A COUPLE from Frome have been named a national finalist in the 2007 British Franchise Association Franchisee of the Year Awards.

Now Stewart Collins and Tina O'Connor, who gave up full time careers to launch a franchise offering pet owners an alternative to kennels, have their sights on the top title.

They have the chance to walk away with £5,000 courtesy of HSBC, when the winner is announced at a glittering awards event in Birmingham on Thursday October 4.

Stewart and Tina have been running the Frome franchise of Barking Mad for two and a half years and have made their business indispensable to animal owners - and animals - throughout the area.

When Stewart and Tina think about customer focus they have to take into account the needs of their four-legged clients just as much as the human owners.

The concept of the service is to match animals needing a temporary home with host families.

Vet referrals have been a key element in building the business and the enterprising pair have established links with the largest practice in the area.