From corporate life to cat lady

Last updated 05:00 04/06/2014
NEW COLLEAGUES: Sick of the corporate life, Sue Campbell took her love of cats and turned it into a business.

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Like many people, I was feeling jaded, uninspired and worn out by the demands of the corporate world, despite the financial rewards.

Lifestyle was becoming more and more important, and the thought of running a small business from home was increasingly appealing. But what business?

The answer came one day when sitting in my apartment in central Wellington with my new kitten Oscar.

I had fought strenuously against having a cat in an apartment, but friends and family finally convinced me through all sorts of internet research that a cat could be just as happy in an apartment as in a traditional suburban setting.

Unfortunately, Oscar had not read the same research. While he was happy enough, it seemed like something was missing for him, and I eventually decided that he needed to be outdoors.

So the decision was made to move to the suburbs.

It was then I had my eureka moment: I adore cats, and love spending time with them, so why not move to the suburbs and set up a boarding cattery?

With that decision made, it was time to research existing businesses and locations.

During this process, a good friend who was also looking for a lifestyle change decided to join me in the new venture.

Our research showed that Wellington's southern suburbs were lacking in cattery accommodation, so Island Bay became our first choice. It took us almost a year to find the right place.

The next few months were busy with renovating the old and tired house, and building the cattery. Alongside this was all the standard business set up - a name, logo, business cards, website and basic business processes all had to be designed and produced.

We opened in October 2012, and were full for that first Christmas.

We were delighted with how quickly the business grew, despite our limited marketing resources.

Now that we are established, the lifestyle is fantastic.

Commuting is a thing of the past, and a morning spent with a cat on my lap while I drink coffee and read the newspaper has become my normal routine.

We are also growing our own vegetables and fruit trees, with the aim of moving towards a more self-sufficient and healthy lifestyle. I even own a pair of gumboots (purple of course, as a nod to my previous fashion-conscious self).

I don't miss the faster pace of city life at all, and in fact, am loving the local community of Island Bay and all the activities available.

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My job is incredibly satisfying and rewarding.

So what have been the three key elements to running a successful business from home?

1. Location: If you are going to have customers visiting, it is essential that you are easy to find.

For our business, location was also about not having competition in the immediate vicinity. We were also lucky enough to find a location with a complementary business (Island Bay Vet) right next door.

Location also includes having a separate business space from your living space. This certainly helps you move in and out of work mode, as it can be too easy to never switch off when you are working from home.

2. Customer service: The cats may not be able to talk, but their body language speaks volumes! The effort we put in to settle our guests pays off enormously when their owners come to collect them.

3. Procedures: It is important to have well-documented procedures that are strictly adhered to. We have found this makes it easy to maintain standards and not let things slide.

We have daily tasks that must be done, plus weekly and monthly tasks that we schedule ahead so that they don't get missed.

For me, the transition from the corporate world to self-employment has been a resounding success.

However, the Wellington weather has scuppered too many of my gardening ventures, so the cattery is on the market and I'm planning to head to the sunnier Nelson region for a new adventure.

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