keeping it small: size matters to me

When I started pet sitting full time, I initially tried any advertising I could think of. In order to build an initial client base, I threw lots of time and money down every conceivable avenue, only to receive very little in return. I learned quickly that networking and building relationships in the community was the fastest and best way to build my client base. Though we're always accepting new clients, we're now a manageable size, considering it's basically just myself and one other sitter. I prefer to keep it small because, well, let's be real: I'm a control freak. That, and I love the fact that I know each of my clients very well. They are almost like family. We partner with our clients to make sure their pets get the best care. Many of our clients have been with us since the beginning in 2005, and we're so grateful to have these relationships that often last through multiple "generations" of pets.

We now build our business primarily from client and community referrals, which is the best way to go for us. Just as our clients want to have the best pet sitter in all the land, we want to have the most awesome clients. By gaining new clients through referrals and spending time in the community, we can more readily trust that this will be the case, and they usually feel very comfortable knowing that a trusted source has said we're the best.


Because we value referrals so highly, we offer our clients an ongoing, graduated referral reward that gets better each time the referred client uses our services. Our client who is kind enough to refer to us gets rewarded over and over! It's been a great success for us, and it's a good feeling to know that we can say thank you to those who spread the word about Well Minded.

Growing our business this way allows us to create a family bond with our clients. I love that when a client's name pops up on my phone, I know exactly who they are and who their pets are. Size does matter. And we prefer to keep it small.

how it started: opening my pet sitting business

I don't recall the exact beginning of my pet sitting career, but it probably started when I was about twelve years old, just on the verge of possibly being considered responsible. I initially followed the jr. high herd and tried my hand in baby sitting, but no amount of movie and apparel money could convince me that I wanted to spend my weekends monitoring short people who refused to listen and needed to be endlessly entertained. I found myself more drawn to the pets in the household. The mother of a young girl I reluctantly baby sat on a regular basis noticed this and asked if I'd watch their dog while they went away for the weekend. Pop in on him several times a day to let him out, feed him, and provide him with a bit of company. I didn't even need transportation, because they lived two doors down. Why, sure.

And you'll pay me? Even better. I referred out my weekend baby sitting jobs to a grateful girlfriend and never looked back.

I took care of that neighbor's Siberian Husky for several years following and added a few other neighborhood pets to the mix. A cat here, a hamster there. People liked me because I actually loved the animals. I didn't just drop food and run out, forgetting to fill the water bowl. I followed the care instructions to the letter and spent time with the pets because I enjoyed it. And because I enjoyed it, I did a really good job. The animals were happy and healthy, and the owners thanked me by referring me to their friends.

As I grew through my teens and early twenties, I tried other odd jobs and career paths. I worked in retail for a spell, and paid my dues in food and drink service. I earned my bachelor's degree in art history and went on to work as an account manager at a Southern California graphic design firm. All the while, keeping my hand in the animal scene, pet sitting here and there and rescuing any animal that wasn't tied down.

When my husband and I decided to move from California to Arizona, we both started looking for work in our new city. I loved working in graphic design and hoped to find a similar position. I also started fantasizing about opening my own business, not in graphic design, but in pet sitting. Could I do it full time? Could I be my own boss? Never one to shy away from risk, I dove into all the pet sitting and business planning books I could get my hands on. My fantasy started to morph into reality and something I knew I couldn't let go. I created a business plan, paperwork, and recruited my designer friends to help me with my logo, Web site, and printed collateral. I was official. Well Minded was born, and we had exactly zero clients.

I remember my first official consultation well. I'd been to clients' homes before, of course, but there had never been so much at stake. It was two slobbering, jumping Rottweilers. Sweet as pie, but they didn't coordinate well with my skirt and high heels, which were supposed to convey an air of professionalism. I didn't get that job, but I quickly learned that professional pet sitting was not about appearing professional, but it was about being professional. For my next consultation, I proudly wore my new Well Minded t-shirt, shorts, and running shoes. I was able to get down on the floor with the pets, and it didn't matter that they drooled and shed. And the owners loved me for being me and for being in love with their pets. Well Minded was born again, and we had exactly one client.