When Lisa Mcfarlane returned to New Zealand in 2000, she says she was "stressed out and burned out after five years working in London. "I was doing long hours in the HR department of a big investment bank in London and was sick of travelling on the tube and working in a 16-storey building with hundreds of other people. I just wanted to be back at home doing something for myself.
With her skills in recruitment and a love of animals and people, Lisa (who was 24 at the time) decided to start Town & Country Homesit, to provide homesitting and pet-minding services for clients in Christchurch city and several outlying Canterbury towns, lifestyle blocks and farms. "The first thing I did was advertise for home-sitters, and I had six on my books when I finally got my first client a few months later. That's when things really started to take off.
Lisa's home-sitters take care of clients' homes and pets, ensuring that things run just as smoothly as when the owners themselves are home. "Pets can stay in their familiar environment and keep to their normal feeding and exercise routines. Our home-sitters also do general maintenance jobs like lawn mowing, pool care, and mail collection, watering plants and forwarding messages. We can also arrange services like gardening, pet grooming, window and carpet cleaning, or anything the client would like organised in their absence.
Lisa does stringent background checks on her home-sitters and meets personally with the clients in their own homes to ensure she is engaging the right sitter for the job. Several of the company's home-sitters specialise in looking after lifestyle blocks and farms. Lisa grew up on a high country farm herself, so has a great affinity with her rural clients.
With no previous business experience, Lisa says she played it by ear in the early days of running the company. "I didn't know how to read a profit and loss statement or a balance sheet. so I did a few Canterbury Development Corporation courses which helped a lot." By 2005, the success of Lisa's business saw her chosen as one of ten young New Zealand entrepreneurs to be profiled by the New Zealand Centre for Small & Medium Enterprise Research at Massey University.
Lisa worked part time at Television New Zealand to supplement her income until the business grew big enough ' to support her full time in 2006. It was while she was working there that Lisa met her fiance, Hamish Clark, who is now a newsreader for TV3. "Hamish is my rock and a fantastic support. My mum, Helen, has also been brilliant. She has helped me run the business since day one.
Lisa's business requires her clients to put a great deal of trust in her.
"After eight years in business I have built a high level of trust with my clients, and I wouldn't want one rotten egg to put my businesses on the line. That's why I do all the appropriate background checks on people. When I was younger I never thought I would have the courage to start one business, so to have two niche businesses is incredibly exciting."