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Make Money

Student entrepreneur creates ‘dating app’ for adopting dogs

Forget dating apps – this matchmaking app helps you find your perfect pet in just a few swipes. We spoke to founder Jaye Graham about her app, and how to start a business at university.

Jaye Graham with dogs

We've all heard of 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 unique business idea was masterminded by Jaye Graham while she studying Economics and Sociology at uni.

We chatted to Jaye about the ideas behind this (quite frankly brilliant) app.

This interview was first published in 2018.

A dating app for cats and dogs

happy dog looking up

Credit: InBetweentheBlinks – Shutterstock

Jaye and her family were already passionate about rehoming 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 idea for Pawfect Match.

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 mentorship and business funding to get it 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?

It turns out that dog therapy has one very surprising benefit for students...

How Pawfect Match helps pets get rehomed

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, but there are some slightly different choices...

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 that 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 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 rehomed.

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.

Pet sitting is an ideal part-time job for students – it fits in around your flexible schedule, and you get paid to spend time with animals! Win-win.

Setting up a mobile app business

Jaye Graham 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.

How to start a business at university

young team working together at laptop

So, how easy is it to set up a business at uni? And with so many start-ups these days having a digital focus, 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 technological 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 working with 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 available on iOS and Android now, so if you or your family are in the position to offer an animal a forever home, download it and get swiping.

Any animal rescue centres who would like to be part of the app can get in touch with Jaye on Facebook.

Big animal lover? Find out about the uni helping students unwind with dog-walking sessions.


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