A woman has turned her passion for walking the dog into her livelihood - with a little help from friends in South Tyneside’s business community.
Veronica Connell, 59, recently moved from her home in Scotland to be closer to her family in Whitburn.
The mum of one has spent most of her working life in administration.
But one of her great passions has always been taking her Belize mountain dog Cali on long walks.
Now she has turned her passion into a business after setting up Walkies NE, a dog walking and pet sitting business.
She said: “I have always loved walking dogs, and when I saw how many beautiful walks there were here at Whitburn it got me thinking. It’s turned out to be one of the best things I have ever done. I’m loving it.”
Veronica’s ‘clients’ - she charges £9 for 90 minutes - include not just dogs, but cats, rabbits and all types of small animals.
But she admits it was the support of entrepreneur and business advisor Nicky Gray, from Tedco in Jarrow, which helped her achieve her dream.
She was given access to the New Enterprise Allowance (NEA) programme, which supports anyone over the age of 18 who is unemployed and in receipt of a jobseekers’ benefit.
The NEA programme offers an initial eight weeks of support to create a business plan and apply for any funding needed.
Once the business plan is approved you receive 26 weeks of guaranteed payments to help you build and establish your business.
Veronica added: “Nicky has been absolutely brilliant. She has been mentoring me through the pitfalls and taking me on courses.”
Nicky said: “My role as a business idea is to make sure the business idea is viable and the client has the necessary skills to run the business and, most importantly, that the business is sustainable.
“I work with the clients one to one to create a business plan and explore their idea in more detail.
“Clients also get the opportunity to attend a pre-start business workshop and marketing workshop.”
“Veronica has a clear love and passion to work with animals, and after years of office work has now turned her dream into reality.
“She has been a star pupil. She has taken all my advice on board and created her own website, a fantastic business brand and already has clients booked in.”
Log on to www.walkiesne.co.uk to find out more.