Walk Your Dog Week Spotlight on Windy City Paws
In celebration of Walk Your Dog Week (Oct 1 - Oct 7), we spoke with small business owner Katie Pape of Windy City Paws in Chicago, Illinois. Windy City Paws is driven by their company motto: "We care. We deliver. We put paws first."
What inspired you to start Windy City Paws?
I started Windy City Paws because of my love for animals. I found myself out of a financial sales job when the market crashed in 2008, and the first thing I thought to do to fill my days was to walk dogs. I was inspired to create a business because I saw that I was delivering a high level of service and I had been unimpressed with care providers I trusted with my own dogs in the past.
What's your best bit of advice for a new business starting out?
Customer service must inspire your systems and processes. Yes, you should bend over backward for a client when it’s necessary. However, if you’re doing that multiple times a day, something is off with how you’re running your business and how you think about customer service. Most customer service happens proactively in the way you set up your business to serve your customers. By building your business this way, you limit the reactive customer service activities. From a tips perspective: Ask you customers for feedback, take your digital presence seriously, hire professionals like a lawyer and accountant, and use software to manage your operations where you can.
It looks like you've got a really strong online presence, with your complete Google listing and reviews, a great blog, and active Facebook page. What's your best content marketing advice?
We approach content marketing as a way to serve our customers and a way to serve the dog parent community in Chicago. The best advice I have is to put a lot of thought into what you write and make sure what you produce is a resource, something people are asking for. Publish content without the intention of acquiring customers, keeping sales language out. The customers will come when you act as a resource for them before they even need your service.
How do you find new clients?
Customer service is our #1 marketing effort. Our clients recommend us and leave very good online reviews on Yelp and Google. Almost every decision a consumer makes has a digital element to it; selecting a dog walking service is no different. In addition to maintaining our reputation, we make sure that potential customers see our true colors when they visit our website.
What is your biggest success so far?
Without a doubt it has been my ability to build a team and create jobs. I’m so proud of my business and how well it’s grown. All of the success comes from having great people who share my love for providing amazing care to animals.
What's next for Windy City Paws?
More of the same, but it’s exciting what that means for the people behind Windy City Paws. I’m proud to have created so many jobs in the city of Chicago. To me, the next big thing for Windy City Paws is the success of our walkers and office staff.