Since winning GWG Website of the Year in 2015, founder Andy Peck talks about doubling the workforce and adding rocket fuel to the company's future growth.

TrustedHousesitters helps pet owners in more than 150 countries find a solution to this universal problem. The site connects pet owners with trustworthy, reliable pet lovers who want to housesit for free, creating a win-win solution as home owners can go away with complete peace of mind that their home and pets are being cared for.

The company is still self-funded and growing fast, in the last three years the team has grown from four to 50 dedicated members. It's been an exciting eight years and during that time the site has notched up some impressive milestones which include connecting people and facilitating more than two million nights of pet sitting globally, enabling a community of nearly half a million people to travel with peace of mind, while saving nearly half a billion dollars in travel accommodation and pet care costs.

TrustedHousesitters won GWG Website of the Year in 2015 and at the time, founder, Andy Peck said, "We are very proud to win the Good Web Guide’s Website of the Year. We have a devoted and highly engaged community who continually tell us that TrustedHousesitters is an invaluable, life enriching service - this award will spur us on to continue to deliver a first class service.”

In the three years since they won the prestigious Award, we talk to Andy about how the company has grown and plans for the future.

Has your business model changed?
We’ve kept our model the same, because according to industry experts and our members, it offers the best value proposition: we keep pets happier at home when owners travel, owners have greater peace of mind, and all of this continues to appeal to commercial partners. With TrustedHousesitters, no money changes hands between sitters and owners and that builds friendship, trust and reputation. However, since 2015 we have expanded even further globally and forged great partnerships. We have agencies in Australia and the U.S and we’ve partnered with easyJet and Skyscanner. We are growing faster than ever and have members in more than 130 countries who continue to tell us we offer the best pet care solution.

What is the biggest lesson you've learned?
As you continue to grow, it’s vital to always keep the customer first. Be consistent. Be true to your brand and values. And always hire the best people.

What part does social media play in your business?
We have a beautifully effective balance between insight and digital expertise. Pets and travel inspire some of the strongest emotions on social media and our brilliant social media managers have a 50 year-age gap between them; combining experience, insight and commercial awareness.

What is your business highlight?
Our partnership with easyJet is definitely the highlight of the year so far. That, and the fact we’re in our fifth new premises in five years with a team of 50 that we’ve doubled in the past eighteen months.

What is your biggest milestone?
Winning Richard Branson’s Virgin VOOM ‘GREAT’ award for being the most innovative British export and marrying my co-founder Rachel Martin in Greece last year.

What is the strangest request from a member / strange pet / location or an incident that has made you all laugh/cry?
One story I love is about how we helped a single mum whose grown-up children live abroad, but she’d not flown in years because her dog previously had a bad experience in kennels. TrustedHousesitters gave her the confidence to choose a sitter and book flights to surprise her daughter on her 21st birthday in New Zealand. She sent us a film of her jumping out of a box on a beach, her daughter’s reaction was priceless. I’m always humbled to learn how we’re helping to enrich people’s lives through a shared love of pets and travel.

Has TrustedHousesitters picked up any other awards since 2015?
In 2016 we won Richard Branson’s GREAT Award in the Virgin VOOM pitching process for being Britain’s most innovative export. In 2017, we were awarded the Sharing Economy TrustSeal, the kitemark of best practice in the industry. Most importantly, we’re consistently rated at an average of 9.7 out of 10 on TrustPilot by pet and travel lovers who’ve experienced what we offer. We’re very proud of our world-class reputation.

What's next for TrustedHousesitters?
With a huge addressable market and winning proposition, we’re told that the business has unicorn potential. We’re self-funded to date, and are considering strategic options to add rocket fuel to our future growth.

Which social media platform works best for your brand and why?
Facebook is fantastic for our brand, for helping more and more people find out about the life-affirming experiences our members have, so from that point of view it’s an ideal platform. For further inspiration, check out our Twitter and Instagram pages - lots of cute pets too!

Who is your Internet hero and why?
Dara Khosrowshahi, former CEO of Expedia, now CEO of Uber and Steve Kaufer who founded TripAdvisor. Aside from the success they've achieved, they have great business values which to me is inspirational. We appreciate their compliments about TrustedHousesitters too (thanks!)

Name an online business you admire and why?
TripAdvisor is simple - as a helpful broad guide for travellers - rather than relying previously on one subjective opinion of a travel writer, it helps to enable a quick overview of a location and supports those many of businesses that deserve to have a reputation, while giving nowhere to hide for those that don’t. Its success highlights the importance of building a solid reputation amongst consumers.

Favourite podcast you listen to?
I tend to read online news to unwind rather than podcasts.

Favourite app for business or personal use?
Other than our own TrustedHousesitters app, coming soon, I’m going to say TripAdvisor ‘Nearmenow’ to help find a great bite to eat or place to stay when short of time.

Best piece of business advice you've been given?
Have bags of insight and data to know your market. Your gut feel counts for a lot too.

Best piece of advice you would give to someone starting out with a business?
Get insight. Get to know your customers. When we started TrustedHousesitters, my co-founder Rachel, who is now my wife, and I travelled the world to meet new members face-to-face, it gave us an invaluable understanding of our market and different cultural needs.

How many pets have you got?
We don’t have pets right now, but we’ve enjoyed countless sits around the world looking after all sorts of animals. Each has been great and we’re looking forward to the next unique experience.

June 2018