Use Your Social Connections to Find Trusted Pet Sitters at Stayhound

A few months ago, I clicked a link to this PBS video on Portland entrepreneurs via the facebook page of Barbara Winter, author of one of my favorite books, Making a Living Without a Job. That is when I found out about Alexis. I contacted her soon after and we have had two great brainstorming sessions over coffee since then. I am excited about what she is doing for the pet sitting community and can’t wait to share this start-up with you…

1. Alexis, in a sentence or two, what is Stayhound?

Stayhound makes it easier to leave your pets with friends and other carers.
Right now we’re helping people connect to trusted pet sitters using their
existing social connections, and we’re working on ways to help you track
and share details about your travels, your pet’s extended family (vets,
walkers, and other carers), medications, feeding schedule, and other important information.

2. Who or what inspired this great start-up?

My own hassles with finding and communicating with pet sitters to care for
my dog, Jake, and cat, Toby. I found myself spending more time interviewing
people I found through online directories than actually traveling! And when
I asked my friends to pet sit for me, I was driving all over the place to
drop off Jake before going to the airport. I knew there were people –
friends, professional pet sitters, and others – who lived closer to me and
I would trust, but I didn’t know how to find that sweet spot of social
proximity and location proximity.

3. What do you think makes Stayhound stand out from other online sitting services?

Trust. I interviewed dozens of pet parents and all of them wanted a better
way to find people they would trust with their animal companions. One told
me that she wouldn’t use Yelp to find a pet sitter because she didn’t
personally know the reviewers – she wanted a word of mouth referral. By
using your existing social connections, we make it easier to find pet
sitters who come with recommendations from trusted friends.

Jake and Alexis

4. What do you believe pet parents really want from sitters/walkers like Paul and I?

No one wants to have another thing to worry about, and when I trust the
person caring for Jake when I have to travel, it’s one less thing to worry
about. That comes from knowing – and liking – my pet sitter, but also
getting email, text messages, and photos of how Jake and Toby are doing. It
makes me feel like I’m with them.

5. What’s in it for the pets?

While all pets are different and many thrive in different environments, I’m
not a huge fan of kennels for Jake. Most kennel and dog daycare owners I’ve
talked to also realize that not all dogs do well in that environment. For
dogs who are more human-identified like Jake, staying with someone else in
their home or having someone stay in my home with him is so much better.
Kennels can also be dangerous for dogs – distemper, dog flu, and other
diseases are always a risk.

On a less tangible level, I believe our pets pick up on our anxieties. When
I feel confident dropping Jake off with someone I trust, he knows that and
feels more comfortable.

6. How have you gone about getting the word out on Stayhound?

Largely through friends and other people I’ve worked with who are
interested in what we’re doing. Partnering with the Oregon Humane Society
to donate a dollar for every pet profile created has been a great way to
get press from news outlets like the Oregonian.

7. What do you love most about being an entrepreneur?

Strangely, introducing people to others who can help them! I’ve never
considered myself an extrovert, but running my own business forces me to
get out and talk to people more than I would otherwise. I love being able
to connect someone I meet to a potential customer or mentor. I recently
spent the weekend at Reed College helping college students work on their
startup ideas and pitch to a panel of investors. I loved being able to help
students the way others have helped me.

8. What can we do here in the sitting community to support Stayhound?

If you’re friends with your clients on Facebook, tell them about us! Anyone
can sign up for a Stayhound account and find out how many of their facebook
friends (and “friends in law”) are already there. There are so many people
who are involved in our pets’ lives, and we’re working on ways to keep all
of them in the loop. We’d love to hear feedback about how we can make that
communication easier for carers and their clients.

Alexis, thank you for taking the time to talk with me and share Stayhound with everyone…you are definitely onto something, here. As always, we welcome feedback and questions from all of you pet parents, sitters, and otherwise curious readers!

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