Ever wanted to be your own boss? Well, plenty of Brisbanites are. In our latest regular feature, we’ll be profiling ordinary people who have taken the plunge and started their own business. This week, the spotlight is on Amy Caris…
“I was working as an accountant for a Big Four accounting firm in Sydney, working really long hours,” Amy remembers. “I was outsourcing my life – I had a cleaner and a dog walker and all of these services to help me.
“I have a dog, and he was going off on little beach holidays while I was at work. I was being sent pictures from Wendy, the lady who used to walk him, saying ‘We’re here!’ and ‘We’re there!’ all around Sydney. And I thought, wait a second — I would like to be that person!
“I started doing a little bit more research into dog walking, and realised there was a market in Brisbane. I started setting up the website at night while I was working, then I took the plunge and quit!”
Amy started her business, Paw By Paw, 12 months ago. It helps pets maintain a happy, healthy and active lifestyle by customising its services to fit the needs of each client — from playful pups to grumpy cats. The company currently services all inner city suburbs, and is rapidly expanding into Brisbane North, South, East and West.
“Firstly, I did a flyer drop around local areas. That wasn’t particularly successful, but then I started getting the website to rank using Google AdWords. That did the trick. I started getting customers from that point forward, and it’s built really quickly from there.”
Not happy running one small business, overachiever Amy soon started to think about the other services she struggled to find as a working professional.
“I had a cleaner myself, and I knew she was in high demand. I knew how hard it was to find her, and how hard it was to find someone you can rely on, someone who would work around that professional lifestyle, as opposed to making you work around them.
“So the idea for The Cleaning Studio came from wanting to have a business that helped people who were in the position I was previously in, where you’re working long hours and you need that help. It wasn’t because I have a particular love of cleaning. I mean, I have a clean home and I like to be organised, but, you know…”
While Amy doesn’t necessarily love to clean, her employees do. She personally vets each of them to make sure they have the relevant experience and a passion for the gig, and Amy thinks her “very thorough recruitment process”, as well as her flexibility, is what sets her businesses apart from others.
“I’d still like to expand further into other home services. That’s the ultimate plan… I want to develop a whole suite of services where people know they can go to one place and find someone they can rely on and someone who will customise a service to them.
“Something I found when I was a professional was that you’d call and they’d say, ‘Yeah, we can come and clean the carpets or do whatever you need done, but you need to be home between 9 and 5’. And that doesn’t work for someone who’s a professional. So if you can speak to a customer and say, ‘Sure, when do you start work?’ They say 7:30, and you say you’ll be there to meet them at 7, and then you’ll be back throughout the day to do the service… they love that, because you’re working around them, as opposed to making them do the reverse.”
Amy isn’t going to an office and sitting behind a desk everyday anymore, but that doesn’t mean her life has gotten any easier. As you’d expect, owning your own business is a full-time job, at the very least.
“I never switch off. That’s the difference. I suppose it’s a completely different kind of stress to what I had before. It’s exciting, because it’s my own and it’s building. But it can be really full on, because my mind never really turns away from it. It’s not like there’s a point where I’m like, ‘Yay, it’s Friday!’ or ‘Oh no, it’s Monday!’ It just rolls on every day. It’s constant.”
A year on from her decision to ditch her lucrative day job and strike out on her own, Amy has no regrets.
“I realised pretty quickly that I wasn’t motivated by money. That’s why I left the job I had. That was a good and successful career path, but for me, it’s about a lifestyle. Obviously money would benefit that lifestyle, but to be able to earn it while having the time to see my family, my boyfriend, my friends, to do all of that… that’s really nice.
“It means I can schedule my week in a way where I still have time to go and visit my best friend and her newborn baby on a Monday; I can plan things like that if I want to, and still work a big week around it. I just don’t want to end up in a situation where I’m sacrificing all of those things that are important to me for the sole purpose of making money.”
Ultimately, Amy’s advice for readers thinking of starting their own business is simple.
“I think it’s about making that decision for you, and not for anybody else. I thought about it for a long time, and I had a lot of people saying, ‘Are you sure it’s the right decision? You’ve worked really hard to get where you are.’ And obviously you do have to think about those things, but at the end of the day, you can always go back to that safer path.
“There were times when I contemplated it. Things were tough, and finances weren’t as good as they were when I was in a 9-5 job getting paid every month. But eventually, if you’ve got the determination to push through that, you can make it work. If it hadn’t worked, there’s always a back-up plan.
“So I’d say… give it a go!”