Teesside shop becomes “college of knowledge” for pet owners

A shop run by an animal expert and graduate has become a “college of knowledge” to help customers care for their pets.

Lucy Martin-Hall studied Animal Management at college before opening Leo Libra Pet Supplies at the Dundas Indoor Market in Middlesbrough in 2018.

She has just completed an Open University degree in Business and Marketing through Middlesbrough College and – despite the pandemic – her business is going from strength to strength.

“I started it to be my own boss and I was confident that I knew about animals.  I was less certain about running a business, but I’m not alone.  The majority of businesses in the UK are small businesses and they contribute such a massive amount to the economy,” said Lucy, who is 23 and lives in Redcar.

Lucy Martin-Hall with a picture of Dixie who won her calendar competition

Lucy Martin-Hall with a picture of Dixie who won her calendar competition

She grew up surrounded by pets and, as well as her studies, did voluntary work at animal shelters and vets.

Lucy said she has learned a lot in nearly four years – including how to ice birthday cakes for customers’ pets.  During lockdown, in addition to running her shop, she decided that her business would benefit through further study.  Lucy said the hard work has been worth it and encouraged her to think more about aspects such as marketing.

That, for example, has seen her run a Christmas competition which asked owners to choose the best pet pictures for a Leo Libra 2022 calendar.  The response was overwhelming.

A steady stream of regular customers visit Lucy’s shop to buy products to keep their animals happy and healthy and pick her brain for advice.

“A young family might come to the shop and perhaps they don’t know much.   I’m able to point them in the direction and I hope the children will grow up loving animals,” she said.

It seems likely that the demand for Leo Libra’s services will continue.  The latest survey by the Pet Food Manufacturers’ Association found that more than 3 million UK households had acquired a pet since the start of the pandemic.  There are now 34 million pets including 12 million dogs, 12 million cats, around 3 million guinea pigs and hamsters, 3 million birds and 1.5 million reptiles.  A further 5 million households have a fish tank.  Lucy said rabbits and rats are particularly popular on Teesside.

David Harris, the manager of Dundas Indoor Market, said Leo Libra provides customers with a service they can’t find anywhere else: “It’s more than a shop, it’s a real college of knowledge.  Lucy is a perfect example of the type of independent trader we encourage here.”

He added: “She has an incredible knowledge about animals and pet welfare and was determined to channel her passion through a business.   She deserves huge credit for working so hard and the result is there to see for any pet owner who visits her shop.”