Watching tv on the couch, snuggling in bed, taking long walks, and plenty of playtime – we’re talking about Edmonton’s coolest place for furry friends to hang out – Little Paws Inn. Modelled on the mission to give your pet ‘a home away from home’, Little Paws Inn is a daycare, grooming, and boarding facility for dogs, cats, and rabbits. Morgan Wolf, the owner of Little Paws Inn opens up about rethinking the conventional kennel daycare and the anxieties of building a business with no experience.
Q 1: What inspired you to start Little Paws Inn?
After university, my peers were chasing their dreams, and I had no idea what I wanted to do, so I ended up working as a letter carrier for Canada Post for ten years. I also took up other jobs, and would spend over 14 hours a day at work. My three dogs and two cats needed attention, and I couldn’t trust any daycare to take care of them the way I would. My pets wouldn’t thrive in a kennel. I realized if I felt this way, other pet owners also did.
Q 2: How is Little Paws Inn different from other pet daycare facilities?
Little Paws Inn offers an open-concept, cage-free environment for our guests. We don’t keep our furry friends in kennels, and they get a lot of human interaction and exercise throughout their stay.
I had initially launched the daycare at my house, and my customers had loved the assurance of leaving their pets in a home with somebody always around. I recreated that environment in a larger space with Little Paws Inn. Pets are free to roam, socialize, and nap at their leisure. Our overnight area is full of couches and beds, and our cats even have their own bedrooms.
Q 3: The pet daycare and lodging industry has become very competitive as people spend more and more on their pets. How do you keep up with the times, and stay profitable in this business?
I embrace my competition and embrace change. I’m in the field talking to people in the market, and introducing my business. When we get a referral from another business or day care, I immediately call to thank them. We’re all after the same client at the end of the day. So, if you can work together as a team, as a united force you’re much stronger, no matter what industry you’re in.
You also need to understand the changing demands of the market. I was the first one to offer open-concept cat boarding. If you have a friendly cat, they can hang out with other friendly cats in a big room. Initially, I was scoffed at, but today I have a full house and many on the waitlist.
Q 4: What can other entrepreneurs in this space learn from your experience?
Listen to your gut. There’s a reason you have a gut, and have a conscience. And if you don’t listen to it, it will stop speaking to you after a while. Always be honest. Having integrity in business will take you a long way.
As a young woman with no background in business, I found it hard to earn people’s trust initially. Customers would walk past me. I’ve realized, I may be nervous on the inside, but I can project confidence through posture and body language. A few things I follow in my customer interaction is to stand up straight, have an open communication without a desk in front of me, or to extend a hand when reassurance is expected.
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