She's the Queen of Canberra's pups, the young woman at the head of a fast-growing and successful dog care business that taps into the sentiment that pooches are part of the family.
Rhiannon Beach's Pups4Fun offers daycare, playgroups and out and about excursions, activities usually associated with children.
Rhiannon Beach started Pups4Fun, a dog daycare, training and grooming business in 2008, when she was still a student at Canberra College. It celebrated its 12th birthday on January 17.
Twelve years after its modest start, the business employs 26 people and has a "doggy daycare" that looks after 11,000 pooches in Canberra each year. The base is at the Fisher shops where you will see owners dropping off their dogs in the morning the same way parents drop off their children. Owners get updates via a private Facebook page during the day showing how their dog is going.
Ms Beach, now 31, and very much-down-to-earth, was happy to dress up for this special shoot by The Canberra Times, but is otherwise much more comfortable in her Pups4Fun uniform, mucking in with everyone else to look after the dogs in their charge.
She was ahead of the curve when she started Pups4Fun, tapping into the sentiment that animals in a household were not just pets, but members of the family.
"I saw a need in the market," she said.
"I couldn't understand how, 12 years ago, we saw our dogs as our pets, they were our babies but there was no way to look after them. Everything just seemed so hard.
"You could put them in a kennel, you could give them a haircut but there wasn't anything more.
"I think at the time there was only one other dog care business, in Richmond, Victoria. Now there's one on every corner in Melbourne and everywhere else in Australia.
"I guess that and a love for business and really wanting a challenge is what motivated me. I think I really love to challenge myself because every time you think it's calmed down, you take on the next project."
Her business now has a playgroup for puppies, its own designated park near Queanbeyan where it takes older dogs to play and socialise with each other.
"We've always specialised in group services rather than just the individual. We really want to work on that group dynamic and give the dogs something people can't give them at home," Ms Beach said.
"People can walk their dog one-on-one but they can't necessarily expose them to that safe environment with 40-plus other dogs."
Ms Beach started the business as a Year 11 assignment while a student at Canberra College. She was encouraged by her business teacher Damian Hedley, who persuaded her to enter the 2005 Australasian Plan Your Own Enterprise Competition. She went on to win the competition. Mr Hedley sadly passed away in 2017. Ms Beach said she wouldn't have pursued the business without his mentorship.
"He made a big impact on my life and the 40 to 50 people I've employed over the last 10 years," she said.
She started with one dog, offering a walking service. At the same time, she was studying for a law degree.
"I put up some flyers around Curtin and got one dog that I'd walk between my studies and then it went to two, three, four," she said.
"I walked them together and they were great friends and I thought, 'It's no fun walking them by themselves, they need friends'. And that's where the playgroup concept came from. And from then on it's been slowly but surely more and more.
"On Fridays, I would pick dogs up from people's home and take them on a one-hour walk and then take them to a park. Now we have our own own park. Then we moved into all-day day care because a lot of people wanted all day."
She also "counts her lucky stars" that while out walking some dogs she bumped into her neighbour and Spinify CEO Matt Bullock who has mentored her for many years.
Since the business started in 2008, Ms Beach has been a finalist in the 2013 Telstra Business Women's Awards and the Australian Institute of Management Awards in 2016. She's now nominated for a 2020 Telstra Business Women Award.
Ms Beach is proud her business has made so many dogs and their owners happy and "reduced the number of bored, lonely and destructive dogs in Canberra".
She says it's a growing business and managing that growth is key.
"There's a huge cost to that as well because you're forever training people," she said.
"Once you think you've hit that sweet spot, there's more growth. So just being able to learn and be adaptive to growth [is big]."
Pups4Fun now looks after 400 dogs a week. And it has all kind of customers, lots of professionals but also retired people, people working from home and others who want to give their dog socialisation in a safe way.
"It's great the [public] dog parks are there, because they weren't a few years ago," she said.
"But every dog is different, every person's training level is different and their awareness of dogs. Being able to provide that safe environment and give something back to the dog is really important.
"Owners have that peace of mind - 'My dog is going to come home, they're safe'.
"Even with my dogs, it's my business, I feel bad when they're not at work. They're at home by themselves, they're lonely."
The business also had an outlet based at a Queanbeyan vet clinic but recently closed it to concentrate on Fisher.
"We're looking more at consolidation. It's not about being the biggest, it's about being the best. That's how we've always wanted to be," she said.
"We thought the best way was to have our team all together.
"Growth, definitely for the future, but whether it's expansion in multiple locations, possibly not. But definitely growth.
"It wouldn't be unreasonable to think we could reach that 500 mark in a couple of years but only if we're doing it at the same level. Even though we've grown, we've done it over 12 years."
Ms Beach was born in Albury and moved to Canberra with her family when she was three. Her mum is an accountant and her dad an environmental scientist.
Her brother Jayden went to law school with her. The fact she started her degree and business in the same week didn't faze her.
"I guess I'm driven and adaptable to change and enjoy the challenge rather than shy away from it," she said.
She credits her partner James, a carpenter and project manager, with giving her a lot of support.
"He and my dad have spent most of their free time over the years building facilities and equipment for the business. Without the two of them, it wouldn't be possible to have Pups4Fun as we know it," she said.
There have been difficult times along the way. Getting finance proved almost impossible.
"Being young and not having any assets, I was laughed out of the bank," she said.
And people sometimes fail to understand pet care is a credible business, they treat it like it's "a bit of a joke".
"We do get that thing where the pet industry is not taken very seriously. People will ask what you do and you tell them and they'll say, 'Oh that's cute, so what do you do full-time?'," she said.
"Rather than understanding, okay, we've got 26 staff, 17 full-time equivalents. So it's not only my full-time job, it's 17 other people's full-time job."
Ms Beach says she invests most of her profits back into the business. Her big indulgence is travel.
"I've been lucky enough to travel because I think it makes you grow personally and professionally and it's something that I couldn't do when I was younger," she said.
Ms Beach says there are more pet care businesses opening in Canberra - and she's happy about that.
"It's really gaining momentum and I only see that as a positive," she said.
"We like to work with the competition rather than against them as there are more than enough dogs to go around. And even if they take a dog that I would have had, as long as that dog and that family get what they need out of it, that's great."
PUPS4FUN - THE STATS
Daycare dogs per year:
More than 11,000
Dogs groomed since opening:
More than 15,000
Work experience students last year:
Number of staff:
Tanks of petrol each year:
Vehicle kilometres per year:
Emails sent and received each month:
Most popular dog names on the books:
Charlie (83), Molly (63), Ruby (54), Coco (49), Lily (45) and Buddy (29)
Loads of towels washed:
1500 per year