Q&A with Pet It Forward founder and CEO Jenna Dreher about building the Priceline for pet service providers
SUB: What kinds of products and services do you offer?
Dreher: At the core, we provide a seamless process for booking pet care appointments—either through posting requests and receiving offers, or using our direct booking method. The platform provides pet owners the ability to find local pet care providers you can trust, save 50 percent off with pet care professionals or save 100 percent by exchanging pet care with other pet owners. Pet It Forward is an ideal platform for pet owners looking for boarding, walking, and day care services from either boarding facilities, pet care professionals, or even other pet owners. We plan to start expanding the service offering soon to grooming, training, and other pet care services.
SUB: Who do you consider to be your competition?
Dreher: Pet It Forward is both a social network and a solution network, built on top of a powerful appointment and ecommerce platform. Pet It Forward doesn’t have direct competition, but indirect competition includes other social networks, such as Dogster, and solution networks, such as Care.com. Fortunately, many of our indirect competitors are also potential partners, and we are excited about how we can work together.
SUB: What differentiates Pet It Forward from your competitors (or from those who have similar offerings)?
Dreher: Pet It Forward is positioning itself to be the “Priceline.com” for pet care. We differentiate ourselves with our appointment and ecommerce platform, as the central place to book and pay for all your pet care appointments, while also offering the ability to save 50-100 percent on services as a pet owner, and as a service provider the ability to make more money by filling vacancies in your schedule.
SUB: How are you marketing the site?
Dreher: The traditional ways, and non-traditional ways: Viral marketing through socially activated campaigns. Sponsoring events! Passing fliers out on the street. Working with pet adoption agencies, we make it more affordable to adopt a 2nd or 3rd dog. Word of mouth is huge, can’t pay for that, and we have some huge fans.
SUB: What was the inspiration behind Pet It Forward? Was there an “aha” moment, or was the idea longer in developing?
Dreher: Like every great idea, it evolves over time. Pet It Forward started out with a “free exchange” model, to help young professionals build local networks of like-minded people, and save on pet care services. Then we developed a virtual currency, which could be bought, traded, and cashed out to facilitate the exchange of pet care. We priced the currency, as 50 percent less the cost of average pet care in major cities. All of this evolved into an extremely powerful appointment and ecommerce platform, which is very complicated in the backend, but very simple from a user experience perspective.
SUB: When was Pet It Forward founded, and what were the first steps you took to establishing it?
Dreher: Pet It Forward was launched in early 2011, but has been in development for the past 2 years. We have organized an amazing team of programmers and designers, and couldn’t have done it without a lot of up front planning. We took a few months to brainstorm, and work out some of the hurdles to creating a dynamic platform like this. I also worked closely with my now finance, who does venture capital, to see if I could pitch him on the business, and he helped organize some potential advisers including economists, top virtual currency lawyers, and founders of prior top tech companies such as About.com and Expedia.com. Prior to launch, we prepared New York by building a base of individuals interested in joining the site, and then launched allowing them all to sign up at the same time. We are in the process of identifying our next one-to-two cities to launch based on individuals requesting an invitation.