"Our popularity is incredible. We even had someone re-arrange their holiday because we were fully booked!"
The demand for places at Millin Brook Luxury Dog Boarding, a country retreat for dogs, has blown away owners Sian and Dave Smith, who only launched the company in April 2018. There are no traditional metal kennels to be seen, with the husband and wife team offering complete comfort on their 10-acre property.
Fully-licenced and insured, they can currently take up to five dogs at a time. The expansion will increase this to 30 as well as create jobs.
And Sian and Dave are not alone in working closely with the canines that come to stay. Their sons Ben, 9, and Jacob, 7, help with walkies, as well as play hide and seek with the VIPs (very important pets). And their head of guest services and entertainment is Barnaby, the family’s black Labrador.
Sian, who is a retired police officer of 20 years’ service with 13 years as a mounted police officer, said: “We wanted to create somewhere that we would be happy to send our dog. In spring, we will have 10 state-of-the-art 5* suites each with a large living area, play room, luxury beds, underfloor heating, automatic-filling water bowls, and our own-brand dog biscuits. We will also play classical music and infuse the air with lavender oil to help keep the dogs calm and relaxed.
“Our guests will also have chance to use the spa and be pampered and groomed before a photoshoot in a purpose-built studio.
“This would not be possible without the amazing success of the business, which has been driven largely by Facebook. I attended a Superfast Business Wales course on digital marketing to understand more about this area of running a business and I learnt so many things that I have been able to apply to Millin Brook.
“It’s taught me all about the different social media platforms, what to use them for, how to keep branding and hashtags consistent across all channels, and how to use them to their full potential.
“For example, we used Facebook advertising to introduce the business, but we kept the cost down by targeting people by interest and location. Facebook now accounts for 70 per cent of our turnover. I also found out about Google my Business, which is very important to promote us locally in Google search results, and our website accounts for the other 30 per cent of turnover.”
Sian also uses social media to give owners peace of mind so they can enjoy their holiday safe in the knowledge their companion is having a blast.
“We take the dogs on adventures around the stunning Pembrokeshire beaches and countryside and publish pictures and videos to Facebook,” she added. “If a guest is staying with us for at least a week, we also send a postcard of them enjoying their stay. The owners often share the postcards on social media, which helps to spread the word about our brand.
“Our popularity is incredible. We even had someone re-arrange their holiday because we were fully booked!”
A follow up 1-2-1 with a Superfast Business Wales adviser also revealed further digital solutions to help the business during its growth.
Sian added: “We use a paper diary, which is ok when it’s just five dogs. However, when we take on more we require a more sophisticated system. We will use kennel management software, Kennelbooker, which will manage bookings as well as store vital information including emergency contact details, vet details, vaccinations, custom notes, food and medical requirements, and photos.
“We will be able to access the app remotely so if we are walking a guest on the beach and we need to know something, we have that information in the palm of our hand. We can also use it for invoicing, which will reduce time spent on admin.
“I didn’t realise how much support was out there. I’ve gained so much useful advice and information."