This week I'm speaking with Melissa Muir who runs Stellar Strolls dog walking in Glasgow's West End. She set up her business right when the pandemic hit us at the beginning of 2020. So of course I had to ask her how it was to start a business when the world was going crazy.
About working with dogs, she says:
"Dogs are truly a gift, If you ask any of my family, my catchphrase is ‘what did we do to deserve dogs’. I am so passionate about working with them because I truly believe they deserve the best love, care and support we can offer them.
Dogs are such intelligent, intuitive animals and if we nurture them they give us a huge amount in return."
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your business.
I am Melissa, I own & run Stellar Strolls dog walking in Glasgow. I’ve always had two passions in life; helping people become the best versions of themselves & animals.
Around 4 years ago I became unwell, and it made me re-evaluate my life, purpose, and ambitions.
During this period in my life, I knew that if I were ever able to, I would launch my own dog walking business, to give back to the dogs who had been there for me and cared for me unconditionally through my most difficult days.
Fast forward three years and I was able to launch Stellar Strolls, a business, community & family that I am so proud of & eternally grateful for.
How & why did you get started with your business?
When I thought about launching my business, I knew I wanted it to be a business that I would be happy sending my own dog, my precious fur baby, Ralphie to. I spent many months making sure I had everything to the highest standard from safe cages to a ventilated van, the list goes on!
From December 2019 I planned to launch my business in April 2020, then the pandemic hit, which nobody could have foreseen, I took the plunge and decided it was now or never and I launched during a global pandemic!
How was it to launch during such a crazy time?
Launching a business during a global pandemic was nothing short of terrifying! I was risking a lot, I had a well paid full time job which I loved, but I also had this yearning of what if...
What if I could make this work and make a success of running my own business. Working with dogs would be a dream come true!
I’m almost 27 so I felt like if I didn’t take the risk now it would be too late. I was very lucky that my partner, Mark, was very supportive and encouraged me to take the leap. As I mentioned we both had a very difficult few years with my health and he was there to weather the storm with me. So for him to support my passion project was huge! Without his encouragement and my family's, I really don’t think I would have had the guts to take that next step.
How did you prepare?
Preparing to launch the business was a long process, it didn’t happen overnight. I had started planning for the business pre pandemic; I was working behind the scenes with graphic designers, web designers, setting up social media accounts, attending pet first aid courses, leafleting, designing my van, doing online courses on pet behaviour it was very time consuming but also so exciting!
I also took part in a 30 day seminar on how to launch a successful pet business, I was determined to succeed, but also to ensure that I had the best dog walking business possible to offer my clients, they are trusting you with their fur babies and I didn’t underestimate that for a second, I know how much of a privilege that is and remind myself of it daily. I think it’s what strives me to continue to do better!
Of course the pandemic added an extra layer of planning that I hadn’t considered in the earlier planning days, I soon had to consider PPE, how to keep dogs safe, sanitising inside of the van daily, using my own leads etc! What to do if a household was having to self isolate - once that was in place I was ready to launch!
How did your launch go?
The first few months of business were extremely difficult, I only had 1 regular client and at that time we were in the height of the pandemic! You couldn’t go and meet new clients, everybody was staying home so it was a really scary time. I had invested a lot of time and money in to this and I had many sleepless nights wondering if I had made the right decision. Praying that things would get better and thankfully they did in time!
Once lockdown started to ease slightly, things began to pick up and I was able to start running my first group walk, I remember that sense of relief and euphoria the first day I had more than one dog on a walk! It was just such a joy to be out doing something that I loved and for clients to choose me at that time was a huge confidence boost!
Although there were definitely a lot of worries and stress during the earlier, quieter stages of business I am still so thankful for that time. It allowed me to really learn the trade, focus on each dog and give them lots of quality 1on 1 time and it allowed me the space to grow the business in the direction I wanted. So although it was difficult, I am so thankful for the time it gave me to develop and grow as a business.
During the pandemic a lot of people purchased dogs, primarily puppies. The majority of my clients were lockdown puppies and so during the pandemic there were many a puppy visit going on! It was such a special time getting to work with these tiny pups, helping to train them, get them into a routine and see them grow!
I also had several dogs I walked who’s families were key workers during the pandemic, it was great to give back to those who were making sacrifices to ensure that we were kept safe and continued to have food on the table!
As people returned to work my business was growing and through word of mouth and social media I began to get more clients. It’s such an anxious time leaving your dog with someone else so it was my honour to take on that role and help support my clients through a difficult transition period back to work, knowing that their pup was in safe hands and having a wonderful time I’m sure was a huge relief.
Now a year on my business is thriving and I am so proud of what I have achieved so far, it was definitely worth the risk and if there is anybody out there wondering what if, take the leap! You’ll never know until you try, I’m sure you’ll surprise yourself! Running a business has been a stage of personal growth for me and I would encourage anyone thinking of starting their own business to give it a go!
Do you have any exciting plans for the future?
In the coming years I would love to secure our own premises, giving us our very own Stellar Strolls HQ! I would also love to expand the team & have a group of likeminded pet lovers on board.
I also have plans to expand the Stellar Strolls brand into other areas of pet business, our dogs are my world and anything I can do to enrich their lives is what I strive to achieve!
What would be your number 1 tip for dog owners?
The thing I have learned over the years of having dogs and now working with them is to work on connecting with your dog, your relationship is everything. The stronger the bond between owner and pup the easier it will be to train them, for them to trust you and for it to be an enjoyable & wonderful experience having a dog.
For our dogs we are their world and I believe if we replicate this we will all reap the rewards!
How can people find your business and where can we find you on the interwebs?
You can find us on Facebook/Instagram/Tiktok: stellarstrollsdogwalking