My high school track coach, Mr. Christian, taught me a lot of things. In fact, his lessons often extended beyond the oval to life in general, and I sometimes reflect on how fortunate I was to have his positive influence. If only I had landed in his Chemistry class, maybe my grades would have been better as well.
One of these rules is to never look back. To clarify, he was referring to the instinct to glance over your shoulder as you near the finish line of a race. He warned not to do it, and to focus on finishing strong. Sorry Coach, today we are going to break that rule. We’re going to look back on this first year since launching DogGo Dash Club, with the goal of improving as we turn our attention to the future.
This post is going to follow a “lessons learned” format. It would be easy to list the obvious things, like: we learned that running with a dog can significantly improve your health. But we already knew that a year ago, it’s a big part of why we started this business. Instead we’re going to focus on the unexpected, and provide a glimpse into some of the behind-the-scenes stuff that goes into running a business like DogGo.
Dog owners can relate
We are confident now that other dog owners around the city can relate to the situation Danielle and I faced with Denver. That is to say, there are people with active dogs who are searching for more than traditional walking services. This may sound trivial, but it’s actually the entire foundation upon which this platform was built. Are we filling a need? Is there a market? If the answer was no, we would be dead by now, figuratively speaking. Luckily, the answer was yes and that’s been reflected in our modest but steady growth.
Marketplaces are tricky
We love the idea of serving as a marketplace community, giving runners independence and giving owners choices. But doing so adds an extra layer of complexity, especially early on – the classic chicken or the egg conundrum. We anticipated being demand-constrained when we launched. If we could successfully sign up dogs, then the runners would be much easier to attract. While we have gained some traction, it still feels like a swinging pendulum. Sometimes we have more runners than dogs, other days it’s the reverse. Sometimes we have both, but on opposite ends of the city. All we can say is thank you so much for remaining patient with us as we continue growing towards the critical mass needed for a highly liquid marketplace.
You gotta put in the work
Much like running a marathon, you can’t just show up on race day. It takes months of preparation and training, and even then it can be a struggle. We’ve learned there is no magic bullet to make DogGo a household name. It takes a million little things. To date, we’ve had 165 Instagram posts, 36 blog posts, and 5 fun runs. We’ve worked with In Our Hands Rescue, PAWS NY, Boris & Horton, FIDO in Prospect Park, Lululemon, Dogs of Instagram, WSP Dog Run, Mile High Run Club, and FitBark. We contacted every running club in NYC. Danielle and I have even handed out fliers at parks, apartment buildings, and veterinarian offices. We cannot thank the people behind these organizations enough for their support, often for next to nothing in return. You all rock!
Our community is our biggest asset
Without a doubt, our biggest strength is the community of doggos and dashers on the platform. We can hand out fliers till we drop and publish 100 posts a day, but the single most effective marketing strategy has been your word of mouth. In retrospect, this makes all the sense in the world. This business is predicated on trust, and in the world of dogs and wellness, those we trust most are the owners and runners we respect and admire. DogGo Dash Club’s top priority is the health, safety, and happiness of our members and we pledge to continue putting you first.
Light on the horizon
There have been some uncertain times over this last year. Danielle and I have had actual conversations where we question whether to renew our website subscription or to drop out of the race. Each time, we have decided to lace up and get back to work (literally and metaphorically). Each time, we have been rewarded with a better month than last. The signs are too positive to ignore, the future is bright. We have some exciting things in the works, like collaborating with the New York Road Runners (NYRR) and making background checks free for new dashers. Beyond what we have planned, we’re certain to be in for some big surprises.
Each wagging tail and every smiling face makes this all so worth it. So stay tuned, or better yet, come and join us. Year 1 was awesome, but this is just the beginning. It’s time to start looking forward.