Job Loss Catapults inspiring Entrepreneur & Animal Lover Into a Bustling Pet Services Business
Pet Inspirations: Christina Walker, Top Dog Pet Sitter
Please tell us about your company and what role(s) you play.
I’m Christina Walker the owner of Top Dog Pet Sitter located in Villa Rica, GA which is west of Atlanta about 25 miles to Alabama. I do pet sits in the field and help run the day-to-day operations of the business along with my husband Mike. Mike is our Office Manager and handles our Accounting, website, logo, marketing as well as spending lots of time in the field loving on the animals.
How and when did you start your business? Did a pet inspire it?
The business was started in September of 2005 after a job loss. I have a degree in Business with mostly administrative experience and my desire to be an entrepreneur has followed me for years in various ways with the burning desire to have no glass ceiling. I have always grown up with animals and found my passion caring for them while pet sitting for my Brother Jim “Bubba” while I was in college. My brother had several Smooth Fox Terriers so I learned very detailed routines. From there, I began to gain further experience through referrals where I began caring for other breeds and animals. Pet sitting began to become a way of life for me! I later left my corporate job in June of 2012 to pursue the business full time and I haven’t looked back. The freedom we have operating our own business is so fulfilling.
What services do you provide?
We offer a variety of in-home services to help pet owners such as dog walking, cat sitting, bird/exotic sitting, drop-in visits, small farm animal care, pet waste removal, pet transportation, wedding services and more. We offer in-your-home pet care so the animals can stay in their own environment where the sights and smells say home.
Do you have a pet(s) that joins you at work, what are their names and roles?
Yes, we have two female cats Nickel & Button. Nickel is a grey and black Tabby with a sassy personality! Button is a Tortoise Shell and such a sweetheart. They don’t travel with us in the field but they enjoy spending time with us while at our home office. They make awesome lap warmers while we are working! Both rotate on our laps and will lie on our books, papers and laptop. They are so much fun and comforting to us after a long day.
What makes your business or brand unique?
Going the extra mile. We believe in giving the customer value beyond what they originally paid us for. Even in situations where pet sitting is not involved, we will make sure people and their pets are connected to the services and resources they need. If a client needs grooming, we put them in touch with a groomer. If they need training, we will recommend local trainers and give them links and contact information. If it looks like a potential customer would be a better match for a boarding company we will steer them in that direction and give them links. In addition, we have put in many hours behind the scenes helping various animal causes and I have even served as President of the Douglas County Humane Society. This has allowed us to gain experience and forge relationships and connections that can be valuable to our clients who are in situations of needing to adopt or re-home an animal. We are active in our local community and are always looking for ways to include our clients with on-going events and helpful information.
How does what you offer help pet lovers like you?
We know first hand the anxiety of going on a trip and having to leave our fur-babies behind. Knowing that they are in safe hands is a must. That is why we do what we do. We offer trust, security and peace of mind to pet owners that need to be away from home for travel or work. Our services offer an alternative to boarding so pet parents have comfort knowing that pets can stay home in their own environment where all the sights and smells say ‘home!’ Our services are customizable so the level of care will fit each pet and needs. We’re here for them and, in fact, we recently stepped in and helped out a client whose husband had suddenly been hospitalized for heart issues.
What have been some of your biggest challenges in running your business? How did you overcome them?
Balancing business responsibilities and family time has been our biggest challenges given we work 7 days a week. We found a combination of tools, resources and setting boundaries has helped us to overcome these challenges.
Our most go-to tool has been our pet sitting software, Time to Pet. The software allows clients to easily schedule appointments, update pet/home details, pay invoices and communicate with the office on the portal.
We hired a virtual Receptionist to help answer our calls while we are in the field and/or not available. They answer our calls 24/7 allowing us to provide a professional presence while giving us the flexibility to carve out more pockets of family time. They text and email us our phone messages that has helped us keep track of incoming calls more efficiently.
We hired a few sitters to help us in the field, added office hours and a local Accountant to help handle our payroll and taxes.
The gift order service from Pet Perennials has been invaluable allowing us to give a personalized sympathy gifts around our hectic schedule.
What qualities have made you successful or do you feel are important for inspiring leaders?
I attribute my success to a combination of efforts and consistencies. I am constantly learning, reading, searching, growing, brainstorming ideas for the business, listening to podcasts, business coaches and keeping abreast with the pet sitting industry. I participate in monthly webinars, networking events, Women organizations such as ABWA and ongoing training via Petsit Pro thru organizations such as PSI – Pet Sitters International. I take advantage of resources available and apply them to my business and life. I also enjoy giving back and helping others, which continues to inspire us.
Collin with Pet Sitter Confessional recently interviewed me. I shared about my transition about of Corporate America and some of our 15 years in business. https://www.petsitterconfessional.com/episodes/147
Where can someone get more information about your business?