Open North Foundation (ONF) has awarded Hebburn-based K9 Room a business recovery grant of £1,200 to provide dogs with enrichment activities to keep them stimulated and encourage calmer behaviour.

Business partners, Abigail Neilly and Ali Sander, who bought the business together in November 2022, employ two staff and cater for approximately 80 different dogs per week. They were made aware of Open North Foundation and the grants and free business support services that it provides successful applicants, following a visit from Kate Osborne, MP for Jarrow.

ONF was established in 2020 to assist the businesses and people of the North East to recover from the ravages of COVID-19. Since then, it has widened its remit to support small and early-stage businesses which have a compelling case but have been adversely affected by recent economic shocks.

All who work for ONF do so free of charge and it has secured the support of leading North East businesses and organisations dedicated to helping to rebuild the economy of the North East. All monies raised and business support services that are available to successful applicants are donated by fellow North East businesses, wider organisations and individuals.

Abigail, said: “K9 Room is an enrichment focused day care centre, providing the dogs in our care with the best experience possible during their time with us. Providing dogs with games and activities is not solely for their fun but also to improve their everyday life. We teach them problem solving and help to prevent behaviour problems like ‘resource guarding’ through shared activities at the day care.

“While we provide these enrichment activities to the best of our ability, there is more we can offer our dogs both inside and outside of the daycare.”

Ali, said: “The grant is fantastic news for us and we wish to thank the directors of the Open North Foundation for the confidence that they have in us. The grant will allow us to make updates to what we currently offer as well as bringing in new and exciting products our dogs can absolutely benefit from. The main concentration will be in our outdoor area, providing more agility equipment that will get the dogs’ minds working and help with their training. Inside the day care we aim to create more opportunity for dogs to gain confidence through games, these can help dogs to feel more control over their environment, which is key when helping them to socialise with other dogs.

“We want to show local dog owners that day care is more than a safe place for their dog when the owner is unavailable to take care of them but a place for them to thrive, socialise and learn new skills.”

In addition to the grant funding, the ONF has offered the firm further free support via one of its partners, the Business Clinic at Newcastle Business School, Northumbria University.

With support and guidance from industry experts at Newcastle Business School, final year undergraduate students analyse the problem they are presented with, provide a detailed report with recommendations and make a presentation of their recommendations to their client. The additional resource and fresh thinking, provides the client with access to up-to-date research and sound recommendations they can take forward.

Applicants seeking ONF grant funding must demonstrate clear negative impact with evidence and also how they can benefit from the free cash grants, training and consultancy services the ONF can offer. ONF will consider all needs, although applications are viewed more favourably if they demonstrate future job and business growth.

Richard Swart, chair of the Open North Foundation, said: “While K9 Room has been established for some time, Abigail and Ali acquired it in November last year. This has been a very difficult time for many small businesses with increased energy costs, inflation and the legacy of Covid. However, the directors who managed the application, were very impressed by the management team, how they were running the operation and their plans for the future, which are bold and ambitious. The directors also noted that Abigail and Ali were looking to provide employment opportunities once it grows a little more and that was key to our providing grant support.”