'How I battled back after horror injury to become award winning Doncaster businessman'

Andrew Ashworth feared he would never work again.

Monday, 20th August 2018, 9:32 am
Andrew Ashworth, pictured in the IGO Pets dog cafe, serving a Puppachino to customer Billy. Picture: Marie Caley
Andrew Ashworth, pictured in the IGO Pets dog cafe, serving a Puppachino to customer Billy. Picture: Marie Caley

Having trained in joinery at Dearne Valley College, he initially started his working life as a joiner.

But to fit in better with his family arrangements, he had taken a job reading meters for an energy firm.

Andrew Ashworth, pictured in the IGO Pets dog cafe, Picture: Marie Caley

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One day, that led to disaster.

As he made his way to a meter in a cellar, he lost his footing. He plunged down a flight of 13 stone steps.

Knocked out, he come round to find himself at the foot of the steps and in pain.

His injuries were serious. The most severe elements were a fractured hip, and a hairline fracture in his spine.

For two years he was in a wheelchair. He also suffered from depression, before the feeling returned to his legs.

Struggling to find work in the aftermath of his accident, Andrew, now a company director, battled back. And five years ago took his first steps into business, when he set up Ashworths Pet Services with wife Rhowena.

Initially, they offered dog walking, pet sitting and sold items for pets at markets before opening a shop in 2014 on Church Street, Conisbrough , and a second store in Edlington soon afterwards.

Then in 2017, he re-branded as Igo Pets, and set up a limited company. They swapped to a new location at Church Street, and set up pet cafe as part of the operation, as well as a classroom to allow an after school club at the venue. They also do internet sales.

But Andrew, now aged 34, has not forgotten what he went through after he suffered his injuries in 2006.

He said: "I was out of work for a year. No one would employ men because of my back injury. I got depressed because I couldn't do what I wanted to do. It had affected my mobility, but I got stronger.

"At one point, my wife was pushing my in the wheel chairwhile I pushed our child in a buggy.

"It was a struggle. But it was also a real eye-opened. I realised how hilly Conisbrough was and how few dropped kerbs there were for wheelchairs. That is why I now do a lot of disability-friendly work. It changes your mindset."

And as a result, Andrew is putting an emphasis on giving disabled people what he would have wanted at the time - opportunities.

Igo offers work experience to disabled people, and is also working with a disability charity to offer lessons in animal care. He is having a sensory room fitted, and wants to use the facility to help combat social isolation.

And he is also setting up a disabled-friendly allotment at Northcliffe Road, Conisbrough, which is going to be run as a not-for-profit business. It will have raised plant beds to allow access by wheelchair users. A local florist has already asked to buy flowers from the site.

It is an approach which has won Andrew many plaudits among his colleagues in local business.

His core business relies on his expertise in pets, drawn from a childhood at Daylands Avenue, Conisbrough, where there was a family dog, tropical fish, and an aviary in the garden.

The pet cafe offers regular hot drinks and prepackaged food for humans. For the dogs, it offers drinks and snacks such as pup-uccino, and wooffins, with the canine cakes backed to secret recipe.

His approach has won Andrew a string of awards. He has won the Inspiring Achiever of the Year from the Sheffield City Region Launchpad scheme for new businesses, as well as the overall launchpad award.

Igo was also the Federation of Small Business Start-up Business of the Year for the Yorkshire and Humber area, and a national winner in the Start-up Business of the Year, which it was presented with at the Park Plaza Hotel in Westminster.

Having originally been given advice from Doncaster Chamber, he is now returning the favour, offering advice to others. He is a business mentor for Sheffield City Region Launchpad. He is an enterprise coach for a school for pupils with special education needs. He also visits schools with the Doncaster Skills Academy, telling youngsters about business.

Part of his skills academy work will see products for pets designed and made by Doncaster school pupils sold at Igo Pets at Hallowe'en and Christmas.

He believes his dog cafe is unusual in South Yorkshire.

He said: "We've got a lot of regulars now. The dogs and owners come in for a drink, and it a great way for dogs to get socialised. We have people who come from as far away as Louth."