#SupportLocal: Starting a new business during the height of the pandemic

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By Maurice Garvey

STARTING a business is tough but the arrival of a global pandemic made it even more rough for a local dog training service.

Lucie Dehe is the owner of Lucie’s Pooches, a Clondalkin based dog training business that opened in March.

Lucie 05 1

Lucie and Wile E Coyote

“Just before we went into lockdown I was only starting to figure out how to run a business, and how to do private sessions and teach classes on my own (I worked with other trainers before).

Word of mouth was spreading and the ball had started to really roll. And suddenly I had to stop everything,” said Lucie.

“Then when I was finally able to start working again, I had issues with my business appearing as closed on search engines and not being able to fix it. It took nearly two weeks to fix which meant I missed out on lots of job opportunities.”

Covid restrictions have led to changes in the business model.

Lucie continued: “I have to remember to space out my appointments to give myself time to clean and disinfect my equipment or swap props around. It took a little while to get used to wearing a mask and doing lots of talking. My voice would get tired really fast and start shaking randomly at the start.

“I have had to reduce the number of attendees for the group classes and playdates now that we can run them again. I have had to do a few sessions out in the elements or remotely to avoid being in contact with a client’s family member that may be vulnerable. I don’t mind being out in the rain, but some of the clients and their dogs do so it’s difficult for them to enjoy the session. Some of the dogs have been quite spooked by the mask too!”

Growing up in France, Lucie arrived in Ireland as an au pair in 2005. An animal lover, she has been working with dogs and studying canine training and behaviour since the start of 2015.

“It is just me, and my dog Wile E Coyote if she counts as an employee - she sure thinks she does.”

Lucie offers 121 dog training and puppy training, can meet clients and their dogs in their home or at a nearby park.

She also teaches evening group classes for puppies and young dogs in a dog daycare in Kimmage.

Word of mouth is a key driver of the business, which Lucie says is about building a relationship and trust with individual dogs.

“Most of my clients are referred to me by a friend of theirs who hired me previously. I am very slowly getting my head around promoting myself on social media too and am starting to see some results from that,” she said.

“The training and coaching parts come naturally to me, but it’s all the other bits and bobs that have you sitting at a laptop for hours on end that I sometimes struggle with.

When you work on your own you are in charge of everything – accounts, website and social media management, advertising, driving around to get supplies, etc. Before I just had to show up and coach.”

Lucie will be looking to start new workshops when larger numbers are allowed meet up for group classes including “leash training workshops, teaching tricks courses, and canine fitness programmes.”

“It’s all up in the air at the moment as I am still trying to get back on my feet and prioritising private training, but I have a few of those ready to go for when the ‘Covid dust’ settles.”

Lucie cites advertising as a vital attribute to grow the business.

“Daring to spend a few extra quid on advertisement really helped. I thought it was a risky move because designing my own ads is definitely not my forte and I was really afraid I might waste money, but it turned out to be the quickest thing to get me back on the road,” she said.

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