Entrepreneurship

Peace Love & Pooches: A Startup Guide for Partners

Arriving to Boston from San Francisco last fall, I quickly realized that one of the most exciting things about being an HBS partner was the opportunity to be surrounded by smart people doing interesting things.

It seemed like everyone on campus had an idea, and I’d be lying if I said the entrepreneurial fever wasn’t a bit contagious. Even though I was lucky enough to move to Boston with a job, HBS’ heavy focus on entrepreneurship and the new FIELD 3 curriculum inspired me to start my own company.

As a new puppy owner and new Boston resident, I had very few local contacts to help with dog care services – walking, sitting, socializing – and the available options were inconvenient and expensive. As a result, my dog-owning neighbor and I got in the habit of trading walks or overnight care for our dogs. I can walk my neighbor’s dog during the day when I’m available and she can walk my dog at night when she’s available.

I knew this concept could be applied to the broader HBS dog-owner population. Thus, the birth of Peace Love & Pooches – a website where dog owners can list and trade dog services with a trusted network of people in their community. According to the American Pet Products Association, pet industry sales reached $50+billion last year – $4 billion of which was spent on services.

But how could I turn this idea into a business? The first thing I did was buy the domain on GoDaddy.com. My boyfriend/student, Alex Livingston, mentioned his TEM class and FIELD 3 group were working on creating Minimum Viable Products (MVP).

The inspiration for the startup

For those of us non-HBS students or closet entrepreneurs, author Scott Anthony explains the MVP concept clearly in a post on the HBR blog: “Because it’s next to impossible to be sure that your idea is good until you bring it into the marketplace, don’t waste time trying to fine-tune a product that is destined to be wrong. Instead, put something ‘good enough’ in the marketplace. Let real customers use the product and learn from their feedback.” Knowing I wasn’t striving for perfection out of the gate relieved the pressure, and allowed me to put together my plan of action:

  1. 1. Created a site/forum using Go Daddy’s design tool where users can create pet profiles to post and respond to trades. I brought in the help of my fellow partner and badass graphic designer Stephanie Shilling to create a logo and help give the site a spit-shine and polish.
  2. 2. Started Twitter and Pinterest accounts and began to build up a following of other local dog owners. Both sites led to a rise in traffic for the website and my Posterous blog.
  3. 3. Reached out to my potential user base of on-campus dog owners through e-mail and Facebook and included the site in the Partner’s Club and Section D e-newsletters.
  4. 4. Attended the HBS Entrepreneurship 2012 Conference to listen to other ideas and get familiar with business plans and how to grow my user base.

I still have a long way to go before the site is able to take off beyond campus. But I’m glad that I started Peace Love & Pooches in the heart of HBS. I would encourage other partners to take advantage of the opportunities we have here to bring your own ideas to life. Help carry the entrepreneurial spirit beyond just the students.

April 17, 2012
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