Striding out: customer service rep to mobile vet nurse

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Gone are the days of holding down a single job for life. Businesses change, economies fluctuate and, as individuals, we learn, grow and develop new skills and interests as time moves on. Sometimes we’re lucky to find our passions early; sometimes only when we understand ourselves a little better. Stories of women who follow their dreams are inspiring to hear … because, finding work you love is exciting, but making the switch into unknown territory can be daunting. In the next few editions we’ll meet local women who have made the break and changed their careers.

MEL BASON

Customer Service Rep to Mobile Vet Nurse

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What were you doing?

I worked at Genesis Energy in Hamilton for four years, initially in the residential call centre and then moved to the business department as a customer service rep. I enjoyed it and was offered good opportunities to progress through the organisation, but I realised that working in an office everyday wasn’t for me. Since I was little I had wanted to work with animals and began to think about doing that, so, at 21, I trained as a vet nurse and then got a job in a clinic at Waihi Beach where I worked for three years before moving to a clinic at Bayfair. When I felt I had reached my level of competency, I had to decide my next step. By that time my partner and I had bought a farm in Oropi and I wanted more of a lifestyle change.

What are you doing now?

I run a mobile vet nurse service and dog farmstay, which includes farm fun-days – the rural equivalent of dog daycare – and a longer-term boarding service.

What do you love about your work?

I love being with the animals and enjoy the variety of both sides of the business. I also love having the freedom to go and ride my horse on a fine day. We have sheep, cows, six dogs, four cats and two horses of our own. I had always dreamed of living on a farm, so on our 13 acres I get to be the farmer and work with the animals while still being close to town. It’s the best of both worlds.

What did you have to do to make the change?

I did a one-year vet nursing course through Wintec, which was 8-5pm Monday to Friday. Later, when I was thinking about where I wanted to take my career, I went back to study, this time for my Diploma in Business. Doing the course began to fuel ideas of starting up my own business. For one of my assignments I presented an idea of a vet nurse service for elderly clients, who don’t have transport to take their animals
to the vet, and my tutor pulled me aside and said ‘you need to start this’. I spoke to my employers, Bayfair and Papamoa Vets, about doing this myself while working for them, and it snowballed from there. It got to the point, in early 2017, where I had to put my own business first so I took the plunge and put all my energies into it.

How hard was it to make the leap?

For me the biggest leap was resigning from my clinic job and going into self- employment, because suddenly you don’t have that guaranteed wage each week – that was quite scary because we had just bought the farm. But it went really well from the beginning.

What challenges have you faced?

At Easter I fell off my horse and broke my back and was bedridden. I considered closing the business but then our flatmate offered to help, which was a godsend because up until then I used to do it all on my own and my partner would help when he finished work. It’s great having her here because it can feel isolating sometimes, especially when I don’t have any house calls to make. In quieter times I enjoy coming up with new ideas for the business.

What would you say to other women thinking of making a change?

You need to do what you love and you can make it work if you take the leap. I’ve defied a lot of odds. Vet nursing is not highly paid, however I’ve managed to pay off debt, buy a house on my own, and then this farm – I’m 29, self-employed with my own farm in Tauranga and I’m living my dream.

Cover photo designed by Freepik