Filling A Need
When asked why she started her business we discovered she had one of the first keys necessary to success. Like all entrepreneurs, Robin saw a need and filled it. “In 2012, I was trying to find professional care for my three dogs and no one was doing it. There just weren’t pet sitters in town…I realized there was an opportunity. When I started, I thought it would be a hobby – I didn’t think it would grow like it did,” said Robin. Beyond filling a need, Robin loves working with animals. “Sales is constantly dealing with people, people saying anything to get what they want. Animals are so straightforward – they’re honest,” said Robin.
“Animals are so straight forward – they’re honest.”
Robin has a Bachelors of Science degree in graphic arts and a professional background in sales – both of which are useful in operating a business. Her sales background, in particular, is very evident in her website and her skill stands out in her copy. Manhattan Mutt Company’s copy is very friendly and invites users to explore the many services they offer.
Manhattan Mutt Company’s primary services include dog walking, pet sitting and 15-minute potty breaks for older dogs and puppies. While not a planned goal of MMCo – their dog walking and mid-day services “have exploded.” Explains Robin,
“Our geographical area includes Fort Riley, a military post, and Kansas State University’s veterinary school. Folks are often away from home for 12-14 hours at a time, so our dog walking and midday services have been extremely popular.”
Manhattan Mutt Company serves a continuously growing clientele – currently around 200 clients. Robin utilizes employees in her business, after having first started with ICs. Robin quipped that meeting all the IRS and State regulations proved to be “very challenging.”
“I started with ICs and I did it incorrectly. I should have consulted with the SBDC [Small Business Development Center] and a lawyer,” said Robin. Robin currently operates with eight employees and says she is “happier with employees … I feel like I have more control in how we present ourselves in the community and can maintain high standards for care.”
Robin credits the fact that MMCo has multiple employees and can generally accommodate last minute service requests with setting her business apart from her competitors. “Most sitters in our area are owner/operators; only one other company has multiple folks. My main competition runs with ICs. They don’t have a lot of consistency…it’s sort of a rotating door.”
With all the many challenges of running a small business, we asked Robin what her biggest operational challenge was. “I have no business background other than sales, and the dangerous part is, I don’t always know the right questions to ask.” When asked what advice she’d give a pet sitter just starting out, Robin replied: “Find someone smarter than you and ask questions. Having a mentor or coach like The Carewright, asking questions at your local SBDC – these things will help you structure your business correctly from day one.”. Robin also mentioned the importance of networking with trainers, doggy daycares and veterinarians.
Robin is excited about the direction the professional pet sitting industry is heading. “It’s really a growing segment – the industry is exploding. People are treating their pets more and more like family. It’s really neat to see the love they pour into their pets.” Robin also mentioned that “people are looking for good, reliable care, not a hobbyist with insurance.”
“People are looking for good, reliable care, not a hobbyist with insurance.”
Robin’s main area of concern is “the litigious nature of our society … People can have unreasonable expectations or peg problems on sitters that aren’t their fault. It’s really scary the things you read … pet sitters being sued for something ridiculous.”
When asked what her outlook was for the future, Robin said, “Things won’t be slowing down anytime soon. We’ve grown 68% over 2014. We can’t keep up with the phone calls coming in. Our population is relatively transient due to Fort Riley, so we’re always meeting new clients.”
Robin brought the conversation back around to mentoring and networking before we wound up our visit. “I’d just highly emphasize to people to find a mentor. Working with someone like y’all – you are a mentor. You don’t live down the street from me but business is the same – you know the challenges. Having a mentor makes all the difference. Getting to know dog trainers, doggy daycares, groomers … those relationships have served me extremely well.”
We want to thank Robin for taking time out of her busy day to visit with us! We wish Robin all the best with Manhattan Mutt Company, LLC. She has a business-savvy, sensibility, and care-practice that really elevates the industry as a whole. The residents of Manhattan, KS are very fortunate to have such a professional business caring for their furry family members!
© 2016 | The Carewright, LLC. This blog post is the intellectual property of The Carewright, LLC and cannot be shared or used for derivative works without the express written permission of The Carewright, LLC.
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