Walking his way to business

19:02, Jan 20 2013
dog stand
New Plymouth's Bill Gavin takes Llewy for a walk. The dog is one that he walks as part of his business, Leader of the Pack.

A New Plymouth teenager with Down syndrome has his own business, thanks to support from an organisation that provides people with disabilities the opportunity to find a career.

Imagine Better is a national organisation that provides advice to people with disabilities and their families.

It assists families to imagine a better way of life and provides support and encouragement to achieve their goals.

New Plymouth teen Bill Gavin, 18, who has Down syndrome and is significantly deaf, now has his own dog walking business thanks to a kick-start from Imagine Better.

Gavin's mum, Suzy Dymock, said that when Gavin finished up at school it was necessary to start thinking about his working future.

To start this process she approached Imagine Better.


"We looked at where he would be when he was 21," Dymock said.

A group of 10 friends got together to make a "circle of support" and started planning some goals for Gavin, Dymock said.

"All the people in the circle were volunteers who just wanted to help."

Dymock said she knew Gavin loved dogs and from that someone suggested the idea of setting up a dog walking business for him.

From there, Gavin's friends helped with the start-up process for his dog walking business, called Leader of the Pack.

"The aim is to get him a big business from this."

Some friends from school designed a website for Gavin, www.leaderofthepack.co.nz and another friend, who was studying photography, took photos for the website.

Rhonda Blythe was employed as a business development leader and she helps Gavin run the business and walk the dogs. Blythe said she was paid by an independent trust for a minimum of eight hours' work a week and Gavin received payments for the dog walking.

The two had established a strong bond, she said.

"Bill's really easy to get on with and we're developing a really good relationship," Blythe said.

The one-on-one dog walking service costs $10 per hour or $7 per half hour.

Gavin and Blythe establish exercise programmes tailored to each dog and have flexible hours.

Once a month the circle of friends holds meetings and assesses Gavin's progress.

The business was initially established about a year ago.

So far the number of dogs Gavin walked fluctuated between three and eight. It was hoped this number could get up to a good consistent number, Blythe said.

Blythe said all the dogs took a real liking to Gavin and they could understand he had a disability.

"He's great with the dogs. When they're with Bill they go at Bill's pace."

Dymock said the goal was to make this her son's fulltime job.

"There isn't much of an alternative," Dymock said. They were also looking at expanding into dog grooming in the future.

Gavin is on the invalid's benefit and Winz did not have to be notified about Gavin's business until he worked 15 hours a week or more, Dymock said.

Taranaki Daily News