The Leap Venture Studio blog series is back after completing an exclusive studio program for pet care startups from EU and UK. In September 2023, seven early-stage pet care startups joined the program for 12-weeks to accelerate their ventures. During this time, the companies worked with experts from Mars Petcare, Michelson Found Animals and R/GA Ventures and received venture capital investment, mentorship, and customized programming tailored to meet their needs.
Tell us about your startup
Rikke: BorrowMyDoggy connects dog owners with trusted local people who would love to look after their dogs. We make it easy to arrange walks, playtime, overnight stays and holidays. Our aim is to help dog owners when they need it, give dogs more exercise and playtime and to allow people without a dog to spend quality time with one. We call it a win-win (or a woof-woof) situation for everyone involved. We currently have over 1million members in the UK and Ireland.
How has your startup made a difference for pets?
Rikke: There are multiple ways BorrowMyDoggy supports dogs, from simply giving an alternative to kennels or dog walkers, which we understand doesn’t suit every dog, to actively improving their physical and mental wellbeing. On surveying thousands of our members, 70% of them stated that their dogs get more exercise because they have a borrower, and as we all know exercise can help weight management as well as support mental well being.
Having a borrower can also benefit dogs with anxiety and separation issues; it gives owners a helping hand as they work through these challenges with their pets. We get loads of feedback from members talking about the different ways their dogs (and themselves!) have benefited, especially post-pandemic when there has been a notable rise in people having anxious pets and have found the support of a borrower invaluable.
Borrowing a dog also benefits pets. It lets people spend time with a dog, before deciding to adopt or buy. Every dog is different, and so borrowers on BorrowMyDoggy can see if a certain kind of breed suits them. It lets them better understand the commitment of having a dog, before they get one. This reduces the risk of people taking in a dog before they’re ready and eventually giving them up for adoption.
What are the greatest challenges you’ve faced as a startup founder and how have you overcome them?
Rikke: Like any other start up, we have had lots of amazing moments but also faced some challenges. Two of these are:
(a) Limited amount of time — there are so many different things to work on including product, marketing, operations, finance etc. I’m not sure if we have mastered all yet but through hard work, a talented and impactful team, and prioritization of initiatives, we are scaling the company
(b) building the brand and community — we have tested lots of marketing channels and initiatives, plus have been fortunate that our members have been amazing in sharing the word of mouth about BorrowMyDoggy.
What is your biggest take away from the Leap Venture Studio?
Rikke: The Leap Venture Studio gave us the opportunity to meet and work with a fantastic cohort of companies, giving us interesting insights into their specific products/services, as well as the pet care market in their localities. Furthermore, creating connections with Mars Petcare, R/GA Ventures and Michelson Found Animals has provided vital feedback on areas of proposed growth for BorrowMyDoggy, as well as opening opportunities to work with exciting brands.
What advice would you give to fellow pet care founders who are just starting their journey?
Rikke: Each founder has their own journey, but a few pieces of advice:
(a) Speak with your customers to make sure you are really building something that solves a problem;
(b) Do something that you are passionate about as it makes the journey easier when things gets hard; and
© Get involved in the startup community and seek advice when you have questions and help where you can.
Tell us about your pet(s)!
Rikke: Due to work and other commitments, having a dog full-time just isn’t an option, which is why BorrowMyDoggy is so perfect for me! I borrow a gorgeous chocolate cocker spaniel called Bramble, who loves nothing more than playtime and cuddles. I love spending time with her, and I’ve made such a great connection with her owners too.
What do you think the future of pet care will look like?
Rikke: The future of pet care is products and services that not only satisfies the needs of pets, but also their wants. Pets are seen as family members more than ever before, and they are being treated as such. Gone are the days when dog owners made do with what was available as choices were so limited, but now they have many more options. They are really driven to make their pets’ lives better and have higher standards of wellbeing than ever before. But people have busy lives so what they want is premium products as well as services that make their lives easier, while improving their pets’ quality of life and longevity.