By Amy Reed
It all started by walking a dog named Lucky. That was 2004—the year that my good friend Leslie Barron and I decided to leave our well-paying corporate jobs to open a dog walking business called Woofie’s. We earned $10 that first day.
We had a passion for pups and knew how difficult it was to find quality care for our pets when we traveled. That served as the genesis of Woofie’s. But a walk a day was not going to work… so we got to work.
Applying our years of sales and marketing experience, we started building the business. We worked hard, walking dogs seven days a week, 365 days a year. By 2005, after only one year of business, our revenue grew to just under $100K. By 2010, our revenue reached nearly $500K, and we had hired several trusted professionals to join our team as dog walkers and pet sitters.
While the pet sitting business continued to flourish, many of our clients began to ask us about mobile grooming. We researched the market and developed a business model. In 2011, with a boot strap investment, we purchased our first mobile pet spa van. Both sides of the business fed the other, which was unique in the field.
Today we have 14 groomers, seven vans, 15 back office administrative employees and 80+ dog walkers and pet sitters; and our revenue is nearing $3 million.
Our business model involves more than walking, watching and washing pets. Social responsibility is particularly important in a business like ours that is deeply imbedded in the local community. We have legal, ethical and financial obligations to our employees, clients, community and our industry as a whole. That’s why we give back in ways that align with our business. Once a year, Woofie’s suspends grooming services to host an all-day dog wash at the local animal shelter. We also host a “Paws & Claus” Photo with Santa fundraiser. We teach children about pet safety, care and nutrition. Through our Facebook page, we have helped re-home many animals into loving homes.
In addition, we are a member of our local Chamber of Commerce and trade associations, including Pet Sitter’s International and National Association of Professional Pet Sitters. These provide strategic networking opportunities as well as enable us to stay current on issues and trends affecting our business.
Attracting and retaining great employees is also critical to our business success. Woofie’s culture is special—a place where clients are always greeted by a pack of friendly faces as well as a pack of dogs!
Much of our workforce are women who are drawn to the flexible schedules, extra income, growth potential and satisfaction of working with animals. We foster a team environment and expect a “do whatever you need to do” attitude when it comes to taking care of pets and making sure clients are happy.
Our team is encouraged to come up with new ideas and develop new skills. We are in the process of starting our own grooming school called Woofie’s University to create a career path for our groomers and help us grow our talent pool.
In fact, the quest for great employees as well as the challenges of hiring a strong team was the focus of Woofie’s appearance on CNBC’s new business docuseries this past fall called “The Job Interview.”
To this day, many people still don’t recognize the pet sitting, dog walking and mobile grooming industry as a “real” business. Many people get into this because they are animal lovers, but they don’t understand the business side of it; we do.
Our numerous accolades; reputation for professionalism, reliability and personalized customer care; and significant (and growing) base of repeat customers prove it. That’s because we know that it takes more than luck… and one dog named Lucky. It takes planning, hard work, great execution, and a genuine passion and love for pets.