How Much Money Can You Really Make Walking Dogs?

If you’re a part-time blogger like me, there is a good chance you have some extra time on your hands. If you want to occasionally see the sun or spend time with other living creatures, dog-walking could be a fun and lucrative venture.

The great thing about dog walking is that you don’t need much to start your own dog-walking services. Just throw an ad up on Craig’s List or make some flyers. You might need some treats and plastic baggies.

However, if you want to join an established dog walking company, you might need a little bit more. I searched dog walking on Boston Craig’s List and found 78 positions. Some of them required past experience with dogs, access to cars, and a general flexibility in your schedule. Many of them required at least a six month commitment.

Here is the good part. The pay is really good for something you can do in your spare time. Most of the listings on Care.com said they would pay between $10-$20 per hour. A few even had $25 per hour.

Negatives? Well, if you’re not an outdoors person or a dog person, you probably shouldn’t be doing this. It helps to have Pet First Aid. And if you’re in a less-densely populated area, it might not work.

This profession has been around a while though. Check out the New York Times obituary of Jim Buck, who is credited with creating the first professional dog walking service.

 

The Startup Files: Coffitivity

Coffitivity Logo
For this week’s installment of the Startup Files, we got the opportunity to sync up with the folks from Coffitivity.  Last Monday we featured Coffitivity, a workday creativity tool that streams the ambient sounds of a coffee shop to your desktop or device. They were featured in Time’s 50 Best Websites of 2013.

Check out our interview with these guys, who have made a pretty awesome tool, and it looks like this is just the beginning for the Coffitivity Brand.

 How did you come up with this idea?

The idea was a “right place, right time” kind of scenario. My business partner Justin Kauszler and I both work in academia at Virginia Commonwealth University and as such, we tend to read a good amount of nerdy research and white papers. I stumbled across one citing a moderate level of ambient noise as conducive to creativity and I told Justin about it. To be honest, we really thought nothing of the paper at first – it was just good information to bank. Not too long afterwards, we spent a week or so rebranding CycleStay, our first (now on hold indefinitely) startup, and happened to be getting epic work done in and out of several local Richmond coffee shops. When Justin got back to his day job after a long weekend of coffee shop grinding, he knew that something was missing from his work environment. Recalling the paper I read, he knew the problem had something to do with sound and ambience. At that point, he decided that if he couldn’t go to the coffee shop, he’d have to bring the coffee shop to him.

Why did you decide to dedicate yourself to this idea, and launch a business? When did you launch it?

The idea popped up around mid January of this year and it took a month to build. We launched officially on March 4th. Funny enough, when Justin bounced the idea of Coffitivity off of me, I told him it was a terrible idea. Even so, he was committed to making the project happen so I was on board. Justin mostly saw this as a great opportunity to dive into coding. Neither one of us was a technical co-founder at the beginning of this project, but Justin leaned on some great resources like our developer friends, Code Academy, and Lynda.com to learn how to build the site. This was really just one huge experiment for us. We designed a product we knew we’d use (we knocked out the audio first, so we actually used the Coffitivity recording to design and build Coffitivity) and we’ve found that there are a million people across the world who connect with coffee shops the same way we do. Improving the way we work and create awesome things is something that resonates with tons of people. We feel like we’ve built into a tool that tackles that pretty effectively and that makes a great business in our eyes.

Do you plan to launch different sound environments?Coffitivity Image

Absolutely. We’ve got a couple different tracks in the back pocket that will be coming to the site as soon as some of the functionality of track selection is flushed out. We’re also working on a few angles to get raw audio from different countries. Imagine being able to hang out in a little French or Italian café from the comfort of your home or office!

How do you plan to bring in money with Coffitivity?

We’ve got a few ideas on that front. Right now the site is free and we plan to keep most aspects of that consistent. We do, however, plan to charge for some of the new premium features we’ve got coming out pretty soon.

Any exciting updates to anticipate in the future?

Yes, yes, yes. We’ve got iOS AND OSX apps on the way and we’re excited about both. The Mac app sits in the menu bar and stays out of the way unless you need it and the iOS app will allow you to mix your Coffitivity in with your iTunes playlists. Best of all, you’ll be able to use both apps offline! We’ve also got some e-commerce coming to the site. We’re exploring some interesting partnerships, so hopefully you’ll see some merch and items for sale from us here pretty soon.

What are your must have apps?

The usual suspects – Twitter, Facebook, Google Maps. I also use Path, Pinterest, and Facebook Pages every day. Internally to the team, we use Hangouts for discussions and Asana for project management and Snapchat and Vine for fun. Probably a no-brainer, but the Beta Coffitivity app gets some solid use too.

Apple or Android?

I’m an apple guy, as is our designer, Nicole, and Tommy, our second developer. Justin for whatever reason is still on Android. Haha.

Coffitivity ChartacterWhat do you enjoy most about your day-to-day work life? 

I’d have to say I/we love the fact that it doesn’t feel like work. We really enjoy interacting with each other as a team and as friends and on top of that, we really believe in what we’re building. That makes for the best work environment anyone could ask for.


When your company “makes it” what’s one thing about the startup life that you will NOT miss.

I think we’re all in a place where we won’t miss needing to work other jobs to pay the bills. We all certainly love our day jobs, but it’ll be nice to work them on our own terms.

Check out Coffitivity on all of their Social Outlets!

Website

Facebook

Twitter

 

 

 

 

The Startup Files: Date Night Is

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This week we spotlight a New York based  Dating Business called Date Night Is… a dating experience designed with couples in mind.

Date Night is a million things to a million different couples. But there’s one common thread they have discovered across couples everywhere. Eventually couples who wine and dine, explore and try new things us eventually fall into the habit of less-than-romantic Dates. It’s easy to get in a funk. Date Night gives way to the ease and simplicity of routine.They are here to bring Date Night back.

The folks at Date Night Is believe it’s time for an evening out that is actually planned in advance and aims to fuel a couples sense of adventure and discovery. So- dress to kill, for no good reason other than the fact that you just can.

So, what’s Date Night Is…?

From occasional reminders that it’s time to plan a Date Night to help orchestrating the perfect evening and perhaps even double Date Nights, we’re building a number of services and products, both digital and real-world, to put Date Night back on the calendar for couples everywhere. Sign up today, and you’ll begin receiving occasional emails (every 2-4 weeks) with a reminder to plan a Date Night along with a few simple ideas on what you might like to do. As we grow, the service will become more personalized and curated based on your unique interests as a couple.

 How did you come up with this idea?

The idea for Date Night Is… was born completely out of personal experience. My co-founder, Joni Goldbach, and I (who also happen to be dating) came to the realization that we’d formed a bit of a routine around the time that we moved in together. What began as a conversation about how we could overcome that, grew into conversations with friends and other couples. The more friends we spoke to, the more we heard from other couples that they were in a similar situation. Those conversations then grew into the realization that there’s a business idea in there.

We did a quick write-up of the origin of the idea here: http://goodmenproject.com/sex-relationships/hesaid-date-night-is-not-a-trip-to-ikea/.

What types of tech do you use each day to run your business? Software, apps, devices, etc.

We use a variety of tech/devices to maintain our day-to-day operations. Google Analytics provides us with constant feedback on everything that we’re testing within the experience itself (we’re very focused on a lean methodology). We maintain social profiles on twitter, facebook, foursquare, pinterest, tumblr, linkedin, and instagram, so we use a variety of tools and products to keep up with those accounts and the communications associated with them. To manage Twitter, we use hootsuite (which I hate, but can’t find anything better), buffer and twitter counter. We also use IFTTT extensively to manage posts in all of those networks.

In the software realm, we use the standard suites to keep everything rolling forward. Google for email, documents, etc. Creative Suite for design needs. I also set up my old iPhone specifically for the business and will carry that regularly if I know I’ll have access to wifi to keep up with business-specific needs.

From a hardware perspective, we’re a mac-based team. We run everything out of our apartment on a couple of off-the-shelf apple laptops (paired to external monitors at home). We both carry an iPhone. Most of the photography we’re using was shot by us either on an iPhone or a relatively standard digital camera (I shoot with a Fuji X100 right now).

Screen Shot 2013-06-11 at 2.21.36 PM
What companies out there do you admire?

We’re impressed by any startup that’s managed to get up and running. Working on this (and a previous) project has given us new-found respect for what it takes to bring an idea to life (and to market). Anyone who has navigated the process successfully deserves respect for it. As far as specific companies, we’ve been fans of Svpply since they launched and have followed Ben Pieratt’s discussions about moving from designer to CEO with interest. Nau is another brand that we have a lot of respect for. They’re not a startup anymore, but they managed to launch, fail, and then relaunch under an entirely different business model. The dedication they’ve shown to their product, their business, and their fans is fantastic.

 Who are some of your favorite entrepreneurs?

Ben Pieratt, mentioned above, always comes to mind whenever someone asks this. He’s written quite a bit about his  endeavor with Svpply. It’s hard to see how anyone could read what he’s written about the process of becoming a CEO and not respect him for it. And to top it off, he’s a genuinely nice guy. We haven’t had the pleasure of meeting him in person yet, but we’ve kicked a few emails back and forth and always walked away feeling like he’s not only successful but humble as well.

 We’ve also had the pleasure of meeting Daniel Chait through family connections. He’s one of the co-founders of Greenhouse.io (which isn’t his first rodeo) and he’s been a great sounding board for us as we’ve worked to get Date Night Is… live. In fact, it was a conversation with Daniel that really gave me the kick in the butt I needed to think seriously about pursuing my own venture.

 DJFranceWhat are your must have apps?

For company productivity, we use the apps corresponding to our social outlets regularly. We’ve also found a couple of unique tools that have proven invaluable. For example, PhotoForge2 is a photo editing app that allows us to create the layered images that we share on instagram often. We use Facebook and the Mailchimp app along with a number of apps that help us keep up with events around the city so that we can pass them on to our users.

On a personal level, if I’m on my phone, there’s a good chance that I’m looking at one of the following:

  • Sparrow for email. (Tried Mailbox and couldn’t get into it.)
  • Kindle
  • Tumblr.
  • Twitter.
  • VSCOCam/Afterlight/Instagram for anything photo related.

Apple or Android?

We’re both iPhone devotees. The idea of trying an Android device comes to mind often, but it would likely have to be a second phone. Or maybe a tablet. Half the market is on an android device; it only makes sense to know what’s going on “over there” as well. That will become more of a reality in the future as we bring to life some of our mobile-specific ideas for Date Night Is….

What do you enjoy most about your day-to-day work life?

Probably the fact that we get to be masters of our own time. Building a company where we actually have final say on every single aspect of the work is a new (and exciting) experience for both of us. Of course, that’s a double-edged sword as well. We’re also responsible for every failure that we encounter, every dollar that we spend, and every user who walks away.

When your company “makes it” whats one thing about the startup life that you will NOT miss.

The uncertainty. Yes, we believe – emphatically – that the idea we’re pursuing is a good one, that couples everywhere could benefit from what we’re creating. But you can’t help but have a moment of doubt creeping in occasionally.

Find Date Night is… on these outlets:

Date Night is…is a great helping hand in your relationships, to continue to make things exciting and adventurous and take a step outside of monotony once in a while. Don’t get me wrong, routines in relationships are, in fact ,a good thing, but make the time to do something different and special and learn something new about your partner.

 

Tweetin’ Ain’t Easy

Tweetin’ ain’t easy especially when you are trying to hit a specific audience.  Consider timeline, user interaction, content, placement, structure, etc.  All of these pieces (and probably a lot more) are integral in ensuring that your followers are actually following along with your tweet-ness.  When you start an account you need to determine a few things as well – who is your audience? what is your mission? do you have an agenda? is this for fighting or is this for fun?

Who is your audience?

When you are a business and you are on twitter, you must assume that your audience is working particular schedules whether that be 9-5 or slogging away at the midnight or swing shift.  So that being said, how do you hit the masses without going critical and too overbearing on your followers?  First determine where your audience you are trying to reach is located.  A great way to do this is to go through your list of followers and determine their location.  Many users will actually enter their physical location in their twitter profiles.  Pick your key audience out of your list of followers and make sure you document where they are located.  No worries about those profiles that don’t include their location.  Remember, it’s not that you don’t care where they are located…so don’t go DM’ing them for their location to complete your list.  We can create a buffer for them.  Once you have identified your audience and you get their locations log all of those time zones down and move on.

Time Zone Checklist

Once you have your time zone sheet, think about when your audience is going to be awake on Twitter.  Schedule tweets and content to go out during those times that contain the most bang for the buck.  Here at Morning Donuts, we attempt to throw in some tweets that keep people engaged in the day or in certain events.  Questions, quizzes, thoughts on the day.  It’s all valid because there are other people out there probably feeling or experiencing the same thing.  Because there are different time zones there is nothing wrong with retweeting your already posted tweets.  Some things to consider.  Is the tweet important enough to send out again?  Was there a lot of interest that was engaged by that tweet?  Should you retweet or follow up on that tweet with another one that has related updated content?  There are actually some really good tools that help you engage your audience in this way.  Personally, I haven’t used all of them but have heard glowing reviews about a lot of them.

What is your mission?

Your mission will be whatever you choose!  Surprise!  That wasn’t hard was it?  Grab some mental notes about what kind of content you want to push out on Twitter.  Is it personal, is it for business?  Best bet…don’t mix business with pleasure.  Stick to your range of topics.  Be mindful that when switching from your personal to business twitter profile that you don’t accidentally send something that you wish you could take back.  There are ways to delete the tweets…but sometimes it’s too late.  Be mindful of the bird in mouth disease.  Make a mental list of the topics you want to re-tweet and their effect on the user base.  Do those companies support your overall mission?  Do they have the same values that you have as an individual or a company?  Don’t get me wrong…there is nothing wrong with being snarky or have a joking tone when you are writing your tweets…be yourself!  People aren’t going to respond to daily bland tweets and retweets that they could get from a news agency!

Pick it and Stick it

Once you get all of your data aligned…you’re golden…well close.  There are a lot of other things to consider, but these are just highlighting on some of them.  Don’t worry…tweetin’ ain’t hard either.  But be mindful of your audience and keep pluggin’ away.

 

When Trebuchets Won’t Work

Conflict in the workspace is a problem no matter where you go.  I’m a very black and white person.  If it’s wrong it’s wrong…if it’s right it’s right.  When it comes to handling any stakeholder or employee, blindly lobbing those rocks over the stronghold (your office) that you have built up around you is never a smart idea.  These rocks include – employee complaints, any sort of guidance, stakeholder messages, performance reviews, etc.

People handle criticism in different ways.  Even in basic business writing, you are taught the proper ways to write an email, bad news letter, proposal, and a whole mess of other documents.  The basics include making sure you talk like a professional without sounding too much like a d**k.  When writing a document you have to ensure that you get in and get out and that your point is made while still refraining from tearing the recipient to shreds.  Blind emails, comments, gestures, or documents expressing your state of mind come out like a shotgun blast with little to no realization what consequences it will have.

This in my definition is the “trebuchet effect” of leadership.  You have an issue or a requirement or a document that you “lob” over the wall to your employees with little knowledge of where it’s going to land and who it’s going to crush.  This effect creates the company wide expression of “sh*t rolls downhill effect”.  People scramble, you stew in your office…and shoooootttt…you shouldn’t have sent that email out because it was shot off from the hip and now you have to do some cleanup.

The trebuchet effect will crush you and those over the wall of your office again and again.  When trebuchets won’t work…try opening your door.  Remember to take a deep breath…remember that your employees make your company run.  Come at everything you do with a bottom up approach.  Your priorities in trebuchet mode look like this:

  1. You
  2. You
  3. Money
  4. Maybe your employees

In the “Open Door” mode your priorities look like this:

  1. Customers / Stakeholders
  2. Employees
  3. Company
  4. Never you

Remember that your customer is your priority.  Before firing rocks over that cubicle or shooting them out of that corner office…those rocks are on fire and will spread faster in entirely separate ways of how you intended.  A terse, short email or a heated email may seem like it will motivate…but it will just create more problems in the end.  Get rid of the 500 yard launches and just open your door…see where that gets you.

Ever had any of these experiences?  What would you add?  What would you change?  Let us know!  We would love to hear your feedback.

Your Morning Donuts – June 7th, 2012

*News stories you should be seeing, but you actually have a job and can’t surf the internet all day*

 

This was long overdue – Best Buy chairman resigns from board

Unprecedented move by China - China Cuts Interest Rates For First Time Since 2008

When Bernake Speaks, We Listen – Bernanke Sees Risks To Economy From Europe To U.S. Budget

Ummmm, Yes Please! - How Would You Like A Graduate Degree For $100?

The Gift That Keeps on Giving – Four Things Every Business Can Learn From Apple

No sh*t, Sherlock – Most Work Emails Not Important [STUDY]

Your Morning Donuts – May 22, 2012

News stories you should be seeing, but you actually have a job and can’t surf the internet all day.

Someone looks like they may be ready for a IPO of their own soonAlibaba Buys Back 20% Stake From Yahoo 

Microsoft opens the door to their social search site world…Microsoft Opens Its Social Search Site ‘So.cl’

GameStop enters uncharted mobile territories, last gasp?  - GameStop turns itself into a Mobile Phone Provider

Solid Start-up advice to file away3 Mindsets That Can Kill Your Startup

Chrome is your latest heavyweight champion of the worldGoogle Chrome Now the No. 1 Browser In The World

Babe Ruth has still got itA jersey worn by Hall of Famer Babe Ruth has sold at auction for $4.4 million