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Valleys entrepreneur has pawfect potential for business success

A 21-year-old from Rhondda Cynon Taff has opened a new dog grooming business with the ultimate goal of becoming a Crufts champion ‘Groomer of the Year’.

Rebecca Lewis from Treorchy, founded her dog grooming business, Vanity Hounds, after volunteering for over 18 months at a local groomers getting experience.

The business opened late last year and in just a few months Rebecca has built up a solid base of regular clientele at her salon in Treorchy. Vanity Hounds offers a range of services including dog grooming done specifically to the breed, nail clipping and teeth cleaning in a cage free-environment.

Rebecca said: “I left school at 18 knowing that I didn’t want to follow an academic career path. But having grown up with an immense love and passion for animals I was sure I wanted a career working with them.

“I would regularly take my dogs to the groomers and it made me think it would be a career I would really enjoy.”

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Rebecca honed her skills and learnt about the industry at the Welsh Grooming Academy in Neath.

She continued: “After volunteering for a long time at a local dog groomers, it was clear I would need to get the correct qualifications for me to be able to turn this passion into a business. The training was intense at times, but it confirmed how much I enjoyed the work.”

Rebecca started her business with the help of Big Ideas Wales, the youth entrepreneurship service in Wales. Big Ideas Wales is part of Business Wales and is funded by the Welsh Government and the European Regional Development Fund.  The service is aimed at anyone between the age of 5 and 25 who wants to develop a business idea.

Talking about the service, Rebecca said: “The main challenge I had when wanting to start Vanity Hounds was having enough funding to support it, as I was volunteering at the time and had no regular income. I found Big Ideas Wales through my own online research and contacted them to see if they could help.

“The service has been great, in particular my business advisor Mark Adams, who has helped me to develop a business plan and is always on hand to offer guidance. Big Ideas Wales also pointed me in the direction of Start Up Loans, which provided me with financial support.

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“I found everyone at Big Ideas Wales very approachable and friendly and it was clear they really wanted to support me with my dream of owning my own business.”

Knowing that word of mouth would be key to the success of her business, Rebecca held an open day the weekend before she officially opened Vanity Hounds to meet members of the public who have now become regular clients.

Later this year, Rebecca hopes to expand her services by attending the Welsh Grooming Academy to achieve her qualification in cat grooming.

Rebecca said: “I believe there is a gap in the market for adding cat grooming to my services, as there are only a small number of cat groomers in the local area. I hope that diversifying my offering will give my business longevity too.”

With work experience fundamental to Rebecca’s development in the industry, she is keen to offer the same support to other young people interested in the career in the future. But for now she has her sights set on becoming a Crufts grooming champion by getting plenty of experience behind her.

Mark Adams, Big Ideas Wales business advisor, has been working closely with Rebecca to help her start her business. He said: “Rebecca had a real passion for her business and has worked really hard to get where she is today. I am sure her ambition and determination will serve her well for the future and I wish her all the best in achieving her dreams.”

Lee Waters, Valleys Taskforce Chair and Deputy Minister for Economy and Transport said about the new venture: “It’s great to see young people accessing the skills and business support available and succeeding in making a difference in our communities. Rebecca is an inspiration to other young entrepreneurs in the South Wales valleys.  I hope some of the plans I will be taking forward through the Valleys Taskforce will enable more young people in the region to take advantage of these opportunities in the future.”

Rebecca finished with a piece of advice for fellow young entrepreneurs, saying: “If you’re a young person with a great business idea, go for it. You’ll never know unless you try and you would regret it otherwise. But be prepared for hard work and understand you won’t be a millionaire overnight.”

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