Gilleen Pearce, born and raised in a small town in Ontario, made Toronto home over a decade ago. In 2016 she took the plunge into business ownership. She runs Walk My Dog Toronto with her husband Colin, who has his own IT start-up, Inderly.
“It’s a side hustle, not a real full-time business.”
When people hear that I run a dog walking company, they often ask if it’s my full-time job, or something I do for fun on the side. People on the street will ask me how much I make, and even exclaim that I must be happy it’s a “cash” business.
Sometimes I explain that I run an 8-person company that services a 15-kilometre stretch across downtown Toronto, all day, every day.
I have also been asked if I hire only students or retirees. I then explain that we operate from 9am-6pm Monday to Friday, and that this is my staff’s full-time day job, with paid holidays, tax deductions and everything.
People are often surprised that dog walking is in such demand. In dense urban areas where people commute to work and can’t go home during lunch, they call on us. It’s a service job like any other – making people’s days just a little bit easier, and giving them peace of mind.
“It’s an easy job.”
We’ve been vocal in our support for a higher minimum wage across the board for employees – I’m convinced it improves performance and allows us to keep staff by providing a good, consistent pay cheque (and most people have stayed with us for over a year).
When we spoke out, people dismissed us due to the nature of our business, suggesting that it’s an easy job, not worth taking seriously.
In reality, not only do I face the same challenges as every small business owner (finding time for marketing and sales, handling cash flows/accounting/payroll, providing excellent customer service, hiring and training staff, directing short-term and long-term vision and goals – all in addition to day-to-day work).
My staff work hard. Really hard. I mean physically walking more than 10km per day, staying alert at all times, handling dog personalities and issues that come up, dodging hazards, and all done outside in the elements with our extreme Canadian weather. They have minimal down time, yet always keep the dogs safe and clients happy.
Not everyone can do it, but it’s an honest day’s work, that’s for sure!
“It must be fun working with dogs.”
This one is 100% true.
Sometimes you just have to giggle. Dogs drool, they get excited, they fart, and they don’t care.
Everything about working with dogs teaches us how to live in the moment. We thank them for that, even if we do look a little silly being pulled in three different directions at once, with our pants stained with dirt and our hair flattened by hats and bike helmets.
This is what I say:
Where there’s work to be done there’s money to be made. People need help. Any service can be delivered as a legitimate business, so if you have an idea, build on it!
When you’re designing a business, consider it from a lifestyle perspective. Do you like the hours? Can you live with the downsides? Will people laugh at you, and are you okay with that? If so, you’re on the right track.
If you love your idea and you’ve got some good numbers to back it up, stick with it!
Walk My Dog Toronto