Meggie and Sebastian Williams, co-owners of The Waggle Company and pictured with their golden doodles Stinson and Khumbu, are building a technology enabling dog walking service and community in Charlotte to help working dog owners ditch the dog guilt.
Over the last couple of years, Meggie and Sebastian Williams looked for dog walkers for their golden doodles, Stinson and Khumbu, as they both had full-time jobs and were generally out of the house a lot. They live in a townhouse Uptown and having Stinson and Khumbu walked during the work day is important to the married couple.
Essentially, the Williams’ didn’t like their options. Most dog walkers have little accountability – sure, some send a text during the day, but did the dogs really get quality exercise or did the walker even show up? They also found that there’s little to no flexibility in scheduling a walker – if making a same-day reservation or a change within 48 hours, you would pay an additional fee up to $25.
“We talked to more people – trying to figure out what they did – and realized that these pain points were [common]”, Meggie Williams mentions.
On top of this, dog ownership, especially for millennials, is on the rise. Over 65% of the US households have pets, of which 40% are dogs, and the average age of first-time pet ownership is down from 28 to 21. And at the rate millennials are moving to Charlotte, alone, there’s a big demand for a better dog walking service. In dog terms – the market is begging for it.
They’re familiar with running a business together as they had a photography side-business for a few years. But more importantly, she has experience in helping to run a tech company as she was the South East Regional Manager for Move Loot before the company went under. So at the start of 2016, the Williams’ started The Waggle Company to solve this problem by building a technology enabled dog walking service.
Meggie Williams notes, “We are creating a [dog walking] service that is convenient, easy to use, has great technology, but is backed by top-notch quality.” In short, they leverage technology to simplify the on-demand scheduling, visit coordination, and payments process of the dog walk, all while offering a quality experience.
She walks through an example to illustrate how it works
After signing up on the Waggle platform, a member of the Waggle team schedules an at home consultation to learn about your pet’s personality, behavior, and any health issues. She also digs into the dog’s normal routine, as well as the owner’s expectations. To this point, the regular visit can be highly customized anywhere from taking the dog on a long walk to simply playing fetch in the back yard.
From there, your information is generated into an online account and you can start scheduling appointments for your furry friend up to as early as that next day.
Waggle provides a flat-rate based on time. “We don’t charge additional for anything”, she adds. If you have two dogs or if medication is required Waggle doesn’t charge extra.
During the appointment, you get a notification that a Waggle team member arrived and an automated report which has a GPS-tracked map of the walk, a picture, and comments from the walker.
The Waggle team has 25 team members now between their operations manager, community manager, and their dog walkers. The team takes the employee vetting process very seriously – there is a series of interviews, shadowing during a dog walk, and in-class training – as client trust and providing a high-quality service is of the utmost importance.
“People’s routines are [really] nuanced. They have dogs that have different needs, different personalities, and as such in order to be able to cater to our clients in a way that makes us feel like we are delivering the high-quality service we guarantee, we have to be able to make sure that our team members are trained to provide that experience.”
Currently, they are focusing on growing the Charlotte market and better understanding their customers’ needs, but they are also fundraising in order to accelerate Waggle’s future growth. Just last week, they practiced the pitch at last week’s PitchBreakfast event where the panelists provided insights and really helped the Williams’ see the company through the eyes of an investor.
With a successful raise, Waggle will concentrate on supporting a technical co-founder to help the company prepare for scaling, paid marketing campaigns since they have mostly bootstrapped marketing through word-of-mouth, and eventually scaling the Waggle technology and solution to other cities.
Concerning entrepreneurship as a whole, her belief is if you’re not getting what you want out of your career, then change it. “We have limited time on this planet – [every day], what do you want out of it? If you’re not getting what you want now, you’re not going to get what you want out of it later.” There is no perfect time to start, so now is as good a time as any, Charlotte.
You can check out The Waggle Company at www.thewagglecompany.com.