They're not your average dog-walking service

Posted: June 11, 2013

C ARRIE AND LINDSAY Maria, 31 and 34, of Bella Vista, are wife-and-husband co-owners of the Monster Minders, a Philly dog-walking service. The company is essentially a day-care service for dogs of working Center City residents. I spoke with Carrie Maria.

Q: How'd you come up with the idea for the business?

A: I applied for graduate school in 2005 and needed some income, so I posted an ad on the Internet for dog-walking and a few months later was making a living at it. Lindsay came on full time, and for a year and a half it was just us.

Q: What about startup funds?

A: We didn't need any. Lindsay is a graphic designer, so he made our website. It was mostly manpower, working long hours.

Q: How do you and Lindsay divide the job responsibilities?

A: Lindsay meets clients and does a little more dog-walking. I deal with the behind-the-scenes work, answering email and setting up schedules for walkers.

Q: What's the business model?

A: Our client works long hours and can't get home to take the dog out for a walk or exercise. Some clients have us visit once a day, and others three times a day.

Q: Tell me about your clients.

A: We have more than 300, mostly young, working professionals. Many commute to work, students who work long hours and clients who take classes after work. We offer vacation service, but only to clients who use us weekly.

Q: What's behind the name?

A: It's just the name we came up with. We use "Monster" in the endearing Dr. Seuss sense.

Q: What sets you apart from other dog-walking services in the city?

A: We've done hundreds of thousands of visits. All employees are full-time. Many other services use independent contractors. We believe a dog-walking team needs training, and we don't do pack walks. That's not safe in an urban environment, or fair to the dogs. If you've got four dogs in tow and one gets injured, what do you do?

Q: How many employees?

A: We have 19 full-time.

Q: How much do services cost?

A: They start at $20 for a half-hour visit. For clients who use us five times a week, it is $16.

Q: What's the biggest challenge you faced growing the business?

A: Finding the right people. It's a tough job. We're outside, sometimes in bad weather. We can't take sick days, because that means dogs don't get walked. A good dog-walker must have a flexible schedule. Typically, they visit eight to 11 households per day.

Q: You also have a nonprofit.

A: Yes, the Monster Milers started in 2010. We connect Philadelphia runners with homeless dogs as running companions. We have 300 volunteers who visit the Philadelphia Animal Welfare Society and other shelters.



On Twitter: @MHinkelman

Online: ph.ly/YourBusiness

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