Spotlight on Brookhaven: Meet April Abbott, Owner of Pet Minders
April Abbott, Owner - petminders.com - 404-315-1155
Describe your business.
Pet Minders is a pet sitting business where pet sitters are carefully selected to care for pets while owners are away. Services range from mid-day visits for walks/potty breaks, playtime, and companionship, to vacation visits and overnight stays.
What made you decide to BUY the business?
I was in corporate America for over 20 years where I traveled nationally, working in the technology industry. Working in the technology field everything was constantly changing which made my work constantly change. After years and years of the constant travel and change, I finally got tired of corporate America. I got married and I started to look for a business to purchase. I have always loved animals, and I have several pets of my own, so when I saw that Pet Minders was for sale I thought it was an awesome opportunity.
What areas of Atlanta do you cover?
We service inside the perimeter of Atlanta, North of I-20. We also now have pet sitters that service East Atlanta to include Decatur, Chamblee, Dunwoody, Tucker, and Northlake and even outside of the perimeter in Vinings, Sandy Springs, and Smyrna!
What makes your pet sitting services different?
What sets us apart is that we are a service. If something were to happen to your pet sitter while you are out of town (such as the sitter gets sick, has a family emergency, etc.) we always have back up sitters ready to take over. No matter what happens your pets are always taken care of. We also are not going to be booked up for the holiday season like most kennels will be. We pick up a lot of new clients during the holiday because we are able to service pets inside their homes. Another huge added bonus is that I am the second eye on your house; our pet sitters know that if they cannot make it on time to a house that they can call me to get back up over there.
As technology has evolved it has helped and hurt our business and our clients. With Google and Indeed.com it has helped me tremendously when I am looking to hire new pet sitters. However, it has also increased the competition. Social media has now evolved into free advertising – for example with neighborhood apps and sites such as NextDoor, pet owners can post that they are looking for a pet sitter for the weekend. This opens a door to welcome an uninsured stranger into their home to take care of their pets. I run a service, so the quality and professionalism is guaranteed compared to a stranger from across the street. Also, if there is a problem with our pet sitters you can always contact me to help resolve the issue and talk to the pet sitter rather than having the awkward conversation with a stranger or neighbor.
Tell me about your training process for a new pet sitter.
I taking training seriously, but even before training, I am very intentional with the hiring process. The interview process is pretty long – we do a phone interview, face to face interview, and an appointment run with a current pet sitter. We then go through a pet sitter FAQ, and then it really boils down to keeping a close eye on them as they first get started. Anyone can sit across the table from you and look like a great pet sitter and animal lover. It is the first few appointment runs that really show if they are going to work out. We look for clean, on-time, and good at communication from our sitters. So if the sitter is not going to work out we find out pretty quickly. We have nearly 600 active clients, and about 15 pet sitters.
How do you maintain the quality with your pet sitters?
Making sure that from the start the sitters that I hire are right for the job. It is funny, most people think “Oh pet sitting is so easy, anybody can do that.” But after 12 years of running this business I know that not just anyone can be a successful pet sitter. You have to be organized, follow directions, pay attention, and you have to enjoy what you’re doing because if you don’t, the pets can sense it and they will tell their parents (haha!). But really the owners can tell that something did not go right.
Our quality comes from setting expectations up front, nurturing pet sitters that are really good, distributing business correctly to each sitter, and making sure that they are each making enough money. Pet sitting definitely has its seasonal peaks and valleys. We have our mid-day dog walks which are our bread and butter, and our vacation sitters that are dependent upon the season. It is my goal to make sure that I am bringing in enough business to give my pet sitters so that they stick around.
If I have a situation where someone made a mistake or I have an unsatisfied customer, I try to take care of the customer first. Then try to understand what happened from the pet sitter's point of view and try to coach them to help them not make a mistake again. We use an online reservation system which really has helped our business grow to be organized and successful. One small mistake could mean that someone does not show up to take care of a pet.
What cautions do you take when taking pets out of the house?
We train our pet sitters to keep the dogs as close to them as possible. If we see a dog walking towards us we are to take the dog across the street, and if we cannot cross the street then we pull off to the side and pull the dog as close to us as possible. We do not take dogs out to parks, or outside without reason. We are very careful to keep dogs away from other dogs to ensure that accidents do not happen.
What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs?
You touch your business every day, 365 days a year, so find something that you love. Your business becomes your life, 7-days a week, so you need to love what you do to be successful.
Some pet sitters bring pets into their house. What are your thoughts on kenneling a dog?
In the state of Georgia you are required to have a Kennel license to allow them to kennel pets in their house. Without a license there is a $5,000 fee and 30-days in jail. Kennels have to get medical records to make sure that animals have all of their shots where as someone who is bringing pets to their house who do not have all of their shots. Kenneling insurance is needed - different than normal insurance that pet sitters have or homeowners have.
Interview conducted by local REALTOR® Kelly Marsh.