Follow the Leader: Lyndsey Kenny, Pet-Bliss


For the latest in our series of interviews with business leaders from across the country, we speak to Lyndsey Kenny, owner of Pet-Bliss, about why she thinks business integrity is as important as financial return.

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Lyndsey Kenny, founder of Pet-Bliss, hasn’t always worked with animals – her background is in computer programming. But after working with some of the bigger names in Irish finance, she decided to take her IT know-how and combine it with a personal passion: animals. Having spotted a gap in the market Kenny went on to launch Pet-Bliss, Ireland’s first online pet store, over 10 years ago, alongside a bricks and mortar shop in Newtown Mount Kennedy. Now with a second location in Drogheda – and a Dublin location to follow next year – the future spells growth for Pet-Bliss.

What is your business’s elevator pitch?

“Pet-Bliss is a pet shop brand the likes of which Ireland has never seen before. Our online shop sells everything you could ever need for all manner of pets, from ferrets to fish and a lot in between – and our physical shops are themed to offer a novel, enjoyable customer experience. Our emphasis goes beyond offering our customers fair prices and excellent service – we are dedicated to providing detailed, expert advice on how best to care for your pet. Educating on animal care is very important to us.”

What was the key motivation and raison d’être behind your business?

“Ultimately the motivation for the business came out of a love of animals. I had been working for a few years in computer programming and analyst roles that I didn’t find fulfilling, but outside of work I was very interested in supporting animal rescue centres. This led me to look into the pet store options available in Ireland, and I realised there was a gap in the market.

We carried out a lot of customer research before setting up our first store – we were reluctant to commit to a hefty sum for a store frontage without first assessing market appetite – and we realised that there were a lot of people travelling from afar to Dublin for their pet supplies. So we decided to provide an alternative.”

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Looking back now at the early stages of Pet-Bliss, would you do anything differently leading the business?

“There were technical and administrative issues that we encountered early on that we have learnt lessons from and applied to the opening of our subsequent stores – things like developing a streamlined system for inputting all inventory into our till system, which caused us real issues at first.

“I would also spend more time delivering pre-training to staff, and focusing on role-play scenarios – great customer service is at the heart of our business, and I’d have liked to have put more emphasis on the development of these skills in the beginning.”

What keeps you engaged and motivated to drive the business on?

“We don’t just want to sell to our customers, we want to educate them – and this really is the driving force behind what we do. If a customer comes in looking to buy a certain animal, we will talk to them about their previous experience caring for similar animals, and will advise them if we don’t think they are making the right choice. It’s not just about what’s right for the customer, but what’s best for the animal. We are really passionate about continuing to share our learning and to help people make educated decisions around their pets.”

What does achievement and success look like for your business?

“There are key indicators, such as returning customers and great online reviews, which tell us we are delivering what our customers want.

“I could open 10 more stores tomorrow, but I wouldn’t want the qualities that make our business unique to be lost as a result” 

Lyndsey Kenny, founder, Pet-Bliss

“The fact that we have been able to grow the business from one physical shop front to two – soon three – is also a real success indicator for us. That said, I’m wary of expanding too quickly. I could open 10 more stores tomorrow, but I wouldn’t want the qualities that make our business unique – bespoke, expert advice, great customer service and an enjoyable customer experience – to be lost as a result. In many ways the integrity of our business is more important to me than financial return.”

Recommended reading: Follow the Leader: Sinead Devlin

Do you consider it a benefit or challenge to be a family-run business in a retail sector with large competing chain stores?

“In many ways this is a real challenge for us. People assume that if you have large stores in multiple locations then you must have a fortune to back you up – when in reality, if one of our businesses were to fail, the impact would be much more immediate for us than for a large corporate chain. At the same time, chain stores can undercut us on price in a way that just isn’t sustainable for a family business.

“But there are benefits to being a family-run business, not least the freedom to constantly bring new ideas to the table to best serve our customers. Innovation is the lifeblood of the family business.”

What’s the best advice you have ever been given?

“Don't expand too quickly. One of our suppliers gave me this advice and I have found it to be true – you need to take the time to properly understand your business, and the appetite of your customers, before you can look to expand.”

What has been your proudest achievement to date?

“The fact that I have been able to grow my business to a second retail shop despite all the many challenges that come with starting a business makes me very proud.

“I’m also incredibly proud of the amazing team that I have built around me. We have a very low staff turnover, and as such our staff are dedicated to Pet-Bliss and have a wealth of knowledge built up through many years in the business. They make going to work every day feel special.”

Your approach as leader is best described in which three words?

“Organisation, empathy, satisfaction.”

Did you have a role model or mentor in business who helped you establish and grow Pet-Bliss?

“My dad has previously run his own construction businesses and has also been an accountant. He had great advice when I was starting out on how to go about seeking finance, and how to manage money.”

How are you preparing and planning for Brexit in your business?

“It's currently hard to prepare as we have had no clear answers yet from either the Irish or UK governments.

“We currently source many of our products from the UK and Northern Ireland, so we have been researching Irish and European suppliers in case the tax implications of Brexit mean our UK imports become unaffordable.

“We are also looking to open more physical stores. Currently around 80% of our business takes place through our online store, and the UK is our biggest market – as we are unsure if Brexit will impact this, we want to build our local presence as much as we can.”

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