I'm Xanthe Wyse, founder of Pet Purpose in Taupo, New Zealand.
I was born in Taupo and have lived here more than half my life although I have also lived in other parts of New Zealand and Australia.
Why Pet Purpose?
I chose the name Pet Purpose as I've always had an affinity with pets. Caring for pets gives me a sense of purpose and meaning in my life.
I grew up in a family with pets including dogs, cats, rabbits and birds. I've always felt more at ease with pets than with humans. I'm a gentle introvert and need a lot of my own space from humans but I enjoy the companionship of animals.
My favourite pets are cats and I sometimes joke I am like a cat. Cats have independent natures, are sensitive, are often misunderstood and are loyal if you treat them with kindness and respect. They are also affectionate on their own terms.
A friend observed a cat relaxed on a couch and joked, 'not everything has a purpose in life.' That comment in part inspired me to choose Pet Purpose as a name as caring for pets gives me a sense of meaning and purpose. What seems to have no purpose to one person has meaning and purpose to another.
My previous dog was Zoe suffered from epilepsy which took her life when she was just two years old. She had a very beautiful nature, was easy to train and was great with children.
My cat Jaffa was adopted from a rescue. She was intially very timid but she gradually became very relaxed and affectionate with other people too. She was surprisingly bold with dogs. My next cat Rocky was adopted from a shelter. I've also had pet rats, birds and reptiles.
Starting a Pet Sitting Business
I have a science degree and teaching diploma but I've never really fit in a traditional workplace.
I left my job as an image library assistant for a publishing company in Australia and started a pet sitting business from scratch on a shoestring budget in 2011. Pet sitting was still a relatively new concept in Australia.
I designed my logo and all my own marketing materials. I trademarked my business name and built my own website. I set up pet sitting software for client data and scheduling which could be accessed from a phone app.
I approached a professional photographer who took photos of me and my pets for marketing purposes at a hugely reduced price as long as I put their name next to any images I used. My cat and dog were the mascots of my business in all my marketing.
Clients loved the amateur photos I gave them of their pets. They'd tell their friends enthusiastically about the little albums with photos I gifted them. Some of my clients framed the photos I gave them and displayed them on their wall.
I was frequently contacted by people from all around Australia asking how to start a pet sitting business. I also had frequent requests to be employed by my business. I didn't have time to mentor everyone personally but I blogged to answer their questions.
I networked with other pet sitters internationally and learned what worked for them and tried out things to find what worked for me. I also networked with animal behaviourists, dog trainers and vets.
I was often told my DIY website looked very professional. Over 90% of new clients made first contact via my website, including referrals from other clients. Which is how I preferred it - getting emails over phone calls.
My client base grew quickly. I ran my in home pet care service according to my personal values which include honesty, integrity, fairness and mutual respect. Clients were very appreciative of my personalised service.
Award-winning Pet Sitting
I won the New Business of the Year category in the 2012 Quest Business Achiever Awards in my city. Finalists were selected from public nominations and shortlisted by an interviewing and mystery shopping process.
I hired one on-going employee and another temporary employee at peak times.
I had a handful of clients when I first opened just before my first Christmas holidays. Then I had to turn people away the following three Christmas holidays as we were fully booked. Many clients booked months in advance and were regulars from the start.
Many of my clients spent over $1000 per year for pet sitting services. I cared for several hundred pets in their own homes - close to a thousand cats and dogs and also birds, fish, rodents and reptiles. They loved the convenience, flexibility, personal caring and that their pets weren't subjected to the stress of going to boarding kennels or catteries.
Pet sitting is an industry very prone to burnout, because pet sitters typically have very caring, giving natures and often work all year round. It's the number one reason pet sitting businesses fold. I was trying to guard against this by hiring staff and taking days off.
But when I was doing really well in my business, my marriage disintegrated and I was homeless in a country where I was allowed to work but was technically not a permanent resident because of immigration changes for New Zealand citizens living in Australia.
As a result from all the personal stress from my relationship breakdown, I got burnt out in my business. I sold my business to my employee for way less than it was worth. It was either that or shut it down as I didn't have the energy to prepare it for sale.
My employee was a mutual friend of me and my husband. She was abusive to me after she acquired the business for practically nothing, hence my not mentioning my old business name. The two people I trusted most had turned on me.
Just before the marriage breakup, Bailey, my beloved dog of many years, died from cancer.
Kiwis Vulnerable In Australia
Despite loathing politics, a few years before my marriage breakup, I had started an awareness campaign to help Kiwis in Australia with no pathway to citizenship because of changes to immigration laws making them temporary visitors indefinitely. I felt vulnerable because I'd learned that I had no pathway to official permanent residency and citizenship. I built a website and promoted the campaign online for nothing but my time and the Facebook page gained over 30,000 likes in a few weeks.
Shortly after the launch of the campaign, the Australian Government updated their immigration website with accurate information for New Zealanders wanting to immigrate to Australia.
The campaign was stolen by others who had their own agendas. Via the campaign, thousands of New Zealanders in Australia were able to access a loophole to gain permanent residency and citizenship. My husband and employee were amongst them. My only way was to be sponsored by my husband for thousands of dollars but he didn't sponsor me.
The Australian government has since allowed more Kiwis to access citizenship but many are still ineligible, despite having worked and lived in Australia for years.
This means that the Australian government takes billions of dollars in taxes each year from Kiwis but fails to help a large number of them if something goes wrong. Whereas the New Zealand government will assist Australians in need.
I returned to New Zealand in 2015 with nothing but two suitcases. I'd lost my husband, near-new house, cars, household contents, business, mutual friends, my beloved pets, my health and most importantly of all I was unable to see my son each day. If I had tried to take my son back to New Zealand, my ex could have had me charged with child abduction under the Hague Convention.
I was suffering from severe anxiety and depression and didn't have the energy nor money to fight my ex for possessions from a 20 year relationship. All I insisted on was that I get to see my son and that he is sponsored to become a dual Australian-New Zealand citizen so that one day if he experiences hardship he doesn't end up with no support in a country he's lived in since he was 4 years old.
I changed my name legally to Xanthe Wyse, as my old name triggered PTSD symptoms associated from trauma associated from my breakup every time anyone said it.
I used to blog as Xanthe Wyse after I won a major prize in an Australasian writing competition about mood disorders. My blogs were awarded accolades and via a writing community I gained confidence and skills that enabled me to start a business doing everything myself.
I chose the name Xanthe ('Zan-thee') after seeing a landscape gardener on TV with a lovely personality. I chose Wyse ('Wise') as I wanted a real name that represented a character trait. I'm insightful and knowledgeable and Wyse/wise means learned person.
In the final year of my marriage I got my first tattoo. It's of a cat clinging for dear life. It means 'hang in there' or 'persevere'. It also means 'survive.' I'd like to get a tattoo of a butterfly with an X shape for Xanthe on my wrist, representing freedom from abuse and new identity.
I'm starting over in my life with nothing but lessons learned. It has been incredibly hard living in a different country from my teenage son. I only get to see him 4 times per year. I am living with my parents after more than 20 years away as I can only work part-time because I am still recovering from depression and I a low stress threshold from trauma.
I work from home as a research survey interviewer. I didn't think I'd like talking to people on the phone as I'm a hermit crab extreme introvert. But I have started regaining my confidence, although it can be very stressful if someone is aggressive. I can usually manage to calm people down but it's very triggering for me.
One lady I interviewed took the time to tell me I'm a beautiful, genuine person. She asked me if I liked to hide behind a computer screen and I said I did. I am on the autistic spectrum and dealing with people is very exhausting for me. I used to be selectively mute as a child. With this job I don't have to worry about things like eye contact or much in the way of small talk. I could even work in my pyjamas as they can't see me.
Founding Pet Purpose
A friend suggested I start another pet sitting business.
I don't want to do lots of pet sitting again as I don't want to go down the track of hiring again, as I found that stressful. I need to manage my stress levels as I am susceptible to anxiety, depression and burnout. I want to stay very small, independent and solo.
People in New Zealand are unfamiliar with professional pet sitting. I'd like to create awareness and teach other people via blogging how to go about setting up a personalised pet sitting service, with particular relevance to New Zealand and Australia. I am also offering affordable websites for home pet care services.
I will write educational blog posts about home pet care as well cared for pets give me a sense of purpose. Thank you for reading my story.
Xanthe founded an award-winning pet sitting business in QLD, Australia in 2011. After selling the business, she returned to Taupo, New Zealand.
The content on this blog is intended for informational purposes only. Opinions expressed on this blog are based on Xanthe's research and personal experience and should not be taken as a substitute for legal, business, veterinarian or animal behaviourist or animal training advice from a qualified professional. Content is copyright. Please share a link if you like a post - do not copy sections. Pet Purpose only endorses cruelty-free, modern, science-based animal training methods and advocates for animal welfare.
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