Wakefield Excellence in Business Awards: How winning the awards made a difference to the reigning champions, as 2021 entries open
As this year’s Wakefield Express Excellence in Business Awards open for entries, we check in with the reigning champions of the event.
Barkley and Co first opened its doors in November 2018, after owners Phil Pickard and Sarah Godfrey discovered a lack of local daycare options for their own dogs.
Georgina Matthery, operations manager at Barkley and Co, said: “Both the owners have dogs and one of them had a bad experience with a dog walker who didn’t turn up or didn’t walk the dogs for as long as they were meant to.
“They thought that with children, they go to nursery and see other people and it’s a bit more secure.
“So they started looking into doggy daycares and decided to give it a go. It turned out to be really, really popular.
“People like the idea of their dogs being social. You can drop them off at 7.30am and pick them up on your way home, with the full day for £20.”
As well as offering dogs space to play and socialise while their owners work, staff keep a daily diary of each pet’s activities, including toilet trips, toys played with and even photos taken through the day, similar to the services offered at a nursery.
They also host seasonal sessions, including Christmas and Easter events, for visiting pups.
After a brilliant first year in business, Barkley and Co scooped two top prizes at the 2019 Wakefield Express Excellence in Business Awards, heading home with trophies in the Newcomer of the Year and Overall Business of the Year categories.
But, just a few months later, the doggy daycare business was faced with a whole new host of challenges, as the coronavirus pandemic arrived.
Georgina said: “We were doing pretty well at that point, we’d won the awards and that was great.
“Then we went into lockdown and everything had to stop.
“We dropped our numbers a lot. The customers didn’t need us in the same way because they weren’t leaving the house and the only exercise they got was walking the dog.
“But we were still needed. Some people were needing to work, or wanted the socialisation for the dog.
“For some older people, we were the only way their dog gets exercise.”
But even a pandemic has not been enough to stop staff at Barkley and Co continuing to develop their business model.
As thousands of families welcomed new dogs and puppies to their homes during lockdown, Georgina and her team began working to expand their training programme.
It is a move which has paid off in recent months, as customers seek guidance on helping to train their new pets - particularly those coping with separation anxiety as their owners return to work, leaving them alone for the first time.
Barkley and Co has now been allowed to reopen, and has welcomed back customers, albeit with new rules and restrictions in place.
They also partnered with Wakefield College to offer work placements to students, several of whom have stayed on in jobs with the company after their work experience ended.
Georgina said: “As we started to come out of the second lockdown we actually increased our numbers and we’ve got more clients now.
“We’ve had a period of really difficult conditions, but at the same time we know our customers really appreciate us.
“We’ve not done too badly. We’ve taken a hit but we’re going to come back stronger. And we know not all businesses are lucky enough to say that.”
The Wakefield Express Excellence in Business Awards 2021 are now open for entries. Visit wakefieldbusinessawards.co.uk to find out more, or submit your nomination today.