One year on: ‘The best thing I did was buy a ticket to the StartUp Show.’

One year on: ‘The best thing I did was buy a ticket to the StartUp Show.’
Lorna Bladen
Lorna BladenOfficial

Posted: Tue 16th Jan 2024

As StartUp Show 2024 approaches, I caught up with Tessa Luke, founder of WITHMAX, who joined us one year ago at the January 2023 event.

They don’t call them man’s best friend for nothing. Founder of dog training and walking business, WITHMAX, Tessa Luke’s border collie, Max, came to her when she needed him the most – while she was studying for her National Diploma in animal care. During their time together, Max managed to inspire Tessa’s change in career paths.

Here she tells the story of how Max inspired her business venture and how StartUp Show 2023 gave her the tools and inspiration to take her business to the next level.

Tell us the story behind WITHMAX? 

I started WITHMAX in 2018 soon after losing my border collie, Max. I studied for a National Diploma in animal care and canine behaviour before moving into zookeeping, grooming and finally, vet nursing.

My plan was to go to university to study and qualify as a vet, but Max changed the direction of my career since he had problem behaviours himself. Learning how to deal with them and how my behaviour around Max caused these behaviours was a real eye-opener. Because of him, I became fascinated by human and dog behaviour.

Fast forward to 2024, we offer a wide range of services from social group walking to puppy and dog training across a range of problematic behaviours.

What inspired you to attend StartUp Show in January 2023?

Running a business has not always been something that has come easy to me. I don’t come from a family of business owners or have anyone particularly close who even runs a small business. To be honest, I had absolutely no idea what I was doing when I started.

I’ve got a couple of people I follow online who inspired me to get started. One of those is Sarah Ashcroft. I saw that she was talking at the StartUp Show and really wanted to attend. Sarah isn’t involved in the animal sector but has created a successful clothing brand, starting from the bottom. I’d followed her journey, so hearing she was going to be talking about this was interesting. It’s super inspiring to hear someone talk about their journey to success.  

Sarah Ashcroft StartUp Show
Looking further into StartUp Show and the other talks like how to run social media, how to get grants and networking opportunities, pushed me to buy my ticket. It was the best thing I could have done because I got so much out of it. 

What were some of the best business lessons you learnt at the show in 2023?

That success doesn’t come overnight. I found myself in the talks of four different business owners and their stories were all similar about the work they had put in to get to where they are today.

I also learnt about the availability of people willing to help push your business since having a good discussion with a business mentor. We spoke about the idea of creating business plans and how to get people interested in investing in your business, something I wasn’t aware of before.

I also ended up getting some great PR in a local newspaper. I got speaking to a gentleman at the event who ran the UK StartUp Awards and said I should put myself forward for an award. I did just that and got nominated for the award in the B2C sector.

Alongside that they showed me how to get myself into local newspapers to push for votes, getting the business noticed. I even got some work out of that! Learning how to contact local press was pretty easy, leading to a full page spread in the Argus, all about me and the dogs!

What has been your proudest achievement since starting your business?

Honestly, learning more about myself and how resilient I can be. I had no idea what I was doing when I started. Now, we are fully booked for social walking with 56 dogs walking every week. In 2023, we trained 135 puppies and worked with over 56 behavioural cases for dog training. 

I have now also started running collaborations on my social media profiles with clothing brands, pet food chains and a pet washer brand, which has been so useful. I’ve kept the business going for six years now with healthy growth. To me, that is the biggest achievement.

What has changed since attending the show?

Since attending the StartUp Show, I’ve written up a clear business plan, which I still share with my mentor. In 2024, I plan to expand. I’m currently studying for a degree to qualify as a canine behaviourist and would like to move more into this field.

The plan is to expand and have two new dog walkers to take on the social group walking and employ two more trainers to help with the puppy and dog training. By the end of 2024, if I could have a team of five of us, that would be absolutely amazing!

If you had a tip to share with others looking to become their own boss, what would it be?

I have a few: 

  • Don’t be afraid to start! If you have a fire burning within you to start something you are truly passionate about, just take the leap

  • Don’t wait to have it all figured out and don’t believe you need a huge lump sum of money to start your own business 

  • Hard work and determination will get you results, not how smart you are or how much money you have 

  • It's possible to start from the very bottom and work your way up. Just be prepared to understand it won't happen overnight or even in a year  

  • Be patient and trust in the process. I would say after my third year, I really started to see results and what I was capable of 

Finally, who are you most looking to meet at StartUp Show?

I know that it is the 10th anniversary of the event and there are going to many so many great talks to celebrate this huge milestone. For me, I am most looking forward to seeing Angharad Carrick, reporter at This is Money and Mail Online. After gaining more knowledge about PR last year and how easy it can be, hearing more about how to engage with journalists is something I am really interested in.

Katey McElroy from TikTok on the Let's Get Social stage will also be a must-see! I want to up my TikTok game this year, so I will definitely find myself a seat during her session too.

Make 2024 your year at StartUp Show: Book your tickets now
StartUp Show: Book now!

Enterprise Nation's 10th StartUp Show takes place in London on Saturday, 27 January 2024. Buy your tickets today and hear from over 100 expert speakers.

Lorna Bladen
Lorna BladenOfficial
I'm the CMO at Enterprise Nation and I have over a decade of experience working in marketing and across the small business space.  I am based in Brighton, West Sussex and I thoroughly enjoy investing my time in developing my marketing and community-building skills to support UK entrepreneurs.  I have experience across social media, digital marketing, content production, PPC and partnership building. My previous roles have included: Head of Marketing at Escape The City Head of Partnerships at Moneypenny Head of Marketing and Communications at StartUp Britain Establishing myself as a freelance marketing consultant Working pro-bono for ambitious start-ups

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