When it comes to business, sometimes the timing is just right – even in the most unusual of circumstances.
That certainly proved to be the case of Esme Nicholson, who in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic utilised the time available as a result of lockdowns and restrictions to focus on becoming her own boss.
The 24-year-old, born and bred in Leicester, runs Lulu Dog Services, a dog grooming studio based in Clarendon Park. Whilst many of Esme’s friends opted for university, she decided to revisit Brooksby Melton College to study dog grooming. After completing her course with distinction, Esme found employment and, in late 2019, was met with the realisation that she had the ability to start her own business.
“During the last few months of 2019, I was running my boss’ shop single-handed as she was on maternity leave,” Esme explained. “It was then that my dad gave me the push, telling me I could do this on my own! During the months that followed, COVID hit and lockdown meant the shop was closed, so I had no income. It was then that we cracked down on making the dream a reality.
“Although a global pandemic isn’t ideal for starting a new business it gave me the time to get my socials, advertisements and word-of-mouth spread across Leicester,” Esme continued.
“It made getting my lease on the shop very hard and very slow, as well as having to space initial appointments out for cleaning in between. A second lockdown also saw me close the shop for a further few months in between. which was hard to have to do, but luckily my customers all understood.”
Lulu Dog Services provides a host of grooming options, including fur clipping, bathing, nail clipping and, in Esme’s words, making them “look beautiful yet practical”.
“I pride myself with taking on the dogs other people won’t,” Esme adds. “The tricky or nervous dogs, and I also offer a meet-and-greet service for these kinds of dogs to visit me at the shop before any big appointments.”
When seeking funding to make her business a reality, Esme first discovered The Sir Thomas White Loan Charity through a friend, who had herself benefited from the charity’s unique interest-free business loans. From there, Esme reached out to one of the charity’s marketing consultants – Martin Hageman – who explained how the charity worked.
“The application process was very straight forward, although I did have my business-savvy dad to help me through,” explained Esme.
“The loan helped me with a lot, as I didn’t have the initial bulk to buy my very expensive equipment,” she added.
“My table and bath came to just under £2,000 which was the biggest amount I spent. It also helped with me opening my shop, paying for the flooring, a lick of paint and the advertisement for the front of my shop and car. Little things like leaflets, beer mats and the local pub helped a lot and spread the word when I couldn’t work. Leafleting became my primary job through lockdown with lots of hand sanitizer in between!”
As the country slowly gets back to normal, Esme is now focused on taking the next step and grow her business further.
“In the next year I’ll need to relocate my business, either working from a new house or a new shop,” she revealed. “I do want to start dog boarding and walking in the next few years and will be looking for part time help after the summer to start this.”
Exciting times are ahead for Esme and Lulu Dog Services, with simple words of advice for any aspiring business owner considering applying for funding from The Sir Thomas White Loan Charity.
“My advice would be to any new upcoming business needing the loan would be ‘go for it!’ Although the process got tricky sometimes with the business plan and lots of numbers, if you know your business inside and out you will be successful. The interviews were very relaxed and all the trustees were lovely throughout.
“I have, and will continue to, recommend The Sir Thomas White Loan Charity for helping my dreams come true!”
To find out more about Lulu Dog Services, please visit https://www.luludogservices.co.uk/
For more information on The Sir Thomas White Loan Charity’s interest-free business loans, please click here.