It’s a dog’s life as GymDog gives pets a healthier option

Kildare vet Des Groome has expanded his practice to focus on GymDog, a healthcare-driven service for dogs centred around fitness, nutrition and socialisation.

Des Groome, owner of the Kildare Vet Surgery, has been running a successful business since 1999. But his latest venture GymDog is set to become a location of first resort for dog owners who want to keep their beloved hounds in fine fettle.

Groome has created a resort-style day care service centres around fitness, nutrition and socialisation as well as a GymDog and GymCat food range to support the wellness of our various fur babies.

“The mission of GymDog is to help dogs live their best natural lives through wellness, fitness, diet and therapy if they need it”

“My interests as a vet have always been in the area of disease prevention,” he explained. “25 years in the field of pet care has convinced me that most health problems presented to me could be prevented with better lifestyle, exercise, feeding and management for those pets. Basically our domestication of pets and the lifestyle and habits we put in place for our pets causes a lot of the health issues that keep vets busy.”

Natural instincts

Cute dogs running.

Photo by Alvan Nee on Unsplash

Groome explained that in recent years dog behavioural problems have become more prevalent for exactly the same reasons.

“Domestication of pets is leading to behavioural problems due to our busy human routines interfering with a pets need to express their natural instincts.”

GymDog was formed to meet these needs. A unique vet-led, healthcare-driven service for dogs centred around a day care service for dogs with a fitness , education, nutrition and socialisation focus. The mission of GymDog is to help dogs live their best natural lives through wellness, fitness, diet and therapy if they need it.

“So the veterinary hospital was developed into a pet resort and all these services we already offered were redeveloped as the GymDog concept of helping dogs live their best lives through wellness, fitness, diet, therapy.

“The GymDog and GymCat food was brought out our recipes and we educate dog owners in particular about the relationship  between exercise , feeding, health and behaviour.”

An online presence A Pet’s Life was launched recently to build the GymDog community and sell the GymDog food online

Groome explained that the core product is a membership plan for vet care, day care, boarding and nutrition for your pet through a monthly fee.

A vision for better pet care

A vet of more than 30 years, Groome says that he has always been entrepreneurial and at home with technology. “I set up the first online vet service Video Vet in 2017 in Ireland. I believe the future of vet care will be bricks and clicks, will be membership based, subscription models are just getting started. The idea of incorporating vet care into a lifestyle concept is unique to GymDog and is just getting started.”

He said Bank of Ireland was supportive of his vision. “Amanda Mc Dermott in Kildare was very helpful with start-up lending for GymDog but there was no grant aid for what I needed which was facilities development and business growth.”

Groome believes there needs to be broader supports available in Ireland for small businesses.

He said that because it wasn’t an app, didn’t have export potential and it was going to be an indigenous service concept the State bodies weren’t interested. “I funded it myself and it has doubled revenue each of the last three years and now employs 20 local people in Kildare.”

An eye on the horizon

Groome isn’t currently seeking venture funding but is watching the crowdfunding space with interest and is complimentary of the work Spark Crowdfunding is doing in the Irish start-up landscape.

He said the aftermath of the global financial crash taught him the value of tenacity and hard work. “I learned to be very careful how and when I spend my own hard-earned money. That financial prudence learned the hard way is why GymDog has grown slowly and organically and to date I retain 100% ownership of the company.”

His advice to fellow founders? “Avail of the best advice before starting.

“Get some formal business education very early in your career but not immediately after graduating.

“Don’t get too hung up on the business plan but convince yourself first that your service solves a problem, that your problem fills a niche. Then go after that market.

“Keep it simple – don’t try to sell too much, do too much. Monetise your skill/service/product easily and quickly.

“Be ready to work very hard, be flexible, be change-ready. If work life balance is a priority then go work for someone else.

“Figure out where and how to find your customers

“It’s all about digitalisation. Outsource, don’t employ as much as possible in the beginning.

In terms of technology, Groome keeps his team agile. “We have a great cloud-based software platform called VetDrive which all the team have on their phones. It has fantastic data capture and communication capability and is the best investment I have made recently.”

Main photo at top: Background photo by Hannah Lim on Unsplash

John Kennedy
Award-winning editor John Kennedy is one of Ireland's most experienced business and technology journalists.