Jon Greiver, Founder and Business Coach of Stay Sitters.
With significant comprehensive marketing experience, he sits squarely at the intersection of innovation and execution. His cross-functional expertise allows him to understand both project initiation as well as the challenges faced with program execution.
His proficiencies in project management, brand activation and digital marketing tactics allow him to keep the goals of his clients top of mind while also coaching them to think outside of the box.
Connect with Jon on LinkedIn.
What You’ll Learn In This Episode
- Increase in pet ownership during COVID (adoptions, fostering, etc.)
- Ensuing lack of boarding/kennel space – providing a service to match this challenge for pet owners
- Caring for pets in their own home vs kennel (safe surroundings, sickness, fleas/ticks) – providing a service in their local community
- Creation of a small business – start with something you HAVE or something you KNOW – doesn’t have to cost a fortune
- Process – licenses, insurance, web presence, social media, etc. (start with something you HAVE or something you KNOW)
- Growing the business organically (grass-roots)
- Encouraging others with similar passions to “go for it.”
This transcript is machine transcribed by Sonix
Intro: Broadcasting live from the Business RadioX Studios in Atlanta, Georgia. It’s time for Atlanta Business Radio. Brought to you by on pay. Atlanta’s New standard in payroll. Now, here’s your host.
Lee Kantor: Lee Kantor here another episode of Atlanta Business Radio, and this is going to be a good one. But before we get started, it’s important to recognize our sponsor, Onpay. Without them, we couldn’t be sharing these important stories. Today on Atlanta Business Radio, we have John Greiver with Stay Sitters. Welcome, John.
Jon Greiver: Hi, how are you? Good morning.
Lee Kantor: I am doing well. I’m so excited to learn what you’re up to. Tell us a little bit about stay sitters, how you serving folks.
Jon Greiver: Stay sitters is an idea that I had for several years for dog walking and pet sitting service for people in the north Atlanta area. Started off relatively recently here and just trying to build up our clients through an organic grassroots campaign and take advantage of an idea that’s been bouncing around in my head for a number of years.
Lee Kantor: Well, let’s talk a little bit about that idea. What was kind of the genesis where you said, you know what, this is a problem that I might be able to solve for folks.
Jon Greiver: Well, it really was during Covid when the idea kind of came into a reality. As I sat at home remote, working from my office and staring out my front window, watching dozens and dozens of dogs walk by every day. And one of the things that Covid brought to us was a huge increase in the number of folks that were adopting dogs, cats, pets of any kind, because they were staying at home more. So we saw a huge surge in that. I think national numbers were something like 24, 25% increase in the number of pets that were owned at home. So this was a great opportunity for me to see what pet owners really needed. Having a dog of my own, I understood that sometimes it was difficult to find someone to watch it while I was traveling or had to work or things like that. So I thought with an increase in the amount of pets, what an what an interesting idea it would be to offer some sort of a service for all those people.
Lee Kantor: So, okay, so you have the idea that I’m going to create a service. I see this opportunity. There’s a bunch of pets around. Maybe this is new pets for folks as the pandemic wanes and they have to go back to work, maybe travel more, there’s going to be needs. But did you go out, do market research? Like how did you start from moving from this idea? You know, it sounds good in my head to, hey, someone’s going to actually pay for something.
Jon Greiver: Right? I had spoken with several friends and they were having a very similar problem with the increase in dogs and the increase in ownership. There was also an increased need to try to find a boarding for them when they went out of town or couldn’t take care of their own pets. So there was a real rush on boarding facilities, so much so that it’s very difficult to find a reservation right now. And it’s very difficult to find a place that you trust. So I thought to myself, well, people love being at home. They love their pets at home. Their pets are more comfortable at home. So let’s offer a service where we can board them at home, in their own home. And that was the kind of the the brainchild of stay sitters is that it’s very difficult right now to find care for your animal. People love their animals and they are willing to splurge on them even during recession or inflation. So really it’s providing a service to people that need it and that can’t find another similar service.
Lee Kantor: So the pets never actually leave the home. They stay in the home.
Jon Greiver: That’s right. That’s what differentiates stay sitters just a little bit. I’m not watching your pet in my house. I’m watching your pet in your house where they are most comfortable, most, most aware of their surroundings. And you don’t have to deal with the risks that are sometimes associated with a boarding facility or a shelter that could include things like disease, not eating when they’re supposed to because they feel stressed out. Fleas and ticks. Sometimes your animal comes back from the boarding facility even worse than yours when you drop them off. So this is an opportunity for you to feel safe and secure in your own home, that your pets are feeling more comfortable.
Lee Kantor: But one of the trade offs on that is that I’m allowing a stranger into my house.
Jon Greiver: That is absolutely correct. So what we do, I offer an initial meet and greet service and that kind of lets me get some face to face time with the owner, come over and meet the pets and then find out what they’re all about. And at that point, the owner would have a chance to say, This is right for me, this is not right for me. I feel comfortable. But yes, you would be letting myself into your own home only after I had been vetted and met you in person.
Lee Kantor: And then what exactly are you doing for the pet and the time that you’re with them?
Jon Greiver: That really depends upon what the owner would like. There are basic services such as food, water. If it’s a cat changing the litter out or scooping the litter. And then. Getting some exercise or some play time. So typically dogs, I will walk them outside for 20 to 30 minutes. If they’re not up for that, maybe it’s a little play time inside the house. Same thing with cats. They’re not typically going to go out for a walk. So there’s there’s play time and there’s just general welfare check on animals as well. And then the homeowner can actually if let’s say that they’re going on vacation, I can talk to them about watering their plants, checking on their home while they’re gone, picking up their mail and doing some other services that may not necessarily be pet related, but more related to when you leave your house alone.
Lee Kantor: So what’s your backstory? Have you always been involved with working with animals and pets?
Jon Greiver: Actually, no. I really wasn’t much of a pet person when I was younger. Didn’t have a lot growing up, but once I got married and have children, we have found our way to fostering several dogs and we had a foster fail who ended up staying with us for nine years. So he was a love of our life up until last year when he passed away. And I’ve just I tend to get along with animals a lot better than people sometimes.
Lee Kantor: Now, is this the first business you’ve created? Is the first entrepreneurial venture for you, or have you always had that bug?
Jon Greiver: It really is the first thing I’ve done on my own. I’ve done a lot of consulting and so I’ve kind of understand how to motivate myself, how to act like your own business, even though you might be working for someone else, that that consulting and contracting type of lifestyle lets you be that entrepreneur without necessarily having the risk of going out on your own. So when I decided I wanted to do this on my own, I’ve been going very slowly, very cautiously and carefully. So as I feel comfortable with the process trying not to make mistakes, as you set up businesses and get your licenses and get insured and all that good stuff. So it’s been a learning process for me, but it’s also been a fantastic opportunity to start my own business and really see the process that’s involved.
Lee Kantor: Well, how about share a little advice for folks that maybe had a corporate career and then have pivoted maybe second act into their own venture like this? Are there some do’s and don’ts that you’ve learned so far?
Jon Greiver: Um, I would say don’t be afraid to give it a shot. I would say it is. It’s probably easier now than ever to start your own business in terms of the licenses you need, in terms of setting up a website, printing, maybe some physical assets. I had a good friend of mine with tortellini marketing, so I’ll give them a small plug, helped me out with my initial web design and some initial assets that we printed up, but it really was great. She helped me get started, but now I’m able to manage it and maintain it on my own through web services and other scheduling programs. And I think it’s a little bit intimidating for some folks to get started, especially when you’ve been part of a corporate career or corporate culture for so long and realize that the company has already done a lot of those things for you. They’ve already been set up and they’ve already had a reputation and and they’ve got presence online and all those little things. When you take them all together, they seem a little bit intimidating, but when you break them down, they’re really not that bad. So I encourage folks, especially folks who have been in corporate live corporate setting for their entire career, but they still have creative ideas. Take a chance. Think about it carefully. Think about how you would start it on your own and then jump in. I don’t think you have to take as much time these days in order to get set up.
Lee Kantor: Now, you mentioned that you’re growing the business kind of organically at kind of a slow grassroots process. Is that like how does how would you recommend that for other folks out there that are listening in terms of starting their own thing? Like you started with you mentioned your friends first, but at some point you have to get people who don’t know you to buy what you’re selling in order to make a, you know, a thriving business. So have you gotten to that point where where strangers are saying, hey, tell me about Lasseter’s or are you still at that kind of grassroots where all your clients are people you know?
Jon Greiver: We definitely started grassroots, literally with neighbors around my house passing out a little flier or or doing some some free pet sitting for them just to kind of get my name out in my local neighborhood, which is really the way I wanted to grow it. There are so many ways to grow your business digitally if you want to go that route. And so once I got over that initial hump, I did some very sort of test advertising with Facebook, and that is where I started crossing over into from, from customers that know me and my neighbors into strangers literally calling me, asking for assistance. Now, as I start, I am pretty small. I have myself and one other helper, so we have kind of a small radius that we’re going into right now. I did receive a lot of calls from people all over Atlanta. Some of them were just a little bit outside my service area. So again, this is about starting small, starting grassroots and growing the business the way I want it, which is really important. As a small business owner, you may not know how you want to grow your business. You may feel timid about it.
Jon Greiver: So one thing I suggest is, is starting slowly. You don’t have to go out onto Google and buy a bunch of digital advertising or paid search or search engine optimization. You can get by with a lot of basic things to get started. And to be perfectly honest, I think digital advertising scares folks a little bit because. You may grow your business much faster than you’re prepared to handle. So by doing this with grass roots and organically, it enables me not to bite off more than I can chew. I can throttle my business by taking advantage of some of those digital aspects, or I can grow it slower by holding off on the digital, just using my website and word of mouth. One. One thing that I’ve also found interesting is is advertising through other dog or pet related events or functions around town. There was a Atlanta lab rescue who is a local rescue, and as you might tell by the name, primarily focuses on Labradors. They had a beautiful facility event in Dunwoody about two months ago, so I was able to sponsor that and become active with their group and spread word of mouth that way as well.
Lee Kantor: Well, that’s great advice. Like the a couple of the things you said, one, that, you know, create partnerships in and around your ideal customer. That’s fantastic advice. Another of know when to say no. You know, a lot of entrepreneurs, especially starting off, they say yes to everything and sometimes they get pulled in directions that maybe is not going to help them in the long term. Especially you have a clear sense of, okay, this is my target, this is my area. If it’s not a perfect fit, I’m going to have to say no because I’m not going to be able to deliver the service that I want to.
Jon Greiver: Right. Exactly. I think I think it’s a little bit of a misconception that you have to jump in to feet first and do everything possible, advertising web presence and spend lots of money. But you need to be careful because you need to understand what that’s going to do to your business, to your brand and to your schedule. So definitely make sure that you don’t bite off more than you can chew and that you’re comfortable with it. If you’re not comfortable, then take a step back and get to a place where you feel like things are manageable.
Lee Kantor: So now is your area still the Dunwoody area? Is that primarily the the area you work in or has it expanded to Sandy Springs or Brookhaven or is it still Dunwoody?
Jon Greiver: We’re trying to focus a little more on the northern suburbs. So Dunwoody, Sandy Springs, Brookhaven, Chamblee around the Perimeter center area is really where I’m focusing to start with just because, like you said, I want to make sure that I can deliver good service if if it takes me an hour to get to your house, that’s probably going to be a little bit too long. So again, we’re starting it small and growing it organically and hopefully it will continue to grow. Manageably And I won’t feel like I’m I’m swamped and overwhelmed.
Lee Kantor: So what do you need more of? How can we help you?
Jon Greiver: Oh, I need more animal lovers. It’s great. I really do appreciate you giving me the time this morning. This is a great way for me to contact people that I know via LinkedIn and your website as well as to share this with other people that may not be aware as well. So just this opportunity alone has been fantastic and I really appreciate it.
Lee Kantor: So you need more people with pets in in the kind of perimeter area. Do you need more team members? Are you right now looking for additional folks to to go in and help with the pets?
Jon Greiver: That. That will be my next step, definitely, as I get to a point where I’m having a little bit too much business for me, I will definitely need assistance. So I will be looking for people with pet experience, caregiver experience, previous dog walkers. You know, there’s a there’s a lot of other services out there. This is not something new that I’m creating. So there’s a lot of other players out there that have a lot more experience and a lot more web presence than myself. So there’s a lot of folks that have had dog walking experience, pet sitting experience, maybe even folks that have worked at a veterinary before.
Lee Kantor: So if somebody wants to learn more, have a more substantive conversation with you or somebody on the team, what is the website? What’s the best way to get Ahold of you?
Jon Greiver: It’s stay sitters.com so it’s star city ers.com kind of trying to make a play on words there like stay sit go the type of comments you might give to your pet. So stay sitters.com is the best way to reach us. You can book online. You can also book your initial meet and greet or just send an email to me requesting more information.
Lee Kantor: Well, John, thank you so much for sharing your story today. You’re doing such important work and we appreciate you.
Jon Greiver: Thank you so much, Lee. I appreciate this. I think Business RadioX is fantastic.
Lee Kantor: All right. This is Lee Kantor. We will see you all next time on Atlanta Business Radio.
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