Our furry friends need to be well taken care of. Happy dogs, happy owners. Finding the perfect app for dog-friendly places and other dog related needs can be somehow tricky, but Jessie Akkermans has created an app for dog lovers that ticks all the right boxes. Following in her dad’s footsteps, Jessie decided to found her own startups. She knew though, it wouldn’t be a walk in the park. All entrepreneurs like herself face common challenges like mindset hurdles or funding issues. Dealing with everyday unknowns and keeping your vision sharpened is a balancing act. The fix? Know why you want to become an entrepreneur and map out a plan. One day, or Day 1?
Meet Doggies In Town
Q: Give us your elevator pitch.
Doggies in Town is an all-in-one app for dog owners to easily find dog-friendly places such as accommodations, hotels, restaurants, shops, parks & beaches, as well as activities, events, dog products & services (online & offline). It’s all about making your dog part of your daily life by giving you the chance to take them anywhere you’d want to go. Dog owners would love to spend more time with their dogs and would love to know where to find dog-friendly places and that is exactly what we’re tackling.
For businesses we offer an AI-powered, sales and marketing SaaS platform where they can create a profile, which is visible for the dog owners in the app and target them based on their location and interests by launching special offers & discounts increasing their visibility on the app. The SaaS platform also allows them to let dog owners make direct reservations & bookings, think about booking a dog-friendly hotel or make an appointment with your groomer or veterinarian. Our aim is to stand out in relation to our competitors; before all else, we want to facilitate the choice for our dog owner community. We will be launching per city and per neighbourhood, starting in Madrid, followed by Barcelona, Valencia and the rest of Spain to make sure supply and demand are in balance and increase the relevance for both businesses and dog owners.
Q: What stage are you at with your startup?
We are in the pre-seed stage. We’ve already launched our SaaS platform and are currently onboarding our waiting list over 1.500 businesses. We are aiming to launch our app for dog owners beginning of December and start onboarding our waiting list of over 4.000 dog owners. Financially, we are still in the pre-seed stage.
The road of starting your own business
Q: What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced with your startup?
Finding funds during Covid is not as easy when you don’t have your platform ready yet, investors want metrics in the platform. Keeping your team motivated and on board is not always easy when you can’t give specific deadlines on when you can start paying them. In the end I’m very blessed with my dedicated team, because without them we wouldn’t be where we are today. Finding the right team is time consuming and challenging, but it is definitely worth the investment.
Q: What’s your biggest success so far?
That we have over 4.000 dog owners and more than 1.500 businesses who signed up on our platform and the positive feedback we are receiving from dog owners when we talk to them, which is usually “This is something we need, can I already download the app?”. It shows that we validated our startup idea well and that once we hit the market that we will have the support of the people we created the startup for in the first place.
Q: What’s next in your startup? What’s in the works?
Our focus is on launching our crowd equity campaign with Crowdcube, which will launch around mid November, as well as onboarding businesses in the SaaS platform and finalizing the app for dog owners for launch. Our strategy is similar to Uber, Uber only opens up in certain cities or areas when they have enough drivers in that area. We will be doing the same, once there are enough businesses in Madrid, in for example the neighbourhood La Latina, we will be opening up the app for dog owners in that neighborhood.
Q: What role are you looking for your investors to play in your startup?
We are actually preparing a crowd equity campaign, which we will launch on Crowdcube.com around mid November. People can invest for as little as €1 and in return receive shares in the company. In addition we will be offering extra rewards on top of the shares. We will be focusing on getting dog owners and pet businesses to invest, because they know the market and the market need. They will become shareholders in the company, use our products and therefore become brand ambassadors, a win-win situation.In terms of investors it would be great added value if they have affinity with dogs, a network in the pet industry or previously invested in a pet startup, which would help us tremendously in terms of connections, partnerships, advice and further growth.
Q: Are there any specific skills or qualifications you had attained prior to becoming an entrepreneur that you believe helped you make the transition to actually being one?
My dad has been an entrepreneur his entire life, I grew up with it. I always had business ideas and wanted to start my own business in the future. I actually started working for myself right after graduating and I was lucky enough to always have the support from my dad. He always told me to go for it, that if I saw an opportunity or if I wanted to start my own business, I’d have to take the risk. In the beginning it is not easy, you think you have all the know-how on how to start your own business, but it is an amazing process where you learn by practising, gaining skills and expertise. If things fail, which happens, you learn, you continue and keep on going. I think, as an entrepreneur, you need that skill to push through and not give up. There are lots of ups and downs and it is not always easy; there’s no safety net either, but I wouldn’t want it any other way. I’ve worked for other people once and didn’t really like it. You might end up working double time, but you can’t deny the fact that FREElance FREEdom is captivating.
Doggies In Town & Demium
Q: Why did you decide to start your company with Demium?
I know someone who works at Demium and having set up 4 startups previously, I was very interested in the way they work and what they could offer entrepreneurs. When I arrived in Spain I saw a huge opportunity in the growing dog industry. I love dogs and the way they treat dogs here in Spain is very different compared to The Netherlands where I am from and other countries I have lived before. From my own experience I always found it very difficult to find places where I could bring my dog, I was wondering if people here had the same frustration. I started researching the market and talked to dog owners. I found out that they would like to spend more time with their dogs, but that they didn’t know where they could go with them or what they could do together. In addition they also said they would love to have one app for all their needs for their dog. I decided to set up my new startup in an incubation program, because Demium could offer me founders, mentorships and a huge network of investors. In the past, setting up my own businesses I had missed that support of a business incubator.
Q: Think about where you were before you started with Demium, and share with us your best advice for aspiring entrepreneurs or someone considering starting their own business.
If you have a dream, go for it, never give up and keep on learning. Entrepreneurship is not easy, it comes with a lot of ups and downs, uncertainty and a lot of times people around you won’t understand and might tell you it is time to give up. Keep on believing in yourself, stay focused, push forward & make it happen, like Jeff Bezos said “To get something new done, you have to be stubborn and focused, to the point that others might find unreasonable”.