A PASSION for animals led two women to launch their own company.

Gemma McKnight and Amy Peters, from Runcorn, set up Creature Comforts Cheshire three years ago.

The pair now employ seven staff and have more than 200 clients with multiple pets.

Their achievement has been recognised after they won a coveted accolade.

Enterprise Vision Awards, which celebrates the success women in business, named them Small Business of the Year at a ceremony in the Winter Gardens in Blackpool.

Mum-of-two Gemma, 34, from Sandymoor, said: “We were both over the moon. We were up against stiff opposition from seven companies across the north west.

“I was bowled over when they read our names out.”

Amy, 35, who grew up in Moore and has just given birth to her first baby, and Gemma, offer a wide variety of pet care, dog walking and home boarding.

“We have done exceptionally well,” said Gemma. “What makes us different is that we work closely with the local authority. We are fully licensed and insured and we make sure we are fully up to speed with new laws and training.

“It is a business for us not a hobby. And because we have so many members of staff we can offer continuity of service. Care visits are not interrupted if anyone is on holiday.”

A love of animals is shared by all their employees.

“It is a passion rather than a job,” said Gemma. “Every member of staff says they wake up not feeling like they are going to work. They do it for the love of the animals.

“The pets we look after become part of our family, especially when they home board with us.

“We see all their character and personality.”

The pair plan to expand and are currently looking to recruit more staff.