A Newport entrepreneur has expanded her fledgling pet supplies business thanks to the boom in pet ownership during the pandemic.
Donna Poole first set up Pure Pets in July 2021, running the healthy pet treat business from a Storage Giant facility in the city, and she has now grown the business into a unit in Newport Market, which, she says, has quickly become a hub for pet owners to gather, chat and share their love for their pets.
Donna, aged 49, says: “I set up Pure Pets after deciding to leave my job as a debt advisor. I have been in that line of work for many years and it takes a big emotional toll, supporting people who are struggling to meet their debts and pay their bills. Like a lot of people I relied very heavily on my own dogs during the pandemic and I decided to set up this business, first at the Storage Giant site, and then moving into Newport Market in March. It is the best thing I have ever done. Staff at Storage Giant were fantastic – when I enquired about renting a space and told them about my new venture they were very positive and they continue to support me however they can. It was great at the time especially with so much uncertainty to have a team at the storage giant being so positive and friendly which makes me even more confident whenever I speak to them.”
Donna’s business is part of a national trend, with the growth in pet ownership during the pandemic prompting the big dogs of the UK pet industry to post record profits. In March 2021, the Pet Food Manufactures’ Association said a total of 3.2 million households in the UK had bought a new pet since the start of the pandemic. Meanwhile, Pets at Home said it had a “record Christmas” with strong growth in sales across its 445 UK stores and its 300 vet and grooming outlets. Sales in its third quarter of 2021 were up 8.7 percent on 2020 and 28.1 percent on 2019.
Donna, who has two saint bernards and a cavapoochon herself, feels that despite the rise in the cost of living, she expected spending on pets to hold steady.
“I think even when people watch their spending on themselves, they often continue to treat their pets because it gives them pleasure to see their pets happy. I know I relied upon my own dogs to get me out every day during the pandemic and they have been so good for our mental and physical health as a nation. I am seeing a continuing trend for people wanting to maintain a healthier lifestyle and they very much want their pets to enjoy those benefits too so they are opting for the kind of healthier treats I sell. I think also that many of us were forced to cancel holidays and other trips and activities during the pandemic, so they focussed more on other things in their life that gave them enjoyment – like family, friends and pets. I have been able to finance the setting up of the business myself, and I have had a lot of support from Storage Giant, not just with the low rental rates and flexibility of tenure, but also with the team at Newport taking in my deliveries and helping with practical things that help me keep things running smoothly.”
Simon Williams. MD of Storage Giant, which has its headquarters in Newport, said: “Donna is one of many small businesses we incubate and host across our UK sites. What is particularly interesting about her story – and it is something we see mirrored by many of the start-ups under our roof, is that setting up a business during a downturn might seem counter-intuitive, but, if you are savvy about your financing and if you have done sound research and planning, it can be a time of great opportunity. For my part, I established Storage Giant as the recession of the early 2000s was biting, and now we are the largest independent self-storage business in the UK.”