Sometimes, when you least expect it, you open your email and find an invitation from a complete stranger that reads something like this:
“Greetings! We are two dog loving owners who are interested in building a relationship with you! Our names are Adi and Kuldeep and we are starting The Dog Walking Co, a website where everyone should go to find a dog walker. Our site is focused on creating trustworthy dog walkers who really know how to care for animals. Anyone can become a dog walker for us, and we offer free training sessions so that they can learn what it takes from a pro!”
I well remember the day when one of my dearest friends dreamed up her own pet-related business, although I thought she was slightly nuts but didn’t have the heart to tell her so. How would she ever support herself with a pet sitting business? What kind of a silly business model was that?!? …
Well, the joke was on me because in less than two months, without any formal advertising, she had an enviable client list and by the end of four months, she had so much business that she was never at home. Uh, her home. She had pet sitting gigs that lasted anywhere from a weekend to two weeks … or more. She got to live in cute Cape Cod homes, sprawling mansion-type houses tucked away on incredible hills with gorgeous views; 100 year old restored farm houses, or loft-size apartments in the more trendier sections of our fair city.
She befriended all kinds of dogs and cats and, as she happily reminded all of us who followed her change of career with astonishment, she got to do what she loved and get paid for it every single day. The more savvy of her clients booked her six months in advance.
When she decided to pack up and go back to her own beloved city of Chicago, she took her “silly business” with her, not losing any time at all in finding new clients ….
Because I remember what happened to my friend, you might say that I was a tiny bit intrigued when I read that email from two dog loving guys with their own pet-related business story to share.
It’s no secret that the pet industry is booming. If you can find a hook, that “thing” that you’re really good at and it ties into your love for dogs, you just might be able to make a decent living like my pet sitter friend does, doing something that you love.
I decided that these two guys might have something worthwhile to share. We emailed back-and-forth and came up with a Q&A format for a blog post about their dog walking business.
HRD: So, It’s pretty clear from your blog posts that you guys started The Dog Walking Company because you love dogs. How long did it take you to move from the idea for this business to taking the steps to making it real?
ADI: It takes a great deal of belief that we are actually going to do something to help people and animals that serves as the driving motivation to do all the other tough to bring this project to life. We invested our savings into this thing, we’ve slowly left our jobs and are focused on making this a success. My background at Google and Savings.com gave me a lot of internet and online community experience which we’re trying to use to help make this animal community thrive. At the end of the day, as we saw tons of people showing support and seeing our company as an opportunity to get involved by doing something they loved (dog walking), we knew we had to push ourselves hard to make things happen.
HRD: It looks like you’re based in Los Angeles, CA and that in a very short time, you’ve attracted a LOT of dog walkers. How many dog walkers are currently registered with you? What kind of person makes a good dog walker? Do you offer training?
ADI: We currently have 2,000 dog walkers in the Los Angeles area, with a total of 300 of them having gone through our vetting process. Many of these walkers work with rescues or have experience walking dogs. We also offer free training sessions with a pro.
HRD: You’ve got a post on your Facebook page about the first dog training meet up you held. What can you tell us about that?
ADI: It was fantastic! We work with a talented trainer Melissa Munoz who has been a walker, Hollywood animal trainer, and now focuses on helping everyone build a better relationship with their dog. Once we had a great trainer we sent out some messages to all our interested dog walkers and had a great response. The first class was definitely special because we went around the circle and heard everyone’s reasons for wanting to be a dog walker and 80% said they wanted to do it so they could do something they loved!
HRD: How does someone who wants to use your dog walking service find you?
HRD: Walk me through (no pun intended) the steps that take place once someone goes to your web site and fills out the short form so that you can follow up with him/her?
ADI: That’s when we start to get them trained and trustworthy. We spend some time talking to the dog walker on the phone to get a sense of why they want to do it, who we are and what they will get from our company. We send them volunteering opportunities with our partners so they can meet a bunch of dogs and get familiar with more personalities. We send out training opportunities for them to attend at the parks to show they are committed and most important get them some hands on experience with what they need to know be a great walker. Once they go through all of this and start to get their first meet and greets, we insure each walker so that each of their walks with The Dog Walking Co. is backed.
HRD: You’re partnering with a group called Ken-Mar rescue. What can you tell us about that organization and why you decided to partner with them?
ADI: KenMar Rescue started in 2007. Their mission is to help rescue animals and facilitate effective adoptions. Ken and Martie (the founders) are so passionate about their work. They won’t stop at any cost to help save animals. Over the past 3 months, our organization and our dog walkers have worked closely with KenMar at adoption events and fundraisers to raise awareness for all of the animals that need wonderful homes.
We chose to work with KenMar because they are very progressive and are embracing technology to help increase their outreach to help the animals.
HRD: Any plans for expansion out of the LA area?
ADI: We do plan to expand out of the LA area, with the San Francisco Bay Area and New York City being our primary targets. First, however, we want to get grounded in LA.
HRD: What’s been your biggest challenge so far and what are your intentions for 2013?
ADI: We are just hoping to launch our site soon! We have been accepted into a great incubator here in LA called StartEngine. We will begin the program in January where we will gain office space, mentorship, and introductions to investors. We really hope to expand our team in 2013 and really be able to scale so that finding a dog walker is easier than ever. Help us out and check out our Indiegogo Campaign: http://www.indiegogo.com/thedogwalkingco/
So, there you have it! Two guys, well, to be truthful, three guys and a dog walking business. The third is a college intern who’s been quite helpful in making sure that I had all the material that I asked for in order to write this post. They’re quick to point out that LA is where they hang their
hats leashes but don’t be too surprised if you see this famous phrase up on their web site: “Coming To Your City Soon!” [gplus count=”true” size=”Medium” ]