Saturday, 08 May 2021

Let's Get Down to Business: Karole Robertson, Naughty Mutt Nice

Let's Get Down to Business: Karole Robertson, Naughty Mutt Nice

KAROLE ROBERTSON is the proprietor of Naughty Mutt Nice, a dog grooming parlour in Reading Road, Henley, which she bought as a going concern in 2017. Previously she ran a similar business, Paws 4 Applause, from her home in Twyford. Karole was born and raised in Santa Catarina in Brazil, where she graduated from university with a degree in hotel management. She came to the UK to improve her English and had a variety of jobs before working in hotel hospitality. She and her husband Struan, who works in digital marketing, live with six-year-old old son Milo and Lakeland terrier Tiggy and hope to move to Henley soon.

Describe your business

We are a modern dog grooming parlour and boutique offering a high standard of grooming and services.

How many people does it employ?

As well as me, I have two full-time groomers, Tilly and Josie, who are working towards gaining their City and Guilds diplomas, and two part-timers, James, who is studying to become a lawyer, and Josh, who plans to become a vet.

What did you do before you started this business?

When I came to England I lived in London and had several jobs. I also did a course in PR and marketing at the University of London. Then I met Struan, who was playing bass guitar in a band and we moved in together. My visa was running out so I told him that I had to go back home and, to my delight, he said he would go with me. My family were really happy when we got married in Brazil. We then moved back to England and I worked in a hotel in Windsor. The house we rented in Twyford had a workshop in the garden that was a perfect place to groom my Westie. I went on a dog grooming course in Windsor and started Paws 4 Applause from home in 2011. When I learned that Naughty Mutt Nice was available in 2017 I jumped at the opportunity to take over the business.

What was your business objective?

I was brought up with dogs and was used to cutting their hair and I had a background in event management, which gave me the confidence to give it a go.

Who or what influenced you?

My dad and uncle were both business owners and entrepreneurs and I was encouraged by Suzy Bradley, the owner of a grooming business in Windsor.

Do you have a mentor or role model?

Yes. Julie Lalou, a good friend who is very highly regarded in the grooming fraternity. I studied for my City and Guilds with her.

What would you do differently if you could start again?

I would have started entering competitions earlier.

How is your business doing?

Very well. The peak times are in the spring and summer when dogs’ hair grows more quickly. November and December are very busy too.

How do you market your business?

We are in a good location and our parlour is very visible. Word of mouth is the way a lot of our business comes. Dog owners talk to each other when they are out walking their dogs. Social media. Yellow Pages. We advertise regularly in the Henley Standard and we frequently donate prizes for charitable events to get our name out.

What’s the best thing about running your own business?

I can direct the business the way I want to. I choose the products we use and decide on the services we offer. I enjoy the flexibility but at the beginning I was actually working longer hours than I ever did.

What’s the most challenging aspect?

Keeping up with trends and consistently delivering the high standard that our clients are accustomed to.

Where is your business headed?

There are many opportunities to consider, such as day care, dog walking or holding seminars for owners.

How important are online sales?

We have a website and people can book appointments online. Fortunately for us, it’s not possible for a dog to be groomed over the internet.

Do you have a five-year plan?

All I can say is that I’m going to be working with dogs for the rest of my life.

What’s the most valuable thing you’ve learned?

To trust my gut feeling. I’ve learned to trust myself and the people around me.

What would you advise someone starting a business?

Have a business plan, know your target market and have a plan B for if things go wrong.

What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made?

I wish I’d started earlier.

What three qualities are most important to success?

Listening to customers, being able to build a team and having awareness of changing trends.

What’s the secret of your success?

Being a good listener and the people around me. My dad used to tell me: “Take a deep breath and dive in.”

How organised are you?

Fairly but I can be forgetful, so I always use a diary.

How do you dress for work each day?

I like to look good. I always wear make-up. I wear comfortable trainers as I’m on my feet all day. We have smart tunics in black with our name and logo.

What can’t you do without every day?

Brazilian coffee and a walk with my dog.

Lunch at your desk or going out?

I like to go out and stretch my legs. I often go to Spoons who do great salads.

Do you continue to study?

Yes. I took my professional dog grooming diploma last year and I go to four seminars every year.

What do you read?

Lots. I’ve got three books on the go at the moment. I read Pets Gazette and Pets Business World and I read the Henley Standard every week.

How are you planning for retirement?

It’s too soon to be thinking about that but eventually I will retire to Brazil.

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