When Katie Tovey-Grindlay took in Labrador puppy Bertie she never dreamed he would change her life forever.
She’d just left her job as a communications specialist in the Royal Navy, and having grown up around animals, was looking forward to having a pet of her own.
Such was her devotion to Bertie, now six, that she shaped her life around him and thanks to this, the Woof Woof Network was born.
Through her website, Katie has supported hundreds of businesses and credits Bertie with helping her realise her own dream of working in the pet world.
Katie, from Bristol, said: “When I left the Navy, my husband Noel and I decided we wanted a dog of our own.
"A friend’s dog was having puppies and Bertie was one of them.
“We doted on him, and I started a part time admin job.
"The longest Bertie was left for was two hours as my dad would go and see him, and I’d be home shortly after.
“But he had terrible separation anxiety and would chew anything he could get his paws on.
"I was heartbroken leaving him and I left my job after only six weeks.”
Katie decided to set up a dog walking business so she could work with Bertie and started by launching a Facebook page.
This was in 2011 and soon she learned that if she wanted her pet business to succeed, she’d need to improve her understanding of social media.
She trained with American business guru Sandi Krakowski and soon had a thriving client list.
Best of all - Bertie had new friends and working from home meant Katie was able to adopt Daschund Toby from Dogwatch UK rescue.
Katie said: “After being in the Royal Navy, living such a regimented life, my new role was a breath of fresh air. I felt so empowered to be doing something I loved.
“My mum had her concerns when I announced I was going to run my own pet care business, but thankfully it worked out and she’s very proud.
“Bertie was happy as we were together all the time. I’d always wanted a sausage dog and my new business meant when I saw Toby needed a home, I could offer him one.”
Sausage dog Toby, who Katie adopted after starting her pet care business.
Understanding social media and technology helped Katie too.
It was when Katie joined Twitter and connected with other pet businesses that she realised many of them were overwhelmed with social media, just as she was at the outset.
She started the chat hour #WoofWoofWednesday between 8-9pm UK time every Wednesday in 2014 and set up a blog offering petrepreneurs advice, support and tips.
The following year she opened her members site, Woof Woof Network, and has since enabled hundreds of businesses owners to fulfil their dreams.
Katie said: “Honestly, if someone had told me back in 2011 when I left the Navy that it would lead to the Woof Woof Network where I support people worldwide, I would never have believed them.
“I love my work and I’m so proud of myself. Every day I feel inspired seeing my clients succeed when they put my advice into practice.”
Although I’ve written about animals as a journalist, I’m a newbie to the pet business world since launching my blog in June.
Katie and I had a consultation and her straight talking approach was so refreshing.
I finished the call feeling much more aware of my strengths and brimming with positivity.
Katie says: “My clients usually come for help with time management and advice on growing their business but support and encouragement is important too.
“When you’re working on your own, this is something you miss and it can take someone outside your everyday life to reassure you that you will succeed.
“The Barking Tribe is a lovely, positive, nurturing community where everyone looks out for each other.
“If you’re having a bad day, people will lift you up, and if you want to share an achievement, they’ll celebrate it with you.”
Seeing people realise their dreams is what Katie finds most rewarding.
One of her clients is Sarah Baxter from Twilight Bark UK, who Katie has supported since she began blogging in 2015.
She said: “Sarah knew she wanted to write about dogs and since starting her blog she’s learned so many new skills.
“Her strengths are Facebook Live interviews and writing so she’s now building a very successful career creating blogs for pet businesses and giving support and training with Facebook Live.
“Sarah is absolutely lovely and it’s been brilliant to watch her progress.”
Another success story is Kathy Webster at Dotty Dog Art, whose gorgeous creations now feature on greetings cards in Waterstones.
Katie said: “Kathy is very talented. She’d just started charging for pet portraits when we first worked together. I encouraged her to see her worth and how amazing her work was.
“We reviewed her pricing structure and helped raise awareness about her portraits. This led to her putting together a card range that is stocked all over the country which is fantastic.”
Could you benefit from Katie's support with your pet business?
Both Sarah and Kathy joined Katie’s Barking Tribe, a support group for pet businesses.
Members have a monthly call with Katie which focuses on motivation and accountability.
They can access training bundles on social media, marketing, PR, SEO, creating graphics, e mail marketing, video and blog writing. Membership is £27 per month but places are limited and registration is open for just one week between September 4 - 10. Find out more at www.thebarkingtribe.com.