Dogs Get In The Swim With Support Of LEP Funding

Swimming sessions for dogs run by a mother and daughter team from Norwich have been expanded to include hydrotherapy with support from New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership.

George and Rachel Lambert launched Doggy Paddle last year after noticing on walks with their water-mad Labradors Blue and Tinker how few public places there were to swim due to pollutants in the water, harsh temperatures or dangerous currents, as well as the damage to wildlife habitats caused by dogs.

Owners can book in their dogs for 30 minutes of playing fetch or just splashing around in a heated 24-foot pool. And despite Covid-19 restrictions and lockdown closures, the business has already run over 600 sold-out sessions and welcomed more than 1,000 dogs and their owners.

Nine companies run by University of East Anglia students and alumni have now been awarded Grow It grants of £7,500 from LEP’s generous support of the UEA’s Enterprise Fund, set up to empower entrepreneurs. The recipients are: Kaboni Energy, Teleport, Long Cat Media, Doggy Paddle, Hutch, Grippitz, Bare Kind, Desyr, and Reel Connections.

The LEP provided an initial donation of £250,000 and has pledged a further £500,000 to be used for both Grow It and Scale It awards distributed by the UEA Enterprise Fund. An investment of £250,000 from the LEP’s Growing Places Fund helped fund the development of the UEA’s award-winning Enterprise Centre, which provides incubator and business spaces for new businesses and is a centre of excellence in new energy-efficient technologies.

George and Rachel Lambert from Doggy Paddle, with their dogs Blue and Tinker
George and Rachel Lambert with Blue and Tinker

Recent UEA graduate Rachel Lambert applied for funding after exploring hydrotherapy as a way of diversifying the business and increasing Doggy Paddle’s resilience during Covid.

“We applied to the UEA Enterprise Fund to expand our leisure offering to include hydrotherapy, which will allow us to assist dogs with orthopaedic problems or those that require rehabilitation post-surgery,” she explained.

“The funding allowed me to undertake a Small Animal Hydrotherapy Qualification and purchase a mobile hoist for the centre and, alongside our current safety measures and cleaning protocols, this will allow us to start admitting hydrotherapy clients.

“It also means veterinary services can actively refer people to us and we can charge more per session for the same and work directly with the dogs without the owners being present. We are so thankful to have been awarded the funding, which is permitting us to expand and diversify our business during an otherwise difficult and uncertain period.”

A desire to raise money for animal charities prompted former UEA student Lucy Jeffrey to start her sock company Bare Kind. Ten per cent of sales are donated to help protect the animals that feature in her distinctive range  orangutans, turtles, penguins, bumblebees and amur leopards.

Lucy Jeffrey
Lucy Jeffrey of Bare Kind

Lucy, who now lives in London, said her Grow It award had given her the freedom to launch new designs and continue stocking her original designs. “The biggest challenge for me is being able to have the cash flow to invest in the next order of inventory, and since receiving the grant it’s taken the pressure off and allowed me to invest in growing the business further,” she said.

“The process in applying for the grant was incredibly helpful too. I had my business plan looked over by numerous advisers who gave me amazing feedback, and this really set the direction for the rest of the year.”

Companies can also receive equity investments of £50,000 with any returns reinvested at UEA to support future businesses through Scale It awards, and Great Yarmouth firm Geotekk was the first company to benefit. Set up by James Sheppard and Matt Leach after they had their bikes stolen, it has developed the Limpet, a smart security alarm and tracker for both bikes and motorbikes.

“Having that initial funding acted as a catalyst to bring in more investors,” said Matt. “To date, we have raised more than £400,000 and the future of the business looks extremely strong.

“We were Gadget of the Week in The Times and have featured in the cycling and motorcycle specialist press. I would like to say a huge thank you to Enterprise Fund donors, to whom we owe everything.”

David Ellis, Director of Development at UEA, said: “It is wonderful to see exciting new businesses emerge thanks to the UEA Enterprise Fund. UEA is committed to helping those with great ideas and drive, but not necessarily the resources, to thrive, and the UEA Enterprise Fund is a shining example of that. We are very grateful to the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership and our community of donors who make the Fund possible.”

To find out more about the UEA Enterprise Fund, go to

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