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Small business focus: It’s a dog’s life nowadays for former oil and gas worker Julie Hunter

Julie Hunt with two of her Dalmations.
Julie Hunt with two of her Dalmations.

Each week, we ask small businesses key questions. Here we speak to Julie Hunter, who runs dog-focused Spotlessly Chic from her home near Alford, Aberdeenshire.

How and why did you start in business?

I worked in the oil and gas sector for 11 years before being made redundant from my department lead role in logistics in 2016.

I had always had this idea of running my own business and this was the catalyst to also tie in my love of dogs and make a living from it.

After a bit of research on dog-related businesses across Aberdeenshire it became apparent there was a gap in the market, with very few dog groomers operating.

I decided to use my redundancy money to set up Spotlessly Chic from my rural home near Alford.

How did you get to where you are today?

After grooming for about six months I decided to apply for my dog boarding licence via Aberdeenshire Council.

Then one day, while in the shower, I had a “lightbulb” moment and realised I could combine the grooming and boarding with a wedding pet “chaperone” service.

When I married my husband, David, we had no-one to look after our dogs as all our family and trusted friends were at the wedding.

I researched more and found a niche in the market as no-one else in the north-east offered such a service.

And so the Wedding Pet Chaperone Service with Spotlessly Chic was born.

Who helped you?

Friends who are also self-employed have been really resourceful and Business Gateway has been great from the start.

I’ve attended many seminars and workshops, from the very basics to more complex material – all of which has been free of charge.

It was during a DigitalBoost workshop that I was introduced to the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB).

I’m in the early stages of my membership and still exploring all the FSB has to offer.

There is a wealth of knowledge and resources at my fingertips.

Being a sole trader can be pretty daunting and a lonely place at times, especially when you have come from an experienced business background, supported by numerous departments with a global presence.

My FSB membership gives me that sense of community that you just don’t get working on your own.

What is your biggest mistake?

It can be tough starting out on your own, with more money going out than coming in.

My biggest mistake initially was not investing in quality equipment. As they say – “buy cheap, buy twice”.

What is your greatest achievement?

Buying our house out here in the country. After all, if we didn’t have our property in such a great setting, I wouldn’t have been able to start Spotlessly Chic.

If you were in power in government, what would you change?

While the law has recently changed, and new measures have been introduced to increase maximum fines and sentences for animal cruelty offences, I still believe more can and should be done to act as a deterrent.

Thousands of animals are rescued or seized each year and they deserve more protection.

What do you still hope to achieve?

I would like to expand my wedding pet chaperone service to wider audience outwith the Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire area, and also to be the most recognised in my field.

What do you do to relax?

I like to socialise with friends and family, and, of course, spend time with my three rescue Dalmatians.

I’m also a huge fan of motor racing and in particular Formula One. We’re hoping to attend the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix event in November.

What are you currently reading, listening to or glued to on TV?

I only get time to read when I’m on holiday, so that’s been a wee while now for obvious reasons.

I’m an avid fan of singer-songwriter Jack Savoretti and love his new album, Europiana.

I’ve got tickets to see him live in April and again in Croatia in August for my “milestone” birthday, so I’m really looking forward to it.

What do you waste your money on?

I wouldn’t say it’s a waste, but I love my holidays and try to get away a couple of times a year, with Dubai being top of the list.

How would your friends describe you?

I hope they’d say I’m honest, trustworthy, thoughtful, hardworking and also great fun to be around.

What would your enemies say about you?

To be honest I don’t care, but let’s just say I will defeat them with my success.

What do you drive and dream of driving?

I drive an Audi Q5 but I would love an Aston Martin DBX 707 – power, luxury and still space for the dogs.