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Student entrepreneur creates ‘dating app’ for adopting dogs

The matchmaking app helps owners find their perfect pet in just a few swipes! We chatted to founder Jaye Graham about how to start a business at uni.

Pawfect Match Jaye Graham

We've all heard about using dating apps to find the love of our lives – but what about using them to find loving pets in need of a home?

This is the unique business idea masterminded by final-year Economics and Sociology student Jaye Graham.

She and her family were already passionate about homing rescue dogs, so when she had to submit a business idea for a module in her second year at the University of Kent, some brainstorming led her to come up with the app idea.

I decided that a new app to help find homes for the animals would make finding a rescue animal fun and encourage more people to rescue.

After entering her idea into a competition back in 2016, she received money and mentorship to get the business off the ground, and the venture has since gone from strength to strength.

So how does the app actually work and what are Jaye's tips for budding student entrepreneurs?

How does it work?

Pawfect Match app

Pawfect Match works just like many popular dating apps – swipe right if you're interested, and left if you're not.

Except instead of eyeing up potential love interests, you're swiping for pets instead.

Rescue centres across the UK can upload their animals needing homes in one quick and easy process.

Users can then search for these animals according to characteristics which best suit their household’s needs.

The idea is that each rescue dog or cat will have specific needs and characteristics, and likewise each home will be suitable for some animals and not others.

Users set up their filters as you would with a typical dating app, except there's some slightly different choices of course. If you're looking for a dog, for example, you choose your preferred age range, sex, dog size and whether you need a dog who can live around children or other dogs.

Once your filters are all set up, you'll be able to swipe through a selection of dogs and cats which match your requirements. You swipe right for the ones you like, and left for the ones you're not interested in.

On each animal profile, a user can see all of their information, as well as pictures, videos and details of the shelter they are based at.

Once you've found one you like, you've got a pawfect match! You'll then be able to message the animal shelter via the app, or contact them separately.

The app currently matches people to cats and dogs, but Jaye has plans to expand this to include other animals in the near future.

She hopes that by simplifying the process of adopting dogs and cats, and helping match the right animals to the right owners, she'll increase the numbers being re-homed.

I would say that rescuing an animal is the most rewarding experience because you know you’ve saved a life and also freed up room in a shelter for another to be saved.

Not only that, they will be grateful for the rest of their lives.

Jaye's business journey

Jaye Pawfect Match

Of course, it's taken a lot of hard work and dedication for Pawfect Match to reach the stage it's at now.

After winning investment through the Business Start-Up Journey competition, Jaye applied for a seed fund from her uni to get things going.

My family also managed to raise funds to get me started. But ultimately it has come together now through my recent partnering with a great tech development company called DevAngels, the best move I could have made.

Since Jaye isn't studying a practical business course at uni, she's had to develop skills as she goes along, and admits she's made mistakes along the way.

But it's through making these mistakes, and learning lessons when things go wrong, that Jaye has been able to bring her vision for the app to life.

I believe business skills are acquired through experience, mostly from making mistakes but also by learning from other business owners.

My parents run a successful business, so I learnt a lot from them too.

Setting up a business at uni

cost of tuition fees for international students

So how easy is it to set up a business at uni? And with so many start-ups these days being digital, do you need to have tech skills to succeed?

According to Jaye, while you do need these people on your team, you don't need to be a technology wizard yourself to get going.

You don’t need to be a tech expert to set up [a business]. I was so eager to get started I taught myself how to build a website and how to use Photoshop for designs etc.

But you do need tech experts in your team to create an app (to a professional standard anyway).

So if tech skills aren't the key to success, what is? While having a great business idea is one thing, having the skills to make it a reality and start earning money is a whole different ball game.

According to Jaye, it's about using the people around you – whether that's fellow students, other business owners or the opportunities on offer at your university.

You have to make contacts. Utilise the help that the university provides and most importantly don’t allow anything or anybody to knock you down or make you quit.

I almost gave up a few times when things went wrong with my first developers, but now I am glad I stuck to it.

Plus, universities often have schemes and opportunities available to help students set up businesses that you won't find anywhere else – which is why Jaye believes uni was the perfect time for her to create the app.

Pawfect Match is due to be released to the general public in the next few weeks, and only time will tell how many animals find their dream home through Jaye's genius idea.

Any animal rescue centres who would like to be part of the app are encouraged to get in touch with Jaye either via her website, or on Facebook.

Fancy giving it a go yourself? Here are 50 business ideas to start at uni.

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