Minding the Full House

To launch a new business you need passion, drive and lots of self-belief. Minding My Own Business asks entrepreneurs what they did right and wrong, so that others can learn from their lessons.

Lisa McFarlane runs a professional homesitting, pet-minding, and personal organizer service for city and rural properties in the Canterbury area.

What did you do before this?

Lived in London for 41/2 years doing investment banking graduate recruitment for Credit Suisse and Goldman Sachs.

Why did you want to change?

London had lost its charm and I missed home – and especially working with animals. Also, I have always wanted to be in control of my own business, because I’m not the best person to be told what to do.

Where did the idea come from?

Having grown up on a farm, and adoring animals, I wanted to use my love for fluffy creatures with my recruitment experience, and this seemed the logical thing to do. As there was no service in existence in Christchurch, it seemed like the need for such an organization was long overdue.

What made you think there was a market?

Talking to family friends made me realise that many people, especially farmers and small lifestyle block owners, found it increasingly difficult to get away. Coupled with the growing incidence of robberies and property invasion, this all means people are reluctant to leave their homes unattended.

After three years of organising homesits, it has also become clear how much the small things in life are appreciated – a freshly mown lawn, milk in the fridge, a happy walked dog and lasagne in the oven ready for the family’s return. what could be nicer after a long journey?

What is the smartest thing you have done?

Deciding that if I were going to do it, I would do it properly – professionally or not at all. The sitters would be police-checked and reference-checked, and if I didn’t have the right person then I would do it myself. It’s so important for all parties to be happy or how can one go on holiday and enjoy? The sitters are my business, and without their constant loyalty and respect they have for each individual home and animal it just wouldn’t work.

What is the dumbest thing you have done?

Set up a price structure based on what animal boarding establishments were charging when in fact we’re offering a completely different and much more comprehensive series. What is especially hard is having nothing much in the South Island to compare this with.

What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced?

Not having someone else to share the load when the pressure comes on. Sometimes it’s nice to be able to walk away and leave it with the boss to deal with, but now – there have been sleepless nights.

What is the one piece of advice you wish somebody had given you?

Make user you have the motivation inside you to do this. There are times initially when I thought I didn’t have the guts and determination to run my own business and receiving phone calls at all hours of the day and night can sometimes be frustrating. But at the end of the day, the positive feedback that my clients give me about the service makes it all worth while. It’s what motivates me to keep going.