Jennifer Ryder, inset, started developing plans for her five star cat hotel in Barnsley in 2018 and, after noticing a dramatic rise in pet ownership since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, the site is running at close to full capacity in its first year.
With the aim of creating a home-from-home experience, each of the 12 rooms features underfloor heating, hand-made pine beds and large window seats which overlook a specially created cat-friendly garden.
A life-long cat lover, Mrs Ryder decided to build her dream cat hotel after noticing changes in behaviour in her own pets when they were sent to catteries during their annual holidays.
When she and her family relocated to the rural village of Cawthorne, she started putting her plans into action, transforming some of the land surrounding her home into her dream cat hotel, built to her own specifications.
The new entrepreneur called upon help from Launchpad, Sheffield City Region Growth Hub’s free business support programme which helps new entrepreneurs to unlock the potential in their ideas.
Working with an experienced business adviser Mrs Ryder began formulating plans to transform her dreams into a reality and took part in a range of workshops, as well as one-to-one training sessions, helping her to reach cat lovers across the region and develop a clear business plan.
Her efforts paid off and even before the hotel had opened for business Mrs Ryder was crowned Aspiring Entrepreneur of the Year at the Launchpad Business Awards, an event which showcased and celebrated the achievements of new business owners across the region.
Despite facing a challenging first year of trading as a result of travel restrictions curtailing family holiday plans for much of 2020, the business surpassed all of her expectations and managed to make a small profit as she tapped into the staycation market as well as offering a safe haven as homeowners turned to tackle lockdown DIY projects.
So far this year, Mrs Ryder said the business has been in high demand attracting bookings from both repeat customers and news ones too.
She said: “I decided to launch the business because I felt I’d spotted a niche in the market. We are a family of pet lovers with a lifetime’s experience of looking after cats.
“We recognised that many people treat their feline friends as members of their family and can often feel guilty about sending their cats to a cattery when they go on holiday.
“I wanted to create a relaxing, pleasant environment which replicated the surroundings of their own homes.”
She added: “As a small business, we wanted to replicate the love and attention cats receive in their own homes with lots of interactive play, cuddles and treat, and throughout their stay we regularly keep owners updated by sharing pictures of their adventures, which provides comfort and reassurance, enabling them to enjoy their holidays without worrying about the welfare of their pets.”
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