Running a dog in Central Park led Joshua Stine to start his own business in dog care.
Pet-related businesses are rising in popularity recently. What services does your business provide?
We have two businesses, Running Paws, Inc. and Running Paws Dog Fitness, Inc., but they are very closely related. Our businesses revolve around dog care services. We've created services for the life cycle and life stages of the urban canine. These services include day care, boarding, dog jogging, dog walking, in-home pet sitting, and puppy care.
Running Paws, Inc. is a service business that takes place at and around our clients homes. Running Paws Dog Fitness, Inc. is located on the Upper East Side of Manhattan and has a physical location, our Dog Daycare & Hotel. Both businesses were founded in late 2002, with my business partner Seth Chodosh, who is the Founder and President of Running Paws.
How did you and Seth decide to be partners?
Seth came up with the idea for the business while jogging with a friend's dog in Central Park. I was working at Goldman Sachs and Seth had just finished his MBA at Pace University here in the city. Seth started the business as a part time venture. We were partners when we both made the commitment to move the business forward full time. There was no real selection process, however we've been friends since first grade and we both strongly suggest avoiding that type of arraignment. Just kidding... kind of. (smile)
What do you think are the benefits and challenges to running a business with a good friend?
I think the difficulty behind running a business with family or friends is that feelings get involved. The goal for most businesses is to make a profit and in order to do that you typically need to get the most out of every resource. It's hard to tell friends or family members that they're not good at something that they like or want to do.
Did you write a business plan? Was it an effective tool for you?
We didn't write a business plan for our home-based dog jogging company. However, once we decided to pursue our physical location we did write a business plan and it definitely helped us not only focus our business, but it also helped put Seth and me on the same page with regards to what we wanted to accomplish.
What professionals did you hire to help you? Would you suggest others do the same?
When we moved forward with the physical location we needed everyone's help. We still do. When you run a business like ours that involves live animals, many resources, lots of professional clients, and a landlord, you run into all types of situations. It's important to develop relationships, not only with professional service providers, but also with mentors who will take the time to advise you.
Did you operate your business from your home? What were the challenges and benefits to this strategy?
We did. We actually ran the business from my apartment for 6-8 months before we could afford an office. Even then we had to share a tiny 150 square foot office with another guy who had his own business. It's important to understand what you need vs. what you want. In our business an office can certainly help legitimize your business, but it's not absolutely necessary from day one.
Running your business from home certainly saves on operating costs. With the current economy in a slump, what other cost saving tips would you have for a new entrepreneur?
Plan ahead. Don't get caught in a situation where you're looking in the rear view mirror wishing you made a turn, make the turn now.
What about social marketing? It's been touted as a low-cost business generator for small businesses. Has it worked for you?
We recently began using a Facebook page and so far it's been a good experience for us. Our clientèle seem to be very connected to the Internet so I only see us expanding the way our business uses social marketing.
Is there anything you wish you had done differently?
I think in hindsight there are definitely things we could have done a little different that would have made the road a bit easier. However, that's part of gaining experience, it's rare that anyone throws a strike 100% of the time, but you can get pretty good at hitting the spare almost every time and that what we try and do.
What advice would you give to somebody else who wanted to start a similar business?
Build and maintain an excellent reputation. Be thorough and plan to work extremely hard. There are no shortcuts when you're dealing with live animals.
I'll bet it's never a dull moment. Thanks for taking a few minutes to talk to us, Joshua.