Barkly Pets was one of five companies selected out of dozens of finalists to pitch its business for Purina’s Pet Care Innovation Prize. The start-up had only 10 minutes to make the pitch and was awarded $10,000 and given big exposure at the Global Pet Expo.
Barkly Pets, and the other finalists, also traveled earlier this year to Purina’s global headquarters in St. Louis to take part in a “Pet Care Business Boot Camp,” with access to mentorship and business partners.
Barkly Pets, whose app connects dog walkers with dog owners in the D.C. area, was founded in 2015, and has since expanded to Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York City.
While the app provides dog owners with on-demand access to dog walkers with as little as 60 minutes notice, Barkly does not consider itself an Uber-like service for dog owners. Instead, its founders say they developed the app specifically for dog walkers.
“We wanted to build a job-essential tool for people who want to work with pets,” Dave Comiskey told WTOP. “We wanted to give them all the ease of scheduling and all the ease of flexibility.”
Dog walkers who apply are fully vetted, interviewed in person, and work in specific neighborhoods in Washington, anywhere from D.C.’s Logan Circle to Maryland’s Silver Spring.
Walkers make an average of $15 per 30-minute dog walk.
For dog owners, the on-demand option makes for quick attention to Fido if they’re stuck in traffic or working late, but the idea is to connect to a walker they get to know and who cares for their pet on a regular basis.
Prices for a walk for owners in the Washington market start at $16. The average cost between scheduled and last-minute services is $20.
Owners are sort of virtually on the other end of the leash when Barkly walkers step in.
“As soon as the walk starts, you’re getting an alert on your phone. We track the walks on GPS. We share photos with our customers, and as soon as the walk ends you get an alert as well and a post-walk report,” Comiskey said.
Comiskey, and Capitol Hill neighbors Chris Gonzalez and Jim Camut started their dog walking service after finding themselves relying on each other to care for their dogs, and their business grew initially through word of mouth in D.C. dog parks.
The company doesn’t comment on revenue, but Barkly Pets raised more than $600,000 from investors last year to fund its expansion.