Rainbow Bridge is one of the UK's most successful Pet Crematoriums

In their own words we learn about their journey

26/11/20

What it’s like running a Pet Crematorium

Pet Cremation has continued to flourish as an industry. Showing no signs of slowing down we are seeing a dramatic increase in the number of entrepreneurs branching out into Pet Cremation as an extension to their existing business or even an entirely new proposition.

During 2020 and the ongoing global lockdowns caused by the coronavirus it has been interesting to see all our pet cremation customers have been able to stay open as an essential business and also remain very busy. We have always recommended the security of pet cremation but it really has proven itself to be a recession-proof business.

When a customer buys a machine from us we like to consider that the beginning of the relationship as we look at the success of every pet crematorium as a success for Addfield. We keep in touch, provide ongoing support and guidance, and hopefully help you to grow a solid and dependable business. We are incredibly proud to see the growth which often follows a similar pattern which does often leads to a second, larger machine.

One such success story is located just over 200 miles away from our factory in Staffordshire in the seaside town of Great Yarmouth. Rainbow Bridge Pet Cremations Ltd is the perfect example of a success story expanding not once but twice and all in the space of just two years.

We recently took a trip down to see the owners Gerry Coulam and Mark Aylen for a chat and a cup of tea to discover the highs and the lows of starting a pet crematorium business as well as discover a little more for the future of Rainbow Bridge.

So in their own words, we will pass over to Gerry and Mark.

“We set the business Up basically because we had a bad experience a couple of years ago with one of our pets. A parrot named Billy. We took him to a different cremation facility and wasn’t impressed. We didn’t get the service that we’d expect as pet owners. As we picked Billy up we came out and my wife just happened to casually mention we could do better than that. Gave it a little bit of thought and here we are two years on. I’m very proud of what we’ve set up it’s gone far better than we ever thought it would.

Before we started this I was in oil and gas. Working with some of the major oil and gas companies around the globe I worked there for about 35 years and just had enough of traveling. Just got totally fed up with it my heart wasn’t in it anymore.

Initially when we set this up had some doubts it was very quiet. It took a little while to get off the ground but now two years on not seeing any regrets. Should have done it years ago. Best move ever made.

The first steps we carried out were to find the premises. And we wanted to remain local to Great Yarmouth. There are no immediate facilities like this around the area. We looked for premises and then we looked at the different types of machines that were available on the marketplace. Our next step was then to look at a supply of caskets and urns. Once that was all established we then started speaking with the different providers of the cremation machines.

The support we got from Addfield was fantastic. Being a start-up money’s tight. And the business was self-funded so it was really tight. Addfield understood that and worked with us to achieve our goal.

When we first started it was as I say very, very quiet. We did question ourselves whether we’ve actually made the right investment um we sat here a few weeks nothing coming through the door thinking how we’ve done right here turns out we have. The Addfield machine was basically cremating two or three a week and now it’s probably six to ten a day.

The reason we now have two machines is that we operate one hot one cold it cuts down on waiting time for the clients our aim is to get all pets back within forty-eight hours and so far with the two machines we’ve achieved that. Obviously, as we got busier we’re now looking at a third machine.

We treat each customer as the first customer and we’ve got something like over 300 five star reviews. So obviously we’re getting something right, very proud of what we’ve set up.

You had a lot of options to get your business up and running at the start. What was it about these machines that made you decide that they’re the right ones for you? Okay well, when you read the Addfield literature it does say there’s no smoke there are no odours and certainly, that is true after speaking with others yes being a startup they understood but didn’t work with us as much as Addfield did and they understood it was a startup gave us the support we needed as a startup company and work through the initial setup problems with us. For us it was a good choice machine does what it says the people at Addfield are great they’ll answer the phone two o’clock in the morning if you give them a call not they’re very happy about it sometimes. But we get the support we need. So well done Addfield.

Well given our location which is in the middle of an Industrial Estate doesn’t sound very glamorous um but it’s where we are and it works well for us. We wanted a machine that was robust, worked well, performed as it said it would perform and I assure you the pet200 certainly does. No odours and there’s no smoke. Which is extremely important to us to keep our neighbours happy.” Gerry Coulam, Rainbow Bridge

“We started with one machine, and it was a little bit nerve-wracking when we started it was very very slow. There was a couple of times where we thought have we done the right thing. But our commitment to the pets and how they should be treated has seen us dramatically increase. We really do care about what we do and word has basically got out around the community that we are compassionate, we are pet owners, we have been where people have been when they lose their pets. And it’s really important really really important, that they’re treating you with the dignity and respect they deserve.

We’ve had a significant increase from when we started that has been a steady growth. To be fair we are now probably handling about 10 a day. The reason we got a second machine was because of regulations with DEFRA. We can only use one at a time so what we do is we have a hot machine and then a cold machine. And we alternate the two so that we can keep continuity and flow what’s important for us is getting pets back home to their owners.

We started in January 2017. We got these premises in around about march it took us two or three months to get it to a level we wanted to get it too. We’ve done an awful lot of work here. And obviously the approvals with DEFRA and the local council etc. So it officially opened in June 2018 so just over two years now. What was really important for us where we are we’re in Great Yarmouth in Norfolk. It’s a holiday destination you get a lot of tourists. There’s a lot of shops down the road etc. And where we’re located there’s obviously a lot of volume of foot traffic and traffic, traffic.

What was important to us was we didn’t want any smoke. We didn’t want any smells in the atmosphere. When we looked at the machine and spoke to Derek up at your office and all the guys there just gave us that confidence that we needed to opt for Addfield. At the start of our journey, we really got the confidence by talking to Derek and your engineers. From the day the machine was delivered the support’s been there, we obviously were on a learning curve ourselves because it’s not an industry we’ve been involved in prior to the opening here. Addfield was just a phone call away if we had any queries. Support was great the machines are easy to use they’re easy to understand there’s a little you know obviously the training we went through with the engineer when he came down. They just do everything we expected them to do that we were told they would do they meet all of those specifications perfectly. We certainly don’t get any odours certainly don’t get any smoke. If we had any issues at all it’s a phone call and you guys are on the case for us.

Having said that from two years now we’ve been open we haven’t had any issues that I would say are a fault with the machine. It’s probably more us and our learning curve.

The Pet200 is Easy to load we record on CCTV every pet that we cremate and that’s purely for the customer to have that absolute satisfaction and guarantee that their pet is only their pet when the ashes come home. Above my head, there’s a CCTV camera and we can load the machine with a bit of compassion. Show that some respect for the pet be it a rabbit, guinea pig a great dane. Doesn’t matter to us we’re all Individual and that’s important when that comes across to our customers you know they are part of somebody’s family we don’t know them personally. But like I say it’s easy to load the machine and easy to control the machine you know exactly the process that it’s going to go through. And easy to unload again when the process is finished.

We did a lot of research with alternative companies, really didn’t get that same feeling of confidence that we got with Addfield. It was clear you were experts in your field. And that gave us the comfort factor if you like. That when we were looking to choose because they are quite an investment to make. And the others were kind of almost felt like it was buy the machine and then find your own way. But with Addfield it’s been supported.

We’re actually investing in a third machine. The capacity on the third machine is greater than the single machine. So because we now look after vets as well and we’ve got several vets on board. In order for us to keep our capacity and get pets home as quickly as we possibly can, we’re now investing in another one and certainly, there was no question who we were going to buy the machine from. You know that was always going to be Addfield so I certainly recommend you guys.” Mark Aylen, Rainbow Bridge

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