Hogg goes out for a stroll with Patrick, Rosie, Jake and Lola. Photo: Steve Humphreys

Eimear Hogg has always been mutt-mad. Ever since her dad brought home a Jack Russell puppy when she was four, she has been hooked on all things tail-wagging.

"I just fell in love with him," she says briskly as we stroll through Marlay Park on a sunny morning. "I had him until I was 18 and then he died, and I loved him all his life. Now I have another dog, a rescue dog that I got nine years ago called Darcy."

Although Darcy is the apple of her eye, he now has to share Eimear with a slew of other canines that she spends her time with each week. He cannot come along because he gets "a bit jealous and cranky".

You'd worry how much quality time Eimear and Darcy get these days, as she is much in demand. In 2014, fed up with her customer service job and longing to break out by herself, she founded Dog Walkers Dublin. The service operates across the city and provides a heavily subscribed walking and minding service for dogs at home during work hours. In the space of almost two years, Hogg, originally from Firhouse, Co Dublin, has built what began as a passion-driven alternative to a desk job into one of the leading businesses of its kind, with a robust client base, a company van and two full-time and two part-time employees.

Like many who end up happy in their occupation, Hogg had no idea what she wanted to do as a schoolgoer. There was talk of veterinary, but the "outrageous" points deterred her (she did volunteer at the DSPCA in her late teens). She ended up studying sociology and French, and then a masters in environmental policy. Somehow this all led to customer service, and while she showed a natural flair for it (which you suspect she applies to this venture), she wasn't passionate about it.

That vital ingredient came from her musician boyfriend who already had his own studio business. Watching her drag herself in to her job on a Monday morning when her heart was elsewhere led him to finally challenge her on it. If he could do it, he reasoned, so could she.

"He gave me a push. It also meant I had some of the resources he used to set up his own business. He could guide me, saying what I needed, what I had to do to set everything up."

Come Christmas 2013, Hogg was building the website and doing market research in Marlay Park. This involved quizzing people with dogs, and since no two people with dogs will walk past one another without some exchange, this went smoothly.

"There seemed to be an interest," she recalls. "I was still working, as I wanted to build up enough money to sustain myself at the start. I designed the website, bought my name, left my job, registered the business and started doing it."

After a slow summer, September arrived and with it a huge amount of clients who were now back to work, school and college. Three months later, she hired her first employee. Eimear is proof that a mix of passion and groundwork can make life makeovers a viable reality. The 30-year-old wouldn't, however, advise anyone to "just do it". "You have to research lots to make sure there's a demand and the market's not saturated. Trial it at weekends. Experiment and plan, and make sure you'll be reliable and dependable. The thing about a nine-to-five I miss is this doesn't stop. You have owners contacting you at nine or 10 at night and early in the morning. For a lot of people it's like their babies. It's not all just going out and playing with puppies."

She doth protest too much. There's nothing, she finally concedes, she doesn't like about the job. Not the odd hyperactive hound. Not the wet, windy days in the park. Not the paperwork in the evenings or the seven-day-a-week reality of being your own boss. "When I compare it to what I was doing before there's nothing to complain about at all."

'It's not all just going out and playing with puppies'

Sunday Independent

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