KOTA KINABALU: Mechanical engineer Brandon Young used to fly to faraway places, like the US and Scotland, wearing suits and ties, for meetings with corporate clients.
These days, he travels much shorter distances, wearing a shirt he designed himself, shorts and sneakers.
His new job? Chauffeuring pets to the vet.
For over 12 years, the much-travelled 38-year-old worked with some of the highest paying multinational companies around. His last stint was as a manager in an oil and gas company in Singapore.
But when global crude oil prices fell through the barrel bottom in 2015, he became one of the unfortunate thousands worldwide to lose their jobs as the industry downsized and cut cost.
Usually, those at the management level are among the last to get the chop in that industry, but not in his case.
Devastated, he returned to his hometown here after more than 18 years away.
“I was thinking of my next step, whether I should go back to engineering or do something completely new,” Young recalled.
“I had somewhat lost interest in the corporate life… that’s when I thought of the pet taxi service.”
Young said such services were common in West Malaysia and Singapore, but not in East Malaysia. “That’s how Pet Taxi KK started.”
What he does is simple: he picks up pets from their homes and drives them wherever the owners wish – usually to the vet or groomer – and back.
“I know it sounds easy and pretty straightforward but no one is actually doing it. There are a lot of pet owners in Sabah but almost everyone is busy with work or something else. So I saw this as an opportunity,” Young said.
“It wasn’t easy starting out, obviously. I love pets but handling and caring for them is not actually a walk in the park. I had to learn the ropes on my own while doing the job.
“I am particularly concerned when I have to handle superior breeds such as Rottweilers,” he chuckled.
Young was grateful for social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, which became a useful and powerful tool to promote his service.
“When I started out, I only had one or two jobs a week… sometimes no job at all. You begin to doubt yourself when things like that happen,” he said.
But he stuck at it, enjoying every bit of his new-found endeavour, and it brought results.
“From one to two jobs a week, I can get at least 10 jobs a week now,” he said, adding that the fee varies based on the distance although he charges a minimum of RM30 per job.
Some people have labelled this service as a sort of luxury as many have their own cars and may not actually need it, but Young disagrees.
“To me, this service is not a luxury. We are merely giving people an option, which most have grown to appreciate over time.”
Young’s job revolves mainly around animals, although he spends a fair share of his time with humans as well. This, he says, suits the chatty side of him.
“It’s true my job involves a lot of pets but I meet a lot of people too – the owners, the vets, animal rescuers and many more.
“I’d like to think I’m a people person,” he laughed. So far, he has handled an array of pets, the smallest being a guinea pig whose eye was falling out and the biggest, a Great Dane.
“The most interesting I came across was a tortoise that fell from the second floor of an apartment! He was okay in the end.”
Jokes aside, Young is hoping to go international soon, as he has been getting enquiries from out of the country, either to receive animals in Kota Kinabalu or to manage their transport to other locations.
“It’s all good… I certainly don’t miss the corporate life – some of the people there can be challenging. But the money (in the corporate world)? Who doesn’t?
“But I love what I do now. It’s tiring at the end of the day but it’s all worth it. When I come home, I know I have achieved something and I can measure it by the smiles on my customers’ faces,” he said.
He admits that there is initially an awkward silence or stare from people including friends when he tells them he drives animals around to fill his rice bowl.
“But it doesn’t matter to me. As long as I’m happy with what I’m doing, and it pays the bills, I will do it. Turns out I couldn’t be happier.”
Young said he hoped to inspire others pursuing innovative business undertakings.
“Sometimes it’s not about following your passion, which in my case has always been engineering, but looking at opportunities that no one else sees.
“I get it that you need persistence in pursuing your dream jobs, which would usually be others’ too, but this pet taxi service has made me realise that I can do other things and be good at it. That is my new passion.”