We had the good fortune of connecting with Heidi Lewis and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Heidi, what’s something about your industry that outsiders are probably unaware of?
Pet sitting and dog walking is way more than just playing with pets all day. It’s an actual local business in your community! Professional pet sitters and dog walkers are very different from the neighbor next door, the college student home for the summer, or even Rover/Wag dog walkers who all mostly pet sit as a hobby or side gig hoping to make some extra money. Professional pet sitters and dog walkers are just that – professionals. We have our own licensed company, often an LLC, including insurance and bonding. Most of us do this as a full time job and have several clients who we service in our area. Professional sitters also have additional trainings such as dog training, pet CPR/First Aid certifications, memberships with pet organizations, and years of hands on animal care experience with a variety of animals. For example, I have worked in the animal industry for over 10 years, which includes work in animal shelters and veterinary hospitals. This allows me to care for senior pets and pets with special needs such as medication administration, SQ fluids, and insulin shots. Most of us provide dog walks, daily drop in visits, pet transportation, and even overnights in our clients homes! Being a professional pet sitter and dog walker is an actual profession with people who’s purpose in life is to work and care for pets every day. I know I wouldn’t have it any other way!
What should our readers know about your business?
As mentioned before, I am more than a hobby pet sitter looking for some extra money. I am a professional who does this full time, all day, every day. As far as other sitters in the industry, I feel I stand out because of my shelter and veterinary experience of over 10 years. I can administer most medications, give insulin shots, and SQ fluids. Specializing in senior pets and pets with special needs is always a huge plus for clients looking for pet care. I can also notice if something is wrong with a pet right away and can get them to their nearest veterinarian. Additionally, I am certified in Pet CPR/First Aid and am trained to stabilize pets in case of an emergency until I can get them to the nearest veterinarian.
Starting the business was easy – running the business was/is a whole different story! Coming from a background of pet care, I had no idea how to run a business and keep it going. Thanks to a lot of local business professionals, an amazing tax person/accountant, and a ton of pet professional resources has helped me tremendously along the way. Joining professional pet sitting groups put me in touch with pet business coaches who have sold their businesses and now help other sitters through their business journey. Also, reading a lot of business books and podcasts as well as implementing a pet sitting software to manage my growing clientele has been extremely helpful.
Like in most businesses, we always have to deal with difficult clients. One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned in this business is to not take things personally. Coming at a difficult client situation with compassion and empathy has really helped me get through some bad days. Cuddling a puppy or two always helps as well. Thankfully, there are not too many bad days in pet care, but my worst day in pet sitting is still better than my best day in any other profession!
After 3 years in business, I started hiring staff members this year! I am extremely excited to see how much my business has grown and all of the pet care opportunities that are in my local community. Creating jobs for other pet professionals has been one of the most rewarding parts of my career so far. I am looking forward to growing my team and creating a Heidi & Hope Pet Services empire in Southwest Florida!
I want the world to know that if you want to start your own business, DO IT. I never thought I would be able to do this. But, here I am, thriving and growing after a short period of time. If you feel you are in a profession where something is missing, find what you are truly passionate about and follow that. Never stop growing and never settle for something less than what you love.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
My favorite pet friendly spots in Naples, Florida:
Pet Supplies: Wholesome Hound & Paws Pet Boutique
Rescue/Shelter: Humane Society Naples
Dog Park: Naples Dog Park
Dog Beach: Bonita Beach Dog Park
Activities: Celebration Park Naples
Brewery: Naples Beach Brewery & Ankrolab
Coffee: Bad Ass Coffee, Bean To Cup, & Kunjani
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I wouldn’t be where I am today without the amazing community of other professional pet sitters and dog walkers around the country. We have a growing spot in the world through professional pet sitting organizations, social media groups, and more. We share resources, experiences, and advice with each other. This is extremely helpful, since most of us don’t have a lot of business experience and got into this industry to work with animals! Pet sitting can also be a very isolating job, since we mostly work with pets and not a lot of humans face-to-face. The community of other pet professionals, or “petpreneurs”, is such an amazing resource of people to turn to whenever you have a question or just need to talk to someone who knows what you are going through. I have made lifelong friends through these relationships.
Also, I named my business after myself and my corgi, Hope. Her unconditional love and support is the reason why I was brave enough to take this leap into pet sitting full time. It makes sense that my business would be named after her. Without her, I don’t know where I would be.
Naples Dreams in Pixels for photos in teal sweater