Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in pet care but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Cameron Gomez, CEO/CMO of The Dog Society, located in San Diego, CA, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
I am CEO/CMO of The Dog Society, a space for dogs and their humans to relax, socialize and enjoy a modern puptopia. From daycare to grooming, to a bar, cafe, beer garden, and game area, there’s something for every pup and their person.
Our customers, like us, are dog lovers! We welcome all ages, genders, and races - You don't even need to own a dog to be a part of the Dog Society; the only thing we ask is that you love them.
Tell us about yourself
My background is in marketing and advertising. I graduated from San Diego State with a major in Communications and an emphasis in Advertising. I worked at various ad agencies for about 15 years, with a two-year segment working "in-house" at SPY Optic as Sr. Marketing Manager. After having my second child, I returned to an agency where I met Sara Broetje, owner of The Dog Society. At that time, Sara had the building and the dream. She had a smaller dog daycare already and wanted to expand, but not only expand - but create a casual and fun neighborhood space that allowed dog lovers to hang out together, enjoy a beer and watch a football game.
She came to the agency I was at to help create and build the brand. We hit it off immediately, and the more we talked, the easier the dream grew. I eventually left the agency life, looking for a different pace, and that's when Sara offered me an opportunity with her at TDS. How could I say no to dogs and beer? It's like a marketing (and personal) dream! From then on, we worked together to design the 18,000 sq. ft. facility into what it is today. Two floors, the "People Floor" (bar, cafe, games, and 35 TVs) and the "Dog Floor" (daycare, boarding, grooming, and training). It sparked a light in my internal interior designer heart and pushed us to create something no one had done before. Now we have almost 50 employees, a mix of bartenders, baristas, pack leaders, trainers, groomers, and management.
We couldn't have made it this far without all the support from our team, customers, and community. Not to say it hasn't been a rocky road. With Covid throwing quite a few curveballs our way, along with the normal growing pains of a new business - it hasn't been easy. I think we have remained motivated by a couple of things, not wanting to give up the dream, supporting dogs and their families, and our employees.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
Sara is the true owner of The Dog Society, so I can only speak on my behalf. But I think the biggest accomplishment was actually opening. We got the keys to the building a month before Covid hit. Then we had to renovate the whole building and keep enough staff throughout the pandemic. On top of that, acquiring city permits was an absolute nightmare. Were we a dog daycare? bar? Nope - we are all of the above. But when you are the first to do it - no one knows how to handle it or wants to be the one to sign off on it. It took us over a year and a half to get to our grand opening.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
Two things. It is a 24/7 job and finding your people. It is so important and yet so hard to find the people that you can trust and depend on. Sara has the business/financial brain. She also has a pretty deep knowledge bank about dogs (probably from having so many all the time!) I have the creative and marketing eye. Yvette keeps our HR and office buttoned up.
On top of that, we also have an unreal social and PR team, as well as some amazing employees. We couldn't do it without the right people in place - and it has taken some time to get here. Many people want to work with us thinking it will be fun and that you play with dogs all day - which is so far from the truth. We take the business seriously and constantly shift to create a safe and enjoyable atmosphere for our pups and their people.
We have someone onsite 24/7 for the boarding dogs, so that means cleaning all day, all night. We are constantly monitoring the dogs and have low ratios compared to most dog daycares. The moment you stop paying attention is when something will happen, and that can be pretty stressful. And finally, constantly communicating with everyone - parents, employees, and consumers. I usually don't want to talk to anyone when I am home, cause I have been talking all day!
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Buckle up. It is such hard work, and your personal life is going to have to take a backseat for a while. Find your support team and lean on them.
- Believe in it. If this wasn't something we were passionate about - there is no way we would have made it.
- Find the experts for the areas you are not an expert in. I had a boss once that said, "Cam, you either make my life easier or you don't." At the time, I thought he sounded like a narcissistic prick, but now, I feel like I totally get it! You are so busy and slammed 24/7 that you don't have time to deal with anything or anyone that isn't advancing your business. It is ok not to know everything. Determine your weak spots, and fill that with others' strengths. You will look at things differently and question each other, which is what I think will push the business to have a strong foundation.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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