You won’t find a mint on the pillows and the rooms don’t contain a minibar, but with round the clock care and plenty of cuddles on hand, a Barnsley-based landscape gardener has successfully laid the foundations for the purr-fect retreat for pampered pussycats.
Jennifer Ryder (pictured left) started developing plans for her five star cat hotel back in 2018 and after noticing a dramatic rise in pet ownership since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, she is hoping her fledgling business will provide a furmilar environment for her feline guests.
The twelve room Cat Hotel is a far cry from the barren pens found in a typical cattery. With the aim of creating a home-from-home experience, each room features underfloor heating, hand-made pine beds and large window seats which overlook a specially created cat-friendly garden.
A life-long cat lover, Jennifer decided to build her dream cat hotel after noticing changes in behaviour in her own pets when they were sent to catteries during their annual holidays. When she and her family relocated to the rural village of Cawthrone, she started putting her plans into action, transforming some of the land surrounding her home into her dream cat hotel, built to her own specifications.
Unsure whether her business would prove to be a success the new entrepreneur called upon help from Launchpad, a unique business support programme which helps would-be businesses to unlock the potential in their ideas.
Working with experienced business adviser Nicole Harte (pictured right), Jennifer successfully began formulating plans to transform her dreams into a reality and took part in a range of workshops, as well as one-to-one training sessions, helping her to reach cat lovers across the region and develop a clear business plan.
Her efforts paid off and even before the hotel had opened for business Jennifer was crowned Aspiring Entrepreneur of the Year at the Launchpad Business Awards, a special event which showcased and celebrated the achievements of new business owners across the region.
Despite facing a challenging first year of trading as a result of travel restrictions curtailing family holiday plans for much of 2020, Jennifer’s business surpassed all of her expectations and managed to make a small profit as she tapped into the staycation market as well as offering a safe haven as homeowners turned to tackle lockdown DIY projects. So far this year, her business has been in high demand attracting bookings from both repeat customers and news ones too.
Jennifer said: “I decided to launch the business because I felt I’d spotted a niche in the market. We are a family of pet lovers with a lifetime’s experience of looking after cats. We recognised that many people treat their feline friends as members of their family and can often feel guilty about sending their cats to a cattery when they go on holiday. I wanted to create a relaxing, pleasant environment which replicated the surroundings of their own homes.
“As a small business, we wanted to replicate the love and attention cats receive in their own homes with lots of interactive play, cuddles and treat, and throughout their stay we regularly keep owners updated by sharing pictures of their adventures, which provides comfort and reassurance, enabling them to enjoy their holidays without worrying about the welfare of their pets.
“We have built the Cat hotel from scratch, to our own specifications which meant we were able to create larger rooms than found in a traditional cattery. However, when it came to putting our plans into practice, I knew there would be a number of challenges we needed to overcome and so I reached out to Launchpad for help.
“The support we’ve received from the programme has given me the confidence to believe in my ideas and especially during the challenges we’ve faced as a business over the past twelve months as a result of Covid-19, Nicole and the Launchpad team have been a constant source of support and inspiration and the help they have provided has played an important role in the success we’ve achieved to date.
Nicole said: “Jennifer knew that for her business to be a success she would need to navigate her way through a number of significant steps: from securing planning permission to build her dream business to securing the necessary licenses allowing her to trade. Through the support she received from Launchpad, she successfully developed a robust business plan and as lockdown restrictions lift, she is looking forward to a very busy summer.
“The Cawthorne Cat Hotel is the result of a labour of love by Jennifer and her family and with pet ownership rising dramatically during lockdown, I think her business is likely to be in high demand as restrictions continue to ease.”
Launchpad is the Sheffield City Region Growth Hub’s key business support programme for new business. Financially supported by the European Regional Development Fund and delivered by local authorities within the Sheffield City Region and the Prince’s Trust, the programme provides free help and support to budding entrepreneurs in the Sheffield City Region who are thinking of starting their own business, or looking for help to achieve business growth.
For more information on the Launchpad programme and how it operates throughout the Sheffield City Region, contact the SCR Growth Hub Gateway on 03330 00 00 39 or visit www.scrlaunchpad.co.uk