Virginia Donohue of Pet Camp is Interviewed on Fine Living

April 10, 2012

Quit Your Job – Pet Camp Episode – We’re following five people who left successful careers in order to become their own boss. Up next, an animal lover with big green dreams. While working at a cubicle job, Virginia Donohue wished for a way to bring her dog to work with her.

They say be careful what you wish for. Today Virginia has over 100 dogs and cats at work. She’s the director of Pet Camp. When we’re full, we have 190 dogs and cats. So we kind of went overboard a little in that direction. But you have to truly love dogs and cats to do this.

Virginia Donohue and Mark Clayman were avid environmentalists and animal lovers. Both worked at the Environmental Protection Agency. Mark was an attorney and Virginia worked in public relations. They had fulfilling careers, but when their neighborhood doggy day care center closed down, they saw it as a call to action.

We were both working for the federal government and we were restless. And we were looking for a way to bring our dogs to work. Had this goal, dogs would play and it would be fun and it would be a great guilt free experience for people. We wouldn’t have to say, I’m sending my dog to the gulag.

They’re gonna go to camp. They’re gonna have fun. It’s gonna be fabulous. Experts say the secret to success for a startup business like Pet Camp is to make sure it’s work you find rewarding. I can’t emphasize enough that you have to be passionate about what you do.

What you usually see with people who have been really successful financially is that it’s tied to just who they are. They live and breathe their business. They love it so much that they would do it even if they weren’t making money. Today, Pet Camp is a 19,000 square foot day care facility for dogs and cats.

They board animals overnight while pet owners are on vacation and some clients bring their dogs for day visit to socialize with the other dogs, or have a physical therapy session in Pet Camp’s pool. The dogs, they’re well socialized, they get group play twice a day. We also have a swimming pool, one-on-one time, a wide range of doggie treats and we have bathing.

For the cats we have one-on-one play time. Cats don’t do group play. Cats think they’re the only cat, for the most part. I think in any business you have to be constantly reinventing yourself, constantly innovating, constantly looking for the new better thing. After we became profitable we said, okay, now we can incorporate our green values, so we went green.

Virginia and Mark have put their green values to work at Pet Camp. There are 252 solar panels which power nearly half of the center’s electricity, and everything gets recycled. Even the dog waste is sent to a local methane facility that converts it to methane gas that powers other local businesses.

We rotated who had the day job, but somebody always had a day job that had cash and had health insurance. No matter how successful you ultimately become, you’re not making enough money to live on in the beginning. So I think in a big sense that’s the hardest part about opening up a new business.

I tell a lot of my clients that it’s really important for them to get a jump start on their business while they’re still working, for a number of reasons. One is that they already have the financial stability. Figure out the name of their business. You can file for your business license, get business cards, work on your website, buy some of your equipment, set up your office space.

Constantly coming up with new ideas, Virginia has concocted a secret recipe for doggie ice cream cones, Popsicles. Made with special ingredients, this treat has dogs howling with excitement. I said it, what can we create that’s gonna be good for dogs, and fun? And basically looked around a lot of dog recipes, and put one together, that’s for frozen yogurt for dogs, and I can testify dogs love it.

One thing I really like about Pet Camp is the way they don’t hesitate to do something extra for your dog or for you. Whenever you’re going away, even if it’s on vacation, or you’re going on a business trip, it’s always a nerve wrecking time to be away from home. Originally wanting a job where they can take their dogs, Mark and Virginia have created an animal empire. One of the largest pet facilities, Pet Camp is now on their way to opening up a new Cat Camp location. Ever growing and expanding their ideas, Pet Camp is the place to take your animal.

Customers keep coming back to us because we take phenomenal care of their dogs. And we really, really care about them and their pets. We know all of these dogs and cats. We are personally invested in this business. When you come here, either Mark or I are here most of the time.

Pet Care: AT&T Features Pet Camp

April 9, 2012

Pet Camp is a certified Green Business. We have 6,000 square feet of outdoor play space and it’s all covered in field turf. So, it’s that new generation of AstroTurf. It’s really soft and cushiony, drains real well and that lets our dogs come out to play. And it recreates that sort of dog park experience that certainly is necessary in an urban environment like ours.

A few years ago, we said okay, we’ve got this great play environment for dogs, what do cats really like? So it took us about a year and a half. We finally found this building and we were able to put a green house, attach a green house to the back of the building.

We did this space for the cats and the safari garden and what we didn’t expect were all the people who saw the space. And said, wow, can I bring my cat in, even when my cat isn’t staying overnight, just to come and play? We have a point to point T1 line between the two buildings.

So that means we have one database, and both facilities can share the information. When you call Pet Camp and if everyone there is busy, it rolls over automatically to Cat Safari. So someone here can answer it, as if they’re at that other building and have access to all the data.

So from a client’s perspective, it’s all seamless. From our perspective, it really shares the workload in a much more efficient manner. One of the issues we faced was, we didn’t really understand how any of this stuff works. We know where we wanna go, so we worked with an AT&T vendor who was able to help us decide how many voice lines we needed, how many data lines we needed.

We had all that stuff and it was great to have one person to talk to and it was essential.

Pet Care: Big Fan Features Pet Camp

April 8, 2012

Pet Camp is a boarding facility for dogs and cats located in San Francisco, California. But what makes it unique is so the way we approach what we do, our whole goal was to replicate the dog park experience that we have in San Francisco.

San Francisco is an urban market, obviously and most of us don’t have big back yards. So if you want your dog to play, you go to the dog park. And you hang out with your friends, and the dogs hang out with their friends and you romp and that’s what we wanted to create here.

We wanted to create an environment where our dog clients could have fun. They could play. They would be safe. They would be loved. And for our cat clients they would have a tranquil environment with plenty of stimuli. We have a fish tank a scratching post, an easy chair.

We have bird feeders, wild flowers I mean everything to make it fun. They’re going to camp. We put our fans in about a year ago. We were prompted to put them in, because we were looking for a more energy efficient way to move air around. In our dog run areas, we vent the air every four and a half minutes.

So we have an air turnover every four and a half minutes. But I wanted to have increased air flow and sort of air movement within that confined space. We have been using thirteen box fans just you know, two and a half to three foot box sands. Just to move the air, just to keep stirring it up.

So, that sort of prompted six or eight months of research into what options I have, what types of fans are out there, who made them had anyone ever used them before? Did they think they would work in this kind of environment? And did they think they’d work then, in our environment specifically?

Yes, they’re much more energy efficient than regular box fans. When we did our energy analysis, they estimated the fans would pay for themselves in sheer energy savings in about six or seven years. Years. And that was fine. That was within our sort of return on investment criteria. But what stunned us when we put them in was all the other sort of variables we haven’t calculated into our decision making process.

Specifically, they’re quiet. What we realize very quickly is we were walking into our dog ran area We were yelling. We weren’t yelling over a hundred dogs, we were yelling over 13 boxed fans. Because now you can walk in their, their are a hundred dogs, their are the two big ass fans and you can still hear the classical music playing.

Before all you heard was the fans just wailing. That issue has made a huge change to our staff and our psyche. They move the air so much more gently, that even on a cold morning, which, for San Francisco isn’t that cold, you’re willing to turn them on because you don’t have those box fans just churning that freezing cold air right in your face.

It also produces a lot less dust. Box fans move that air so violently that anything that’s in that air gets sort of impaled or impacted right on another surface. Without having that, we have a lot less dust blowing around. And everything has changed. I mean, even our exhaust fan, which we have to clean just because there is dust in the air.

There’s so much less dust everywhere. That everything stays a little cleaner.