Angela Halls - Aqua Dogs
Having had an inspirational business idea in 2001, Angela Halls - along with her parents - relocated to Cardiff to help fund the idea. Along with her mother, Angela is now one of the founders of Aqua Dogs, the Canine Hydrotherapy Company.
Whilst studying Chemistry at Cardiff University and working within the pharmaceutical industry, Angela had no idea of the path her life was set to take. “The original idea was to look at kennels, and when we looked into that we discovered hydrotherapy,” Angela explains. She decided to complete NVQs in Business Start Up and Hydrotherapy Training to enhance her business potential.
Whilst working throughout University, Angela met a fellow entrepreneur who’d sought help with business start up support through the Welsh Assembly. “I started the same course and whilst having hours with my business mentor and attending seminars, I learnt about tax, marketing, money and how to develop my ideas”, Angela explains. “The seminars also gave me some contacts and helped with networking.”
Angela conducted some vital market research; sending questionnaires to local vets to gauge their opinion on the new venture. “I had a surprising response of 100% feedback, and about 85% said they would be interested in the new centre I was proposing. So I ran with it”, she says. “The interest was huge; we had customers knocking on the door before we’d even finished building the unit!”
Angela found herself with great feedback, funding, eager customers and a self-developed, simplistic, cost-free website, yet it wasn’t all straightforward. “The biggest problem was finding the premises, but we managed after months of research to eventually find something suitable”, she explains. The lack of available advice was another problem to begin with. “You were very much thrown in at the deep end then, so I had no idea where to get help from”, Angela admits. “Luckily things have changed from four to five years ago - there is so much more help out there, so now’s the time to do it!”
Aqua Dogs had a successful launch in 2008, and Angela remarks that her biggest personal success was seeing people coming to her open day. “There’s nothing worse than the thought of no-one turning up”, she admits. Treating her first client is an experience Angela will never forget. “I sort of stepped back and realised I’m doing it and I’m good at it – I’m a business woman!”, she says.
Canine Hydrotherapy is the use of water to rehabilitate dogs from orthopaedic conditions or major operations. Aqua Dogs is successfully in its third year of business in Splott, Cardiff. For more information visit: www.aquadogs.org.uk