About a month ago I was driving in Livingston on a poop scooping route. At a red light I saw ahead of me an extraordinarily eye-catching oversized white and black dog. Only it wasn't a dog ... it was Waggin' Wheels Express! The number on the dog/vehicle was 1-844-DOG-RIDE. A ride? A taxi? A dog taxi! I thought, "Well this is AWESOME!" It's awesome for people who love dogs but are so busy they can't shuttle them back and forth to doggie daycare. Or for people who just need a break or don't want to get their car dirty. Or for people who would like their dog to travel in the safest AND hippest dog ride ever... Waggin' Wheels Express is an incredible solution to one of dog owners' many problems. I had to meet Justyna Kuczaj, founder and owner, and find out more about this unique dog service:
BBS: What inspired you to create Waggin’ Wheels Express?
JK: People always say best ideas originate out of a need and this is how Waggin' Wheels Express really started. I've always been a big dog person and while going through my EMBA program while working full time I realized that the only way for me to have a dog of my own would be if somebody could help me get him to the doggie daycare. My hours were/are definitely not 9-5: I leave for work prior to doggie daycare opening up (most day cares by me are only 7 to 7) and I come back home after 7 pm. So that's how I came up with an idea of somebody taking care of the pick up and drop off to/from doggie daycare for working professionals whose schedule is not really 9-5 (and let's be honest most jobs these days are not 9-5 anymore).
BBS: What can clients expect when they make a reservation with you?
Our business is definitely unique and there's currently nothing like that out there. There are services in the city which offer transportation for pups but it's in a minivan usually with no crates, etc. What our customers can expect is a super safe vehicle (Mercedes Sprinter) with custom made crates securely installed (i.e. no risk of movement). Crates are equipped with custom made pads which are waterproof, non-toxic and offer superior support during transport. Finally, unlike any other dog transportation companies, our car is operated by holders of commercial driver's license as they are subject to stringent Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations such as annual medical exam, drug-free history and no recent history of traffic violations and accidents.
BBS: Your goal is to make your clients’ "pooch’s tail wag every time s/he boards the … van.” We love that! Is it pretty safe to say that the dogs you serve are the best part of this business?
JK: Without a doubt we are in business to serve all these pups! We don't even see some of the parents of our customers as we do picks ups/drop offs when they are not home so our customer is truly every single pup on board! We have a great pleasure in chauffeuring all of our guests whether they are small or big. Sometimes customers call us asking if we take pitbulls, etc. which is sad they even have to ask this but we keep on emphasizing that we do not discriminate - we love them all. Our favorite part of the business is that through providing services to these pups we get to help homeless pooches as we match every round trip our customers take with us with a can of dog food. In 2 years we've been now in business we already donated approx. 1,000 cans of dog food to Mt Pleasant Animal Shelter!
BBS: What have been some of the biggest challenges that you've encountered along the journey? Pun intended.
JK: The biggest challenge is getting the word out there about our services. Many people these days are still not even familiar with a concept of doggie daycares so they are having a really hard time understanding what we do when we say we take the pups from/to their houses to doggie daycares. Many people confuse us with mobile dog groomers. I thought the best way would be to describe the business as doggie taxi but then we get random calls from people in a local area asking us to pick them up (they searched for a taxi) and when I say we only transfer pups they tell me: "you've gotta be kidding me, right" and they hang up :-)
BBS: We love being introduced to dogs :-) Tell us a little about Taffy and his influence on the business!
JK: Taffy is a very special pup! My dad found him at the mechanic garage in Chicago and brought him back with him to our then home in Pennsylvania. Soon after we got him my dad was diagnosed with cancer and passed away within few months. So during these rough few months all of us developed a special bond with Taffy. We would take him everywhere with us, even to Poland for winter holidays where we quickly realized he's not meant for cold Easter European winters. Taffy lives with my mom as I'm unfortunately not home too often due to work related travel. However, anytime I'm home I make up for that time and take him everywhere with me. Taffy used to come with us for pick ups and drop offs; however, because he enjoys barking at every single dog for some reason we stopped taking him with us because some of our customers were scared of him even though he's the most harmless pup you can think of!
BBS: What are your dreams for the growth of Waggin’ Wheels Express over the next 10 years?
JK: Because of the convenience we bring to working professionals and assistance to homeless pups, I really would like to continue expand the business over next few years. Haven't exactly decided on the expansion strategy though....
BBS: And now for some laughs! Tell us your favorite funny dog story.
JK: There's so many :-) Dogs are such characters! So many different personalities! I think my favorite to date was when one of the Bernese Mountain dogs we were chauffeuring one day decided he would rather sit behind the wheel than in a crate (despite the fact that our crates can even fit mastiff size dog). He situated himself behind the wheel and would not budge! His owner and 2 of us had to use lots of treats to convince him to take a back seat! It's also funny to see how pups stare at the vehicle (it looks like a dalmatian)...they usually stop and stare and then the moment we play our "Woof Woof" horn (yes we do have a woof woof signal :-) ) they start chasing us thinking it's a big dog! At least they are not confusing us for a mobile groomer!
BBS: Thank you so much! Good luck always and see you on the road!