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An Erith mother who has been nominated for Entrepreneur of the Year in the Bexley Business Awards spotted a niche in the pet-sitting market 15 years ago – and has not looked back.

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Pictures of Marilyn Lewis and Gizmo the dogPictures of Marilyn Lewis and Gizmo the dog

Marilyn Lewis, founder of the National Associates of Registered Pet Sitters UK (NARPS UK), runs the business from the front room of her home in Plaxtol Road.

Her idea came about when she wanted to find someone to look after her dog while she went on holiday rather than leave it in kennels. She was stumped.

NARPS UK helps people set up pet-sitting and dog-walking businesses, giving them advice about everything they need to take into consideration such as insurance and legal issues. Members pay a fee to subscribe to the service.

The Bexley Business Awards are today (Thursday) at the Marriott Hotel in Bexleyheath and Marilyn, who has lived in the town since she was 17, is keeping her fingers crossed that her name is pulled out of the envelope.

The 54-year-old said: “It’s fantastic to be nominated for any award but it would be great to get some local recognition.

“I originally put in for the Virtual Business of the Year category but when that was dropped someone from Bexley Council called asking if I wanted to enter in the entrepreneur category. Maybe I was too modest to do it in the first place.

“My three children will be with me and it should be a good day.”

Marilyn sold her first pet-sitting agency, which she ran out of the Thames Innovation Centre in Crayford, for £285,000, before setting up NARPS UK to help others.

Recalling why she felt there was a need for her business in the first place, she said: “I was looking to go on holiday but didn’t want to put my dog into kennels because he goes absolutely mental around other dogs.

“But there was no one out there who could look after him no matter how hard I looked – remember the internet was in its very early days.

“When I returned I contacted the Economic Development Union and they helped me set up my business and I became more successful as my reputation grew.”

It is fair to say that Marilyn is pretty much a one-woman band, using her wealth of experience to help people set up their businesses.

The only assistance she has received is from web developers and programmers to keep her website constantly up to date with changes in the industry.

This is not the first time she has been nominated for an award – she won Virtual Business of the Year in 2010, a national award from recruitment website People Per Hour, netting £2,000.

She said: “Pet-sitting is more common now but I guess I was something of a trailblazer. It is an important service and people are always going to need someone to look after their beloved animals.”

For more information on NARPS UK visit narpsuk.co.uk.

Find a full rundown of Bexley Business Award winners in next week’s Bexley Times.

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