Q&A with Shawn Amerlinck, a superstar small business pet butler
Shawn Amerlinck, is a Registered Vet Technician (RVT), Animal Health Technologist (A.H.T), and owner of My Pet’s Butler based inWindsor, Ontario, Canada. Shawn opened his business and on December 1, 2011 and he has proven to be a small business superstar (in just four months!). Shawn provides in-home medical care, pet sitting and shuttle service for pets. In May 2012, Shawn will be a guest judge at a Chihuahua Beauty Contest and he will be an exhibitor at the Pet-a-Palooza Pet Expo. He is a master at keeping his brand visible, in fact I found him via a Biz Launch Canada’s Small Business Blog where he explained in detail how he obtained media attention quickly. As an entrepreneur and a writer of small business I found his answer to be exceptional, Shawn did his homework he was persistent and strategic about getting the word out about his business via his local media (be sure to check out AND learn from his response!). Small Biz Diamonds caught up with Shawn to learn more about his new business and his over all experience as a small business owner.
Tell us a little about yourself and what lead you to starting your own business.
I am a graduate of Sheridan College and St. Clair College in the field of animal sciences. I have worked in all 3 sectors of the pet industry, including The Windsor Essex County Humane Society, Walker Road Emergency Clinic, Forest Glade and Tecumseh Animal Hospitals. I started my 18 year career at Forest Glade and Tecumseh Animal Hospitals, while at the same time was employed at Walker Road Emergency Clinic and spent some time at the humane society. My time spent in these establishments was both exciting and beneficial. Over time I found it less challenging and decided it was time to pursue other avenues. An opportunity arose to manage a 9 story apartment complex and took a 5 year reprieve from the pet industry to pursue a career in the residential/rental industry just to find out my passion has always been taking care of animals, I get the most enjoyment out of this. I found myself on unemployment and stumbled upon a wonderful program called The Self-Employment Assistance Program. I investigated this option and was soon enrolled in the 4 week program. The idea of running my own business was risky but I knew I could fill a void in the market for a pet related mobile business.
What is your competitive advantage? What makes My Pet’s Butler unique?
I have experience, credentials, and being an R.V.T (Registered Veterinary Technician) places me a step above my competitive pet-sitters. My Pet’s Butler offers 3 types of services, including pet companionship, in-home professional medical care and pet shuttle. I chose not to limit myself to only pet sitting as I am qualified to administer prescribed medications and the purchase of a new vehicle gave me the option to shuttle pets to and from veterinary and grooming appointments. My Pet’s Butler is a great service for the elderly and people with physical limitations.
What financial resources did you use to start your own business?
Self Employment Assistance Program (SEA) helps fund for a 42 week period, plus an initial contribution from a silent partner.
When you first launched did you experience ‘naysayers’ or ‘haters’ that said your idea was crazy or it would never sale?
No, it was quite the opposite. Friends and family thought it was a great idea and clients of mine have been waiting for a mobile business that offered convenience and affordable rates.
How does social media impact the way that you do business? Which social media platforms do you prefer?
Social media allows me to get my voice heard within the community. The use of social media has become a powerful marketing tool. Social media platforms such as CTV News, Windsor Star, and Facebook helped to build my brand and reputation, it created a stir and got the public interested, increasing traffic to my website and it created conversation among the public. It immediately got the phone ringing and generated sales. The use of a SwarmJam coupon offering 50% of services for a 3 day period created a few spin off sales, got me into people’s homes to further sell myself and reminded the public that My Pet’s Butler is a unique, professional service…
My Pet’s Butler in the news
Where and how do you network offline?
I scout dog parks and approach pet owners, I visit retirement facilities, upcoming events such as Pet-A-Palooza, Pet Extravaganza and being a guest judge in a Chihuahua contest all allow me to contribute and give back to the community. Attending small business seminars and speaking engagements help to grow my business and also reach people in other sectors.
What is the toughest part about running your own business?
The toughest and most challenging part of running my own business I would say is being in several locations all at the same time and trying to orchestrate my way within the city. I carefully have to plan out my day the night before and map out and schedule appointments accordingly. With fuel prices continuing to climb, I must strategically map out my day.
What is the best thing about being a small business owner?
Of course being my own boss and having 100% complete control. I enjoy meeting new people and providing care for their pets. At the end of the day, I know I have provided a great service for people and I personally get great satisfaction knowing I made a difference in a person’s life. I can provide a stress free option for pets and pet owners alike.
If you were granted $100,000 for your business, how would you use the money?
This kind of money would be used to become really creative with advertising and go large with promotions. Purchase of a store front would be an option to create more awareness and getting involved with charitable organizations.
Do you have a business plan? If so, how did you go about gathering the information contained in it and how do you use your plan?
Yes, I have a business plan and I review it every 3 months to see if I am reaching my goals. The gathering of information was through the help of the Self-Employment Assistance program and their many instructors. The use of the internet, viewing my competition and government resources allowed me to put the plan in action. It proved to be a viable and sustainable business.
What three adjectives accurately describe your experience as a small business owner?
Flexible, enthusiasm, freedom, educational and lifestyle. I came up with five.
What is in the future of My Pet’s Butler brand?
My business will be a success. With a lot of hard work, perseverance and excellent social skills, I can see My Pet’s Butler becoming a household name. My Pet’s Butler will acquire more than 1 vehicle reaching out to areas outside of Windsor, Canada. The brand will have a good reputation for outstanding customer service and will have created a trusting bond with clients and their pets. It will become a name that one will think of first and continue to use as a source to call when they are in need of pet related services. Because my business is three fold (Pet-Sitting, In-Home Medical Care and Pet Shuttle), it will continue to grow and competitors will be left wondering,…’How did he do that?’
Please share a small biz diamond that you would like to pass on to other entrepreneurs and small business owners?
It is necessary to have a life-work balance, give back to the community in a rewarding or meaningful way, stay focused on your strengths and recognize your weaknesses, protect your reputation as a business owner, have a clear and defined plan, try to be different, think outside the box to set yourself apart from the competition, believe in yourself. Don’t give up when you run into a roadblock and hopefully someday soon you will reap the rewards and be able “pay yourself” at some point.
Shawn has turned his true passion into a business and he is paving his way as a entrepreneur in his local community, using the media to his advantage. What is your relationship with the local newspaper, radio stations, and news stations in your town? Have you contacted the media about your product or service offerings? If so, what have been the results? If not, what has stopped you from obtaining free positive press for your small business? Please share you small business diamonds in the comment section below.
Have a successful day!