Jo Ounsley is the creator and owner of The Ings Luxury Cat Hotel which amazingly only opened in December 2013 by the deputy mayor and mayoress of Kirklees. She is supported by husband Phil and won the Networking Mummies 2014 award for New Business/Business start up category. Find them on Facebook HERE and twitter HERE
The unique nature of the Cat Hotel attracted attention from far and wide. Local media was quickly followed by radio and TV. National media and magazines featured the Hotel before going international.
They were inundated with media requests from almost every country in Europe including TV documentary crews from Munich.
Once the story went global the little Hotel in Dewsbury, Yorkshire was featured in USA, Canada, India and Japan.
Their promotional film on YouTube rocketed to 20,000 hits, 7000 hits in one day in japan!
Guest bookings began at the 'open day' and have gathered pace ever since. They have customers bringing their cats from every West Yorkshire town , Manchester, North and South Yorkshire. The furthest travellers are from Birmingham, London and Southampton ! Word of mouth has now taken over with bookings through to 2015.
"We built our cat hotel around a place we would like to take our own cats and it appears lots of people feel the same way as we did. We are providing facilities, standards and a personal service cat owners require for their love ones. These include a purpose built indoor facility with outdoor balconies, under-floor heating, double glazing. 42inch TV's, bubble tubes, mood lighting, firefly jars, activity walls, bespoke climbing trees, four poster beds with duck down pillows, designer décor, a la carte menus, and VIP Spa package. All set in a secure scenic rural location. The ultimate 5 star holiday for a cat!
We celebrate special occasions with our guests (birthdays, Xmas, Mother's Day, Halloween, Easter), for example on valentines day guests were treated to a candlelit a la carte meal along with a rose, treats and romantic movie. Mums and dads are kept updated with pictures of the guests relaxing at the hotel" Said Jo.
The customer testimonials have all being fantastic, their customers tell them they have taken the stress out of leaving their loved ones whilst away. Repeat customers are booking 2, 3 and 4 stays throughout the year, some staying for over a month at a time. For customer testimonials CLICK HERE
The Hotel has also produced unforeseen opportunities;
A Nottinghamshire school used the Hotel as inspiration for creative writing and film making. They received some fantastic letters and films from the children .
A recently released british comedy film 'eight minute idle ' used the Hotel to promote the films release. This featured a cat 'actor' from the film staying at the hotel and 'tweeting' his thoughts to his fans.
Receiving a national business award for 'start up business of the year ' has been the icing on the cake for what has been an overwhelming start for them.
Jo's previous work experience was in retail management which I gave up over 10 yrs ago to bring up a disabled child.
Jo Says "I wanted to get back into work and always had a passion for animals, design and strong views on providing great personal customer service. This is the perfect job for me, In fact it doesn't feel like a job it's a pleasure to get up and look after our guests every day!"
The Networking Mummy National awards have given Jo and the hotel even more publicity, they have just released another press release about winning this award and have already had confirmation they will make local papers, Jo aim's to make local radio (and at a push she would like a another feature on local TV).
With all this attention in such a small space of time it does mean this is the 1st award Jo has entered and what a fantastic achievement to go on to becoming the Winner of her category.
By entering Jo wanted to achieve a number of things- Peer recognition from other small businesses and an acknowledgement that her business idea is viable, unique and interesting.
Her 3 key points she feels helped her win are:
Unique business idea, there is nothing like this in the country!
Interesting people are intrigued and want to know more (everyone loves furry little animals)
A strong application, which gave sufficient information for judges to assess.
We asked Jo what she had learned from this experience "Confidence, Meeting some great inspirational people, Made new friends / contacts and an Increased motivation to push the business on".
Jo loved the awards night itself and said it was a Professional production in a quality venue with a quality MC. "It was a well structured night which maintained everyone's interest and attention" said Jo. She added "I really proud of myself to win. Although we have only opened at the end of 2013 this business was 2 yrs in the planning. We had many hurdles to get over and there were times I wondered if we would ever open ! Winning the award made all the hard work and stress worth while"
Plans for Jo, Phil and the hotel in the future are strong as they continue to build the brand, and client base and have several TV companies and documentary makers in talks to come and film.