Pet shop owner Hannah James is herself a pet owner and told us she’s always loved animals; ‘I’ve got lots at home. I’ve got chickens, turkeys, guinea pigs, a cat, a dog, and a snake – I’ve had all sorts of animals’.
Hannah worked for the NHS as a cost accountant for 23 years before following her love for animals and buying her own pet shop, the Brighton Pet Shed. We asked her about how she started her business and why she loves it.
What inspired you to start the business?
My local pet shop went up for sale and I half-jokingly said I’d buy it. I then looked into it but unfortunately didn’t have the funds, but it had really sown a seed. I got really excited by the idea of working with animals and helping people. That was the moment, and then I kept thinking about it. Then I was lucky enough to get some money and open up a business from scratch.
Why did you choose this location ?
It was more luck. I googled pet shops in Brighton and looked for an area without a pet shop that might support my business philosophy. I love the area, I used to work around the corner, so know it very well. There were two shops available for sale but this was near a vet practice, between two parks, and bigger. It felt right for me.
What’s a typical day?
I get here at about 8.30am, walking my dog on the way. I get everything out; I try to make it neat and tidy and stock the shelves. I then serve customers, do admin, and research new products. Everything I sell is natural or local. A lot of the products are wheat-free or from a small business.
Have you had any challenges?
Initially I stocked some of the wrong things as they didn’t sell. I’m also not very good at the hard sell, but everything in my shop I believe in.
People do steal, or try to scam you, and this is upsetting when it’s your own business and it’s putting food on your table.
What advice would you give?
Buying a pet shop is really hard work but worthwhile. Don’t expect to make much money unless you have a really great idea.
Customer service is key for an independent business, the experience the customers have will bring them back to you.
What makes your shop unique?
Me. And my natural product focus, and good quality food. I also try and be a bit quirky and support local business.
What’s your favorite thing about running your own business?
I love meeting peoples’ pets; people often pop-in for a treat, after being at the vet. I particularly enjoy meeting puppies. I also enjoy helping people, for example if a dog has itchy skin, or bad breath, or is suffering from anxiety, these can be solved by good diet. I like it when they come back and tell me my advice has helped.