For many small businesses, navigating the changing times that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought has proven to be a difficult feat. Business owners have had to get creative in order to keep their businesses thriving and their employees working. Read on to learn about the inspiring story of one very dedicated pet sitter and business owner, Jenna Gotch, owner of Passionately Pets in Alexandria, VA who has adapted to this change and has kept her staff employed!
What inspired you to start your business?
I have always had a love for animals. When I graduated college, I got a part time job pet sitting. I didn’t even know the industry existed! Growing up, we took our dog to the kennel and left our cat home with extra food and water. So I thought this was the best thing ever! I ended up liking caring for other people’s pets way more than my marketing job, and I wanted to spend more time doing it. Plus, I wanted to create a business that could provide better pet care than what was available when I was a kid. That’s how Passionately Pets was born.
What do you consider your greatest accomplishment since starting your business?
Building a team of people to support me to help my business grow is by far my greatest accomplishment. I started Passionately as a one woman operation and now have a team of over 20. Passionately Pets would be nothing without the team of hard working, dedicated, caring people behind it. Having staff isn’t always the easiest, but they are my ambassadors.
Our employees are our brand. They are the ones who are providing quality service to the pets and communicating directly with our clients. Without them, Passionately Pets would be nothing.
What have been some of your greatest challenges since starting a business?
Since the pet care industry is a hands on service which requires traveling to and from each pet’s home, it requires different staffing solutions than brick & mortar businesses. Each client gets personalized, individualized service at their own home, so to be able to grow we need people with their own transportation and availability in the middle of the day. Plus, most of our positions are part time which adds a different level of difficulty to the hiring puzzle. It is rare to find a responsible, dedicated person with the availability we need who doesn’t require full time hours and equivalent compensation. But once we do find the right fit, it is a match made in heaven and we pray for long time retention.
Has your business been affected by COVID-19? Have the circumstances inspired new ways of doing business or new business strategies?
The pandemic has negatively affected Passionately Pets. We are currently only performing ~30% of our normal number of visits because people are working from home and not traveling right now. It was our goal to come together as a family and create ways for our Team to continue to have paying jobs with Passionately Pets. So we pivoted a bit and opened an online pet boutique to create another revenue stream. We are very excited to have created apparel, tote bags, collars, leashes, wine glasses and more designed by our staff members. Plus, we sell our favorite puzzles, treats, toys and other pet supplies as well. Our clients and community have been really supportive of us and the new store. In addition to selling online, we have participated in several Pop-Up markets in our community to get in front of more customers. Sales from the store have been keeping us going while revenue from services is down.
What advice do you have for other business owners?
Trust your gut, take every opportunity to network and always be ready for change.
Learn more about the services that Passionately Pets offers, and be sure to check out their new shop full of great finds that you and your furbaby will both be sure to love! Does you business have an inspiring story to tell? Let us know here!
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