As any dog owner knows, it can often be difficult to fit into a busy day the amount of walking that your precious pet needs to stay fit and healthy. But in Johannesburg, South Africa, expert help is at hand, thanks to Power Paws, a specialist dog walking business founded by entrepreneur Davina Toale and her co-founder Ondine.
LoA was excited to find out more about this much needed and on-trend business this week from co-founder Davina.
What does your company do?
At Power Paws, we specialize in Dog Walking, Pet Sitting and Vet visits.
What inspired you to start your company?
I was listening to a podcast about a woman who walked dogs and thought it would be a great idea to walk dogs too. I really wasn't enjoying my job at the time and needed a change, but really wasn't sure what to do. So, I did some research into dog walking in Johannesburg and discovered there weren't too many people offering it, but a number of people were looking for their dogs to be walked. I sat on the idea for a while then approached a friend who loved dogs and pitched the idea to her that we go into the dog walking business.
Why should anyone use your service or product?
We are mature women (the wrong side of 40) and our clients like that we're not some teeny boppers looking to make some extra cash. We honestly care about the pets we look after and the dogs we walk and because we have our own animals, we know it takes a huge amount for owners to trust us with their pets. We always have a meet and greet before we walk, or pet sit, and this puts owners at ease when they see how we interact with their pets. Owners can contact us at any time with any request or concern and we'll answer them immediately. Although we're dog walkers, we have branded ourselves as a company, recognizing that owners nowadays are looking for reputable companies to look after the precious fur babies rather than the kid next door.
“I did some research into dog walking in Johannesburg and discovered there weren't too many people offering it, but a number of people were looking for their dogs to be walked.”
Tell us a little about your team
We currently have five team members:
Davina and Ondine are the co-founders of Power Paws and we walk dogs, pet sit, take animals to vets and do all the admin too.
Heidi joined us earlier this year and has been amazing - she walks dogs and pet sits. We're giving her more responsibilities so that when we can afford to, we'll employ her on a full-time basis.
Claire joined us 2 months ago as a dog walker - her background is marketing so hopefully we'll be able to use her skills for marketing Power Paws.
Kate is our youngest team member as a recent hire and in age. She joined us a month ago as a dog walker and pet sitter and is really settling down well with us.
The whole point is to match the walkers to the right dogs and we encourage our team to let us know if they're not happy walking certain dogs as there's nothing worse than doing a job you're not happy doing. We hope the team we currently have will stay with us and help Power Paws grow, as we have many goals we want to achieve.
Share a little about your entrepreneurial journey. And, do you come from an entrepreneurial background?
We started Power Paws in August 2018 while we were both working full-time jobs. We'd walk dogs from 7am to 9am then go to our full-time job and then walk dogs again from 5pm to 7pm. I don't think I ever got to work on time from August to the end of the year and was out the door at 5pm on the dot. We were getting calls constantly and decided that we should look at leaving our full-time employment to walk dogs full-time. So, we both resigned at the end of 2018 and started 2019 as professional dog walkers. We wanted to start putting a team in place so that Ondine and myself could take a back seat and do less walking (essentially become the back-up dog walkers), this hasn't happened yet and although we have a team in place, we are still walking as we're getting new clients every month. We're not complaining at all, it's just unexpected. Although we have both worked in the corporate world and had previous entrepreneurial endeavours, this is the first time we've entered into the pet industry.
“We honestly care about the pets we look after and the dogs we walk and because we have our own animals, we know it takes a huge amount for owners to trust us with their pets.”
What are your future plans and aspirations for your company?
We want to open a doggy day-care in the Edenvale area. We're looking for investors to help us set up our day-care, which will be a very structured business, much like a children’s nursery school. We'll have playtime and naptime and walk-time and learning time and swim-time. We'd like to specialize in older dogs and special needs dogs as these are the ones who end up being forgotten about.
We also want to have our own indoor boarding kennels. This will be a small indoor kennels especially for older dogs, and those dogs afraid of loud noise such as thunder and fireworks. Our idea is that we'll have social events for owners and their dogs during celebrations such as Diwali and New Year at our day-care.
We also want to build an indoor dog park. This will be a centre where dogs can play and swim and walk and run and sleep till their hearts content and their owner can spend the time with them. Then there's franchising the idea of the day-care to building complexes and estates.
Future plans also include boarding for cats and possibly birds (not in the same place!). A cafe/workspace where people can work on their laptops while having dogs or cats around them - especially for people who can't have pets where they live. Volunteer programme for kids - kids with learning difficulties can come and read to the dogs and the dogs won't laugh at them. Also, for people suffering from depression - they can come and sit with the dogs and play, talk, brush the dogs.
“Although we're dog walkers, we have branded ourselves as a company, recognizing that owners nowadays are looking for reputable companies to look after the precious fur babies rather than the kid next door.”
What gives you the most satisfaction being an entrepreneur?
I love having the freedom to do what I want. Although we work very hard, it's really satisfying coming home knowing I've done something I want to do, rather than something I have to do. There's still a huge amount of work to be done in order for us to get where we want to be, but when we get there, we'll have done it for ourselves and not for a boss who'll end up getting the performance bonus.
What's the biggest piece of advice you can give to other women looking to start-up?
Think carefully before turning your hobby into a business, it doesn't always work. Be passionate about what you're doing - you're going to be doing it for an awfully long time, so make sure it's something you don't mind doing the mundane admin duties for. Unless you've got the money, try your idea while still working a job. There's a massive difference between owning a business and running a business - it's okay to run your business at the beginning but the end goal is to own your business. If you're spending time doing everything and not taking time for you, you're running your business - if you delegate tasks to another capable person, you're owning your business.
Why LoA loves it….
Around the world, and in particular in major cities, dog walking is big business and a growing trend. Visit any park in a bustling neighbourhood on any given day and you will see hundreds of much-loved dogs being walked by teams of professional dog walkers. Now, thanks to entrepreneur Davina Toale and her co-founder Ondine Schultz, founders of Power Paws, dog owners in Johannesburg, South Africa, have help at hand to ensure those precious pooches get their daily exercise and socialization. This wonderful growing business is tapping into a real customer need, providing a highly personalized service delivered with passion and professionalism. This is definitely a business to watch as it expands and rolls out its vision to bring professional dog walking to caring dog owners across the country. — Melanie Hawken, founder & ce0, Lionesses of Africa