Karen A., DogZenergy
Most people would think that running a dog walking business is a walk in the park, but scaling a dog walking agency is a whole other story. Our founder, Britt Alwerud, and her mother Karen, run DogZenergy in sunny San Diego, CA. Britt started DogZenergy in her dorm room at UCSD and when she graduated, she found herself walking 30 dogs per day, 7 days per week. Britt absolutely loved spending time with the dogs, but found herself getting overwhelmed by daily business operations. After walking dogs all day, she still had to respond to customer requests, spend hours scheduling and invoicing clients and had no time left over for additional marketing and business development. She also had no time for weekends off, let alone a vacation. Britt was burned out. But her love of dogs made her realize that she could spread love and positivity to dogs everywhere if she could figure out how to scale her small business. That's when she decided to learn everything that she could about business management, software, marketing, growth and finances. In order to truly give her customers the absolute best experience, she needed to put the systems and operations in place to deliver the same quality service every time. That's when she decided to bring on her mom Karen as her first team member. Together they were able to divide and conquer. From there they continued to improve on their customer service and realized that they needed to solve many of their biggest pain points:
1) Trusting a Bigger Staff - How do you know that they are showing up on time? How do you GPS track them to make sure they are truly giving their dogs the best care? How do you keep in touch with the communication between your dog walkers and customers without giving out phone numbers and getting cut out? How do you see photos and give updates to the owners about their dog's day?
2) Automating Scheduling - How do you keep scheduling organized and mistake-free when taking care of 60 dogs and 10 dog walkers in one day? How do you dispatch your dog walkers' schedules with all of the necessary info to properly take care of the dog?
3) Instant Payments - How do you avoid hours upon hours of going back through the schedule to invoice all of your clients for the month? At one point, DogZenergy had over $10,000 in accounts receivable and it was impossible to collect checks and cash from all of their clients.
4) On-demand Booking and Automated Word-of-Mouth - Britt and Karen were so excited when on-demand apps like Uber came out. They wanted to be able to use the same mobile technology so that their clients could book dog walking as easily as they could get an Uber. Their #1 driver of growth was word-of-mouth and referrals, so they also wanted to figure out how they could automate and spread this process further.
5) Client Happiness and Peace of Mind - Bringing on more dog walkers was intimidating at first for DogZenergy. It's an extremely personal, trust-based business and Britt and Karen were worried about how their clients would respond to a growing team. That's when they knew they needed a way to collect customer feedback right away.
After searching for the perfect solution for all of the pain points above, they couldn't find the on-demand mobile technology that solved all of their biggest challenges. That's when Britt decided to go all in and build Handlr. However, she quickly realized that building and maintaining a platform liked Handlr was cost-prohibitive for her dog walking business to support, which meant that other small businesses wouldn't be able to get their hands on the same life-saving software. That's when she decided to create a network of high-end local services so that together they could support one another's growth by adding to the shared customer base and be able to make the technology affordable for all local service businesses. With this networking affect, Handlr not only organizes and streamlines business' operations, but also puts sales and marketing on autopilot too - making it the very first mobile business platform of it's kind. It also gives customers on the Handlr App a personal assistant at their fingertips by being able to find and book local services in just a few taps. After years of dreaming about mobile software to scale her business, Handlr is everything that Britt and hundreds of other small business owners ever wanted.
By August 2015, Handlr was finally ready for DogZenergy to hop on. Britt put together a newsletter email announcing to her customers that they were excited to offer them a state-of-the-art, on-demand dog walking app that would make it easier than ever to book services, GPS track their dog walker, view photos and updates about their dogs day and automatically pay for services. They were also notified that they would be making the complete switch on a particular deadline day to encourage people to quickly download and register on the app. Because they had not raised their prices in many years, they also let their customers know that there would be a 15% increase in their fees. Their customers were very accepting of this new change because they were so excited about the new app. Only 5 out of 120 regular clients were apprehensive about the app because they did not use a smartphone or did not wish the experience the fee increase. These clients were manually added to the DogZenergy dashboard so that Karen could still schedule the clients for services and could still dispatch her dog walkers. These clients do not receive notifications, chat or photos, but they do receive emails when their cards are automatically charged up on the dog walker's check out.
Within a few weeks, all of their customers were fully onboarded because the onboarding process is so simple. All they had to do is click on the link to download the app, register, and tap on the "heart" icon next to DogZenergy. By tapping the heart or by booking a service, the customer is immediately added to DogZenergy's customer list on their business dashboard. So there is no need to manually input hundreds of clients' information from another system, which saved DogZenergy a ton of time. They were also able to set up their existing recurring schedule really easily as customers began to pop up on their customer list. The DogZenergy clients loved that they could book last minute services without calling and that they could receive instant notifications that their dogs were being well cared for. They really love the photos of their dogs playing and appreciate being able to chat directly with their dog walker and Karen in the three-way chat.
As soon as DogZenergy was fully on boarded they started to see clients automatically booking themselves for more services than they ever had before. After a solid two months on Handlr, they performed over 1,800 services and saw a 35% increase in sales and signed up 33 new clients. DogZenergy started Handlr with 120 regular clients and now has a total of 153 clients and recurring revenue of $40,000/month. And this is just the beginning. They are excited to see an increase in happy, Zen dogs all over San Diego once Handlr is released in the beginning of January 2016 to cross-promote with other complementary, local services whose clients also have dogs. We will be giving monthly financial updates and keep a running ticker of the amount of clients DogZenergy has on Handlr because proof is in the pudding.
Click on the photos above to see more snapshots of DogZenergy's Handlr Business Dashboard.