Real-time updates among perks of Southpaws pet-sitting services
New Business Spotlight
Maria Mestre, owner of Southpaws in Hagerstown's North End, snuggles with canine friend Maggie. The pet-sitting and dog-walking service opened July 3, 2012. (By Kevin G. Gilbert/Staff Photographer / April 19, 2013)
Owner: Maria Mestre
Address: Hagerstown’s North End
Opening date: July 3, 2012
Products and services: Southpaws is a pet-sitting and dog-walking service for the Hagerstown, Greencastle, Pa., and Waynesboro, Pa., areas. I specialize in creating custom plans that serve as an extension of the owner’s regular pet-care routine. I review feeding schedules, walking routes, exercise routines, medication doses and attention requirements with all of my clients. Then I schedule appropriate visit times and durations. The main objective is to keep each pet feeling comfortable in its own environment while its owner is away. That’s why I provide early morning and late-night visits. I also provide extra services like bringing in the mail and newspaper, adjusting house lighting, and opening and closing blinds. One service all my clients enjoy is real-time updates. Within 10 minutes of each visit, I send a text or email with a status update. I even include pictures so they can see their pets.
Target market: Pet owners who are away from their pets for long periods of time.
How did you get into your business, and what motivated you to start it? I’ve been taking care of pets most of my life. My family and I have cared for numerous dogs, cats, fish, hamsters and even a very chatty parrot named Lolita. But I connect with dogs and cats the best. I can relate to their energy level, as well as their desire for companionship and attention. After decades in the corporate world, I knew starting my own pet-sitting business would be a natural transition. Acquiring new clients for this kind of business is mainly done by word-of-mouth. But for a startup business like mine, I also needed to focus on potential clients who search the Internet for a pet sitter or dog walker. I was able to collaborate with my brother, who has experience in marketing and website design. Together we created a website, Facebook page, Twitter account and a Google ad campaign.
Previous business experience: I graduated from Simmons College in Boston with a degree in retail management. Over a 20-year stretch in the corporate world, I transitioned to a role as a buyer and planner. I’ve worked for department stores, a food-service company and a duty-free products supplier for cruise ships. I really enjoyed the customer service aspect of every job. It’s very rewarding delivering a quality product or service. But it’s even more rewarding making my four-legged customers happy. I see it every time they wag their tails.
Number of employees: One
Hours: Seven days a week, 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Phone number: 240-310-2878
Facebook page: Southpaws, LLC
Twitter page: http://twitter.com/southpawsmd
Instagram page: http://instagram.com/southpawsmd