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Pets – a sector full of possibilities
We can hear barking from the majestic spruce forest along Ketunpesäntie Street in Joensuu. Anita Seppälä is taking the Bernese Mountain Dog Sanni for a walk. Anita Seppälä and her husband Hannu Seppälä have been running the Moppe ja Miiru pet boarding services since 2011. Pet boarding services are a growing sector, as Finns love their pets – particularly dogs.
According to Statistics Finland, there are approximately 700 000 dogs and almost 600 000 cats in Finland. Both dogs and cats as well as pet rodents are welcome to Moppe ja Miiru pet boarding.
– The most exotic resident so far has been a four-toed hedgehog. As it is a nocturnal animal, it ran in its running wheel through the nights and slept soundly through the days inside a fleece cap, Anita Seppälä reminisces.
From plan to action
When the Seppäläs moved to Ketunpesäntie Street, there were two loose boxes for horses at the back of the garage, left there by the previous owner. A few times the boxes provided a space for the Seppäläs’ friends’ dogs. That is where the idea came from.
– We started thinking about the idea of pet boarding. We realised we wouldn’t be able to offer it as a paid service alongside our day jobs at the time. Then there was the question of space. We visited many pet boarding centres to see what kind of place, facilities, surface materials, pathways in and out, and security would be the most sensible option.
We started putting the plan into practice in autumn 2011. At that point, the construction of a space of over 200 square metres commenced. It was finished in May 2012.
Modern services for pets
In comparison to the international pet boarding market, Finnish people trust in the natural approach. A dog is a dog, and it does not need a Burberry raincoat to go out for a walk. Appropriate facilities, food and rest, nature, and a chance to move about are the best things for dogs when they need to spend a while in a pet boarding centre.
The Moppe ja Miiru pet boarding services have taken into consideration the many needs and characteristics of pets. Senior pets, the shy ones and smaller dogs are offered more privacy. Working dogs, such as police dogs and border control dogs, also enjoy their privacy. Dogs trained to use force are not taken out for walks on a leash, but they can access the outside kennel through a pet door. Cats stay in a separate cat facility.
– Each cat has its own exit, which makes it safe for them to move about without disturbing the others. Safety, comfort, hygienic considerations and sustainability have been taken carefully into account in the planning of the pet boarding centre, Seppälä says.
A growing sector
According to a Household Budget Survey conducted by Statistics Finland in 2016, almost 450 000 households have a dog. Today, the number is, in fact, greater, as many people took a dog as a pet during the coronavirus period. According to the Finnish Kennel Club, the number of registered dogs increased by almost 17% in 2021. The pet boarding centre on Ketunpesäntie Street has also gained new canine customers. All in all, however, the COVID-19 era has been a painful time for the sector.
– The pandemic brought work-related travelling and holidays to a halt. All of a sudden, pets simply did not need boarding anymore. When the restrictions came into force, our phone was ringing for two days solid. Every single booking was cancelled. And when domestic travelling picked up again, people took their pets with them in their motorhome or caravan, Anita Seppälä describes the difficult period.
This challenging time came to an end in April 2022. People started travelling again, and needed the services provided by Moppe ja Miiru. In comparison to last year, the company turnover will almost double this year.
In general, the pet sector is a really big business worldwide. Pet care services are also a growing business sector. Daycare services for dogs have already landed in Finland, but according to Anita Seppälä, this is not visible in the Joensuu area as yet.
– We can, of course, offer daycare services for pets, but it doesn’t seem to be a trend in this area yet.
A lot of potential for development
When the Seppäläs selected entrepreneurship in 2011 and made a significant investment in the facilities on Ketunpesäntie Street, they had a 10-year plan. The goal was to have an established clientele and activities in ten years’ time. When the time would come to let go, it would be easy for the successor to develop the business activities further. They had many development ideas in mind – ideas that are still topical.
– There is a high demand for dog grooming services; a well-cared for dog coat and nails are an important part of pet care. Dog massage can also be helpful in many situations, and requires proper training. And if you have enough experience and skills, there are plenty of people interested in puppy courses and dog training, Anita Seppälä lists some examples.
One of the enablers for development is Moppe ja Miiru’s own quiet property. There is enough space for an outside run or similar.
Help from Business Joensuu
When faced with the troubles of COVID-19, the Seppäläs looked into the future with the help of Business Joensuu.
– We noticed an ad for a workshop organised by North Karelian Entrepreneurs and Business Joensuu. The goal was to look for a successor to the company. In connection with the workshop, a workbook was created, describing the entire story of the company from its roots to its goals, and from its mission to its future prospects. The person in charge of the workshop, Business Specialist Jouko Piirainen from Business Joensuu, was relaxed and inspiring in his role. He was teaching us in a very hands-on way, Anita Seppälä says with gratitude.
Seppälä also regards the DigiGrow service of Business Joensuu as equally rewarding.
– I’m not a computer nerd, quite the contrary. I’d never have thought that a digital training course could be so good! Everything was explained and taught in a very practical manner. All the participants understood what was going on. For us, DigiGrow opened up opportunities to develop the online presence of our company, and to understand Google analytics and the opportunities offered by social media.
Text: Sirkka-Liisa Aaltonen/Viestintä Ässä Oy
Image: Jarno Artika