A Colne Valley man has swapped IT sales for a lead role looking after other people’s pet dogs.
Now Mark Abbott, of Cowlersley, is top dog himself after being named Newcomer of the Year 2017 by Barking Mad, a franchise business providing bespoke holidays for dogs while their owners are away.
Barking Mad, owned by Franchise Brand Plc Group, aims to provide accommodation for dogs in a caring environment, ensuring their routine is kept as consistent as possible with a loving local host family.
Mark, 55, runs the Huddersfield and Halifax franchise, received his award at Barking Mad’s 14th national conference in the Lake District. It recognised his success in building up the local franchise to 100 registered customers and 30 host families who care for people’s canine companions while they are away from home.
Lee Dancy, managing director of Barking Mad, said: “Mark has had a textbook first year, growing from strength to strength financially and operationally, always going above and beyond for his host community and particularly the bespoke service he offers his customers.”
Mark said he had been looking for a change of direction after 27 years working in IT sales and found out about Barking Mad after investigating becoming a host.
Mark already had four “mad but very happy” Yorkshire Terriers from various backgrounds – Bertie, Basil, Ollie and Daisy May – and enjoyed spending time with them and taking them for walks. Building a business out of a love for dogs seemed a great idea, he said.
“I’d run my own business before so I knew what I would be getting into,” said Mark. “I was working in IT sales, most recently in financial card payment systems. This is much more satisfying. It is very much a ‘people’ business. People who treat their dogs properly treat them like their children and have to be able to trust the hosts who look after them.”
Mark underwent training with Barking Mad in 2015 and launched his business the following March. “We are now in the second year and it’s going well,” he said. “We are as busy this month as we were in June last year. We have just registered our 100th customer from a standing start 20 months ago. We have had everything from Chihuahuas to Great Danes. We get weekend bookings to look after dogs while the family is away at a wedding up to bookings of three or four weeks while their owner is on holiday.”