Thanks to the wonders of social media networking, we have had the pleasure of making the acquaintance of Mark Thomas, founder and owner of PetNerds, LLC. PetNerds provides "in-your-home" pet sitting and dog walking services in the Southern Bergen County area of New Jersey. Mark runs the company, which he describes as a "dream come true," with his wife, Patty, and their little Havanese, Buttons (who was the model for their logo.) We have been especially impressed by PetNerds' passion for exceptional pet care as well as their creative use of technology to improve customer experience. So, of course, we had to have a chat with Mark! Read on to learn what we found out about this great New Jersey dog service!
BBS: PetNerds is, as you say, a dream come true. When did you start PetNerds and what were your goals in doing so?
PetNerds: Being lifelong animal lovers, my wife and I had always thought that working with animals for a living would be both fun and rewarding. While traveling we realized that leaving your pet behind in someone else’s care could be very stressful.
When we started PetNerds in 2010 we did have certain goals in mind. We strive to help our clients feel secure and give them complete peace of mind while they are away. We care for our clients' pets as if they were our own, taking care to follow their owners specific directions and giving them lots of love and attention. After all, they miss their owners too! Being an animal lover is of course very important but it is only a part of our vision. Our clients trust us to come into their homes and care for their pets… which in our eyes are family members! They expect that we will treat their home and belongings with care and respect and leave it clean and secure when we are finished. Back when we first started many pet sitters were still leaving a hand written note on the counter when they left which of course the client would not see until they came home. We chose to use technology to let clients know in real time how things are going with their pets and their home.
We also wanted to be prepared for life‘s little emergencies should they arise so we are also trained in pet first aid/CPR.
BBS: You can broadcast video of your dog walks and sitter appointments using your smart phones - cool!! What else can you do, technologically speaking, that sets you apart from other companies?
PetNerds: Yes, people enjoy seeing that their dogs are enjoying themselves while out for a walk or that their kitties are having fun playing! I feel that it’s important to be mentally present while walking someone’s dog. They enjoy the interaction so I don’t want to be walking along constantly looking at my phone (DDW - distracted dog walking) Lol!
When conditions are safe to do so I enjoy shooting a short video for my clients!
Prior to starting PetNerds I worked for many years in customer service and technology so I am very comfortable adapting to new tech trends if I feel it is something that will actually add value for my customers. I can offer advice on things like installing WebCams, making back ups of their pet pictures, gps tracking etc.
BBS: We have something important in common! BBScoopers is run by three women in the same family and you run PetNerds with your wife. Talk a little bit about that intersection between family life and work life.
Wow, we do have that in common! Well I guess I don’t have to tell you that running a business requires you to wear many different hats and requires so much of your time. Pet sitting is not a typical 9-to-5 type of operation because clients require pet sitting from early morning until late night if they are working late or are away on a business trip or vacation. Since starting PetNerds my wife has transitioned to more of a back up/support role and helps me occasionally with administrative tasks and she is working on her own career, so yes… we both work long hours!
It’s important to set boundaries and specifically schedule time off occasionally for family.
BBS: We love that your doggo, Buttons, was the model for your logo! Tell us a little about both Buttons and the idea behind your very inventive logo.
PetNerds: Thank you! Buttons is very special to us! Well, we had to say a tearful goodbye to our 14-year-old Jack Russell when she went to the rainbow bridge. After some time had passed we began looking around for the right dog for our little family. It took quite some time but eventually we discovered Buttons and felt that she was “the one” and that we should try to adopt her. Out of the many applications that were submitted they chose us!
Not long after that when we were thinking about starting our business we realized that the addition of Buttons to our family and starting a new business venture were both new beginnings for us and we wanted to somehow incorporate Buttons into our business. We couldn’t think of a better way than have her be our logo! As far as the design of the logo I give total credit to my wife… she spent countless hours sketching out different designs on a notepad until she came up with the one that you currently see!
And since that time we have adopted another dog...Murphy! So who knows...we may one day have to revisit our logo!
BBS: Going hand in hand with technology, you are also a savvy user of social media. With so many different applications coming and going, how do you decide which platforms to use for your business?
PetNerds: You are correct… There are so many apps coming and going it’s hard to keep track of them all! I concentrate mainly on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. These are the apps that many of my clients use and it’s fun to interact with them especially when they see pictures of their pets! I find Instagram especially useful for networking with other pet professionals like yourself.
BBS: Give us a run down of your most popular services and how you strive to be the best service provider in those areas.
PetNerds: I would say that I have two services that are the most popular with our customers. The first one would be our basic visit which ranges from 20 to 30 minutes. This is mainly for during the day when people are at work or out running errands and need to have their pooch either let out in their completely enclosed yard or walked. It is also for cats, birds, fish, reptiles or any other small animals.
Our other really popular service is our vacation package. It includes several visits per day. It also includes the benefits of watering of house plants, bringing in mail/newspapers, opening and closing blinds and alternating lights so that it looks like someone is home.
Another added benefit for all of our clients that provide us with keys to their home is the ability to let them in should they ever lock themselves out of their house! I’ve had late night requests for this and it was great to be able to help. PetNerds to the rescue! Haha!