For most dog owners, your pets are more than just furry companions. They’re your babies. However, rushing home to give them a midday bathroom break isn’t always feasible. Fellow dog owners Meggie and Sebastian Williams related to this struggle. But rather than continue to search for a viable option for their pups, the husband and wife duo decided to take matters into their own hands. They created Skipper (formerly The Waggle Company), an on-demand dog-walking service. The business has taken Charlotte by storm, closed a $750,000 round of funding, and recently launched in Austin, with plans to bring the business to another city by the end of 2018. Now, Meggie explains how the favorite service of Queen City pet parents went from “this seems like a good idea” to a major force in the startup world. Welcome our newest FACE of Charlotte!
How did the idea for Skipper come about?
My husband and I have two dogs, and before we started Skipper we both worked for different startups. We had unpredictable schedules, we had long hours, and we were looking for a dog walking service that we could trust that was easy to use, convenient and accommodated our lifestyle. We did a lot of research and were very underwhelmed with the options out there. We talked to other people who had dogs, and they also had the same problem, so we were like, “This is a thing.” Forty-five percent of Americans have a dog, and that is growing.
What’s your role within the company now?
Our team members are tremendous. They’re the backbone of our company, and they do all our visits. Sebastian is the COO, so he’s focused on the Charlotte market and growing operations. I’m focused on building out new software technology and making it more user-friendly and enhancing the client experience. My focus is on expansion and growth for Skipper.
Any tips for successfully working with your spouse?
We have our conversations that are very business-driven, and talk about what we need to do together to ensure the business is successful. Then we can take off that hat and put on our husband and wife hats and make dinner together and talk about our personal goals. Even though we’re working together and we’re married, it’s important that you find that compartmentalization and separation. We don’t always agree, nor should we, but we try to disagree constructively and with respect.
You’re entrusting your employees to care for clients’ fur babies. What is your hiring process like to maintain quality control?
The quality control aspect is paramount to the Skipper way. We accept about 10 percent of our applicants that come in. It’s a five-step process to join our team. Because of the rigorous process, we identify the people that are going to do the best in our environment, and we make that environment fun to be in so people want to stay.
What would you say to someone who works a 9-5 but has a side hustle that they want to take full-time?
I’ve been a big proponent of outworking anybody. I’m not the smartest person in the room, but I will definitely work the hardest. I feel like if you’ve got that drive, nobody can stop you if you’re good enough. Have the idea. Test it out. Do what you need to do to put it out in the world and make it viable. But having a 9-5 job isn’t always a barrier. There are a lot of opportunities to be entrepreneurial within a more corporate environment. People think the box is always rigid, and even if you’re in the box I think you can innovate within it. People have more access to playgrounds than they realize, and sometimes a corporate environment is a really good opportunity to play around and test things out.
How do you deal with competition in your industry?
I don’t really focus on competition. I think a lot of times that’s a distraction when you focus on your competitors. We’re focused on delivering the highest quality experience. Though I will say there is an assumption that people in the same industry should be competing, and I don’t necessarily think this is the case. I approached a lot of different dog daycares. In theory that’s technically a competitor, and that could be the case, but we also realized we’re all serving the same client. There are a lot of times when they need dog daycare, and they also need someone to come to their home. I talked to five different dog daycares in Charlotte, and they were all into it. We partner with them, we refer them, and they refer us when they can’t service clients. That’s an example of how cool Charlotte is.
What has creating Skipper taught you about caring for your own dogs more effectively?
Dogs sweat differently than humans. If you don’t know how to recognize when a dog is overheating, you can mistakenly think they’re not because they’re not sweating, but that’s not how heat escapes their body. I learned that really pink gums are a sign of being overheated. That’s something we look for, that their gums aren’t too swollen or too pink.
What’s your favorite breed of dog?
I have favorite personalities. I just love getting to meet so many different types of dogs. What I really love is how connected and bonded our team members are to their clients. It’s so fun to have them talk about their clients like they’re their dogs because they care so much. So for me, it’s really about building that relationship with us and the client and the pet. I see them as humans. I don’t see them as breeds.
What’s your favorite client dog name?
We have a dog named Moose Burrito. We have a dog named Kevin. I love when they’re old man names. Elbow Macaroni. That’s a good one.
Before you started Skipper, you and Sebastian went backpacking around the world. What’s one place still left on your bucket list?
It’s funny because when we did our big trip I thought I’d come back feeling like my quota had been met, but it was the opposite. It was almost like it illuminated to me how many places there are and how many people there are to meet and things to do. So anywhere where there’s unique culture, things to do outside and people who are welcoming.
How can you tell if you’re ready for dog ownership?
Have a go-to service in mind that can help you when you’re out of the home. I think people underestimate the amount of effort that comes with getting a pet. Everybody is going to need help at some point, no matter your setup. Be aware of what your lifestyle is, and talk to other pet owners.
What are three things you can’t live without, besides faith, family and friends?
Our two dogs, Stinson & Khumbu, the beach and queso.
Meet more amazing Charlotte women in our FACES archives. Click here and prepare to be inspired!