The Making of a Pet Sitting Team in Toronto
Deciding who to bring on board to represent Club Petsit, was not an easy feat. It started as a one-woman cat sitting, dog walking show in Toronto. I was completely new to entrepreneurship and didn’t really have a mentor or any guidance to speak of. I was just driven. I created the name, the logo, the brand, the tag line- I even had my Jeep wrapped in colourful advertising. I walked, I ran, I fell, I stumbled and I proceeded. Heart in hand.
In time, my one-woman team progressed to a two-woman cat sitting, dog walking show. Myself and my head pet sitter Jen, worked hard to build up and maintain great customer service, a good reputation, reliable pet care and a happy clientele. We had in common a hard work ethic and a deep love of animals. Pet sitting, cat sitting, dog walking and pet care in general, is definitely a lifestyle. I couldn’t imagine my life or the world without pets, and as Club Petsit grew, I wanted to bring people on board that represented that wholeheartedly.
There were a plethora of ups and downs in the beginning stages, not only did I do a lot of the visits and walks and overnight stays myself, I also ran all of the social media, did the accounting and invoicing, navigated through the wild and expensive world of advertising, went through 3 web designers until I found the right one (in this case, 4 times was a charm), and encountered numerous obstacles and challenges with clients, ‘competitors’ and pets themselves. I quickly discovered that the world of pet sitting and dog walking in Toronto was often competitive and unfriendly. I strove to make alliances and supportive connections with other businesses and business owners, but not everyone was receptive or friendly. There were times I wanted to stop all together and give the clientele I had built up over to Jen, so I could work for someone else and just walk dogs full time. But fortunately, there were obstacles that prevented me from doing that. As ready as I was to stop, the Universe always gave me a reason to keep going.
Through the stress and the struggle, I always had to pause and remind myself why I got into this business in the first place. It was simple: because I feel deeply connected to animals. And always have. More so than most humans. I just wanted to work in an environment where I could connect with pets and spread the love and build a community of like minded people who care for the animals and support animal charities. I didn’t just want to go to an office day in and day out. I needed to be around the cats and dogs and birds and other beautiful creatures I so adore.
Last year, before the awesome Christmas season bustle, my opportunity to bring aboard other pet lovers transpired. I had more requests than I could fulfill personally, which was a great problem to have. I sat down and outlined important questions I wanted to ask of new potential team members and I also thought about the qualities I wanted them to possess. Being pet first aid trained was imperative as that is what I advertise and I had gone through a couple of great training courses for pet first aid myself. If the potential pet sitter/dog walker didn’t yet have it, I wanted them to be open to taking the time to learn how to give a dog CPR or remove an object from a cat’s mouth if it was choking and also how to administer insulin injections as we commonly receive requests to pet sit for cats with Diabetes. I also wanted to ensure that the potential pet sitter/dog walker was upbeat, reliable, experienced with pets and had some sort of volunteer or charitable experience with animals.
I had a slew of interviews. A couple of people didn’t even bother showing up. Some interviewees had their own agendas with which my volume of business did not align for their own interests. One candidate in particular didn’t even bother replying to my follow up email or phone call. I guess she had decided I wasn’t able to help her build up her own business. But, I let it roll off my shoulders and kept with my vision of expanding my brand. Because I love it. And I believe in it. I wanted to get into in-home dog boarding and cat boarding, so I needed my potential new hires to be able to accommodate that. I had accumulated some wonderful alliances over time and I wanted to maintain a solid and reliable brand so I also needed my pet sitters and dog walkers to have those qualities. Qualities that my consistent referrals from other businesses could be stand by. Slowly, I filtered through candidates and brought some wonderful contractors on board and got them ready for training. A pet sitting business that I started on my own, had quickly evolved to a seven-sitter team. And we were ready to bring our fun, caring, hard working and loving pet care skills to the Club Petsit brand.