When she started her career in fashion, Jennifer Martineau probably never imagined that she would one day own a dog daycare and boarding centre. Why the change in course? It all started when her dog sitter approached her with an idea.
"She needed an investor, so she asked me if I wanted to partner with her on a dog daycare business," says Jennifer. "I said yes and six months later we opened DoggyDay in downtown Montreal."
Jennifer eventually doubled down on the new venture, bought out her business partner and opened another location in Dorval. With the second DoggyDay offering 24/7 boarding just five minutes away from the airport, Jennifer came up with the idea for a "Bark 'n Fly" service, where dog owners could park both their pups and their vehicles before heading out of town.
With genius ideas like this, it may sound like it was all smooth sailing from the start, but there was a lot of trial and error along the way.
"It's not like a startup where you go from zero to 60 in a few days. It took us about six months to build a steady flow of clients. Some days we had no dogs, some days we had three. It was challenging for staffing," says Jennifer, adding that it takes a lot of trust to get customers in this business. "You come out of the woodwork and you're just a regular person expecting people to trust you with a member of their family... It's really heartwarming when someone comes through your door and wants to trust you with their most prized possession. You can do tons of marketing but at the end of the day, it's referrals that have the most impact."
"Both locations are built to be practical for dogs to roam the hallways, but the lobby appeals more to humans," says Jennifer. "Dog areas need lots of doors and security is very important. If a dog runs out you need to be able to stop them. You also want durable materials that are easy to clean."
Opening a dog daycare and boarding centre may have unique considerations, but some things go a long way no matter what kind of business you're in, like hard work and perseverance.
Jennifer's advice? Even though both DoggyDay locations are busy and that's a problem any business owner would love to have, she's always thinking about how to get more customers. And, if you're going to start a business, patience is key.
"Love what you do because it's hard. The saying 'blood, sweat and tears' definitely applies here," says Jennifer. "It's very hard but it's so rewarding."