Dogs Deserve It – Western Springs resident’s dog walking business being used in nationwide ad for Meta
The COVID-19 pandemic hit many American small businesses with a vengeance, none much harder than Dogs Deserve It LLC, the dog-walking firm founded by Western Springs resident Lauren Pietrocarlo.
After a trying couple of years, the firm is getting a little help from a Meta ad that’s gone nationwide.
“We felt grateful and surprised and shocked,” Pietrocarlo said of her reaction to being chosen for the ad out of so many other companies. “For a small business, national coverage like that is rare. It certainly doesn’t hurt.”
The national ad was a result of Pietrocarlo’s membership in Boost Leaders Network, a Meta-sponsored group devoted to helping small firms grow their business by meeting other small business owners, sharing expertise across different fields, and networking with other entrepreneurs.
“We have been part of Boost Leaders Network for a couple of years when they approached us to do the ad,” she said. “We collaborate to help each other.”
The national ad running on Facebook and Instagram began recently and can be viewed on both social media platforms.
It helps tell the story of how Dogs Deserve It used social media in its creative approach to hiring and product to survive the unforeseen pitfalls of the pandemic.
“The pandemic was really a shock and a change,” Pietrocarlo said of the phenomena of so many clients forced into working at home and deciding that they could walk their own dogs.
Almost overnight, Dogs Deserve It went from 65 employees to five, a clear indication that the company needed to diversify its revenue stream.
Previously the company had built its reputation on service-oriented products like dog walking, pet-sitting, puppy visits, taxiing pets to vet appointments — even pet photography.
Cat and rabbit weren’t neglected, either, with litter cleanup, feeding, and play time services available.
But now one can order a Doggie Box, a treat sampler offering 60 ounces of all-natural treats made in the USA and containing no preservatives, additives, or chemicals.
Or a Birthday Boy Box, offering treats — also additive and preservative free — made locally in human grade factories and free of any animal products.
Cleaning dogs after a walk in the Chicago elements is made easier through the Gentle Dog Paw Cleaner, made of soft silicone and easy to use and easy on the dog’s paws.
Although the company ultimately went from a pre-pandemic peak of 70 part-time employees to 22, since it began using Facebook and Instagram revenue has rebounded by about 30 %.
Pietrocarlo’s journey to becoming a successful entrepreneur didn’t begin in business school. First the Wisconsin native earned a B.A. in Political Science and Economics at the University of Dayton before moving to Chicago and beginning her professional career.
She spent several years in the import business before deciding to study law at the John Marshall Law School. But her heart was somewhere else — namely, her lifelong dream to start her own business.
“Ever since I was a kid, I wanted to be an entrepreneur, and I always loved animals,” Pietrocarlo said.
So she left the law behind after her first year in law school, starting Dogs Deserve It in 2009. Pre-pandemic, the firm’s growth was doubling every year, and Pietrocarlo attributes its success to bringing a professional approach to what had previously been a more loosely structured industry.
Indeed, she stressed that bringing professionalism and accountability to a business she felt largely lacked those qualities provided strong motivation for starting Dogs Deserve It in the first place.
The firm’s employees are all part-time and Pietrocarlo credits them with often taking an innovative approach to the profession.
One is a videographer who made what she describes as a “fun, quirky” video advertising for employees that increased applicants as much as 35 % whenever posted to Facebook and Instagram.
Pietrocarlo’s model for a prospective employee can be summed up by the simple fact that they are just that — employees, not independent contractors.
Independent contractors might have loosely-defined work schedules, receive little training, and actually have the ability to delegate their work to someone else.
Dogs Deserve It employees, on the other hand, have set schedules, receive extensive training, and are forbidden to delegate their work to others.
The training includes certification in Pet CPR, a course of study taught by veterinarians that teach what to do when a pet has a medical emergency, and all walkers are trained in proper leash etiquette. Pietrocarlo herself went through the leash etiquette course taught be professionals before the business got up and running.
Dogs Deserve It – Pietrocarlo also pays into employees FICA accounts and makes sure their workman’s comp insurance is paid.
Accountability to clients is another focus of Dogs Deserve It, and includes not only extensive training, but guarantees that the customer is getting full value for the money they spend.
Technology is used in the form of GPS tracking and pedometers to assure the customers that the walker completed a certain route. Emails are sent when the walk begins and ends and the customers receive a detailed map of the route taken.
“We were the first in the industry to make all the training and accountability measures standard,” she said. “There was a general lack of professionalism and accountability in the business. Many of the people running it didn’t really have any business acumen. They didn’t want to be transparent.”
Pietrocarlo wants other prospective entrepreneurs to know that a startup small business in Cook County and Chicago — where most of her clients are — is not an insurmountable task.
“Many feel that the costs associate with operating a small business in Cook County is prohibitive,” she said. “That’s not the case. You can do it, and be profitable.”
Further information on Dogs Deserve It can be found at the company’s website, dogsdeserveit.com
Hank Beckman is a freelance reporter for Pioneer Press.