Lee France, owner of Therapaws, gained support through the Department for Enterprise's Micro Business Grant Scheme to help get his Small Animal Hydrotherapy, Rehabilitation and Conditioning Centre up and running.
Tell us a little bit about your business journey, when did you set up and what does your business offer?
I actually fell into my profession by chance after finding one of my dogs had hip problems and needed hydrotherapy as a way of helping support his condition.
Having an interest in animals anyway and helping foster and train rescues ready for new homes as well as having two dogs myself had me thinking about doing something with animals in a professional manner. So I started looking into Hydrotherapy as there were limited facilities for animals to be able to undergo these types of treatment on the Island.
After finding a pool house in the north of the Island that I was able to rent, I then went on to do my qualifications, and as part of that went to Oxfordshire to work and train in a very busy Hydrotherapy and Rehabilitation centre.
I registered Therapaws as my business in 2018 and went from there. Once qualified I started taking clients on early 2019 for hydrotherapy treatment helping dogs mainly that have suffered injury, undergone surgery or have lasting medical conditions which were mostly referred to me via veterinary surgeries.
I have now moved on from the small pool I started from and have opened the Island's first and only fully equipped Small Animal Hydrotherapy, Rehabilitation and Conditioning Centre.
How has the Micro Business Grant Scheme helped your business?
When I started, I had absolutely no idea about how to start a business or what was involved. The support scheme was suggested to me so I enrolled. This helped me understand what was needed to start a business, from opening a business bank account, creating business plans, understanding the difference between sole trading and incorporation, and I got help financially too.
How did you find the experience of receiving support?
The whole process couldn't have been easier really. I sent an enquiry email to start with and then was guided through the whole thing from there.
There were multiple course dates to choose from which enabled me to work it around my daily schedule etc. Then once the course started, everything was explained each step of the way and we were given time to complete tasks (setting up business accounts and completing business plans for example) with periodic reviews. Once that was complete I was allocated a mentor who supported me for the next 18 months.
Tell us about your business – what do you enjoy most about the work you do?
I have to say that I now have the most rewarding job I have ever had.
No two days are the same. I meet new new people everyday and their animals are all individual in terms of what issues they may be coming in for and their own personalities.
The biggest reward has to come from the transformations I see in both the animals and owners. Maybe it's seeing them swim freely for the first time because they had never swam before or were maybe scared of water due to bad past experiences.
Owners coming in and telling their dog has just climbed the stairs or jumped on the sofa unassisted for the first time in a year.
Dogs going from not being able to use a limb at all or move themselves from one room to another without help due to pain or discomfort to running around on the beach or playing with other dogs for the first time in however long. For some animals it has quite literally been life saving... Is there a greater reward than that?
Why did you choose the Isle of Man as the destination for your business?
After seeing how similar centres operate in the UK and the set up and equipment they utilise to be able to provide the best possible care and achieve the best possible results, it was plain to see that our Island was lacking this type of facility of this scale and just how much benefit one could bring to so many animals over here. This was always the end goal.
Outside of work, what do you like to do? How do you spend your free time?
I mainly just spend time with my family, my children and our own dogs in any free time I have and If I can get an occasional round of golf in then that's a bonus.
How did you hear about the support schemes offered by the Department for Enterprise?
I found out about the Micro Business Grant Scheme via word of mouth really from people who knew someone else that had previously utilised it.
Would you recommend the Micro Business Grant Scheme to other businesses?
Yes, I would absolutely recommend it to anyone thinking about starting a business, especially if they have never had a business before. It can help in every way. Even if people know the ins and outs then there is the financial assistance. Support there for everyone. There is nothing to lose.
The Micro Business Grant Scheme has been designed for new start-ups or businesses trading for less than 18 months, and offers training, financial assistance and business mentoring.
To find out more about the Micro Business Grant Scheme, click here.