We spoke with Rashi Arora, co-founder and CEO of Cuddly Tails, a pet sitting service based in New Jersey. This service finds trusted dog lovers in your neighborhood for dog sitting and walking activities.
She moved to New York City and she knew she wanted a dog because she loved the one she had in India so much. Even though she was working in a corporate environment that required travel, she got Sammy and was in love.
History Behind Cuddly Tails
Working and traveling was becoming a strain. Rashi was casually talking with a friend and neighbor about finding trusted care for Sammy while she was traveling. She knew she wanted someone who would care for her dog just like family while she was away.
Her friend was a dog owner and could relate to her struggle. Over their conversation, Rashi was willing to trust her friend to keep Sammy while she traveled, and the idea sparked! What if you could have someone in your neighborhood, a trusted friend even, to keep your pet while you were away?
Rashi took her experiences from the corporate world and combined them with her passion for dogs to start her own business. She joined an accelerator program which gave her access to mentors, training, and a network of people to build around her for a successful entrepreneurial venture. She was able to receive access to capital and became one of the top three teams while building out her product suite.
The Cuddly Idea
Rashi started with market research. She reached out to multiple dog lovers and owners in New Jersey and New York City neighborhoods. In addition to speaking with dog owners, she visited various dog parks with her team and interviewed people there.
They needed to learn more about how people perceived their neighbors and friends taking care of their dogs. She was happy with the great feedback she received from everyone. They started building a prototype product to use and the idea grew from there. It was a lightbulb moment and Rashi walked through it from concept to production.
The accelerator program was essential to her success. It was the lightbulb moment that could have just stayed on the paper where it was created. Instead, Rashi was motivated to move forward and use the accelerator program to find mentors and the right community to reach her goals. There are a lot of programs available if you are willing to look in your community.
There are three focal areas that Rashi feels she learned the most valuable lessons. Each one is important and builds on the others so you have a full understanding of where you are and what you are working towards.
Knowing Your Customer
Knowing your customer is the crux of building your business. You have to know who your customers are and why they would use your services or products. What problem do you solve?
We had to make sure every pet would be treated like family and that the pet’s needs would be taken care of. We collected all the feedback and incorporated it into helping the dog owners solve their problems.
Building a Network
Building your network is really important because when you build a company, you need different things. Building your network means you have different people to look at the product as it's being developed to contribute to the look and design.
Finding a Mentorship
Anytime you have an issue or a problem, you can go to your mentor and see a different alternative or options. They will help you move forward without directly giving you the answer. A mentor will help you see the right path for you and encourage you to follow it.
A Positive Effect
We spoke with Rashi in early 2020 when the pandemic was just beginning. And given that things were different then than what we know now, Rashi was still able to highlight some positive aspects that the pandemic has had for all pet owners and her business.
Although it did change her market research and how she interacted with her customers, Rashi was able to find the positive silver lining. She shifted her business model because more people were at home and traveling less. With virtual interviews and the growth of doggie play dates, her business was able to thrive. There are some big dogs and puppies who have tons of energy and they need to get outside and run while their parents are at home working.
She shifted into this model offering playgroups and hosting some play dates so the pups could get out and the parents could get some time away. This is great for high energy dogs and she loves to keep it intimate with 3 - 4 dogs for 2 - 3 hours so they can run off the energy.
Another great benefit for dogs coming out of the pandemic is the puppy adoption rate. The pet industry report shows that over the next five years, adoption rates are expected to increase 5% - 6%, which is very promising. So as people continue to slow down, they are finding new ways to enjoy and appreciate their families.
Cuddly Tails Future
Over Rashi’s career, she has been a part of many different teams with diverse backgrounds and cultures. Everyone has a different mindset and unique perspective. When everyone is together, they brainstorm the different perspectives and those iterations become the best ideas that people will be able to share with each other.
Cuddly Tails is live in the App Store and Google Play Store. The company is launched in Jersey City neighborhoods and looking to launch in New York City neighborhoods pretty soon. After that, she has her eyes set on other major cities like Chicago, Washington, and eventually further West as it develops.
The Beyond Normal Podcast is sponsored by Velourit. Velourit is the global supply chain management system built for the small minority business owners. It is an example of how to create a company that drives value with a purpose.
Brooke Sinclair is the CEO of Velourit. She says, “2020 forever changed the way investors interact, engage with, and learn about startups while working from home, remotely, and over Zoom. We’re moving away from the physical Silicon Valley to a more conceptualized version where we reference “Silicon Valley” to mean the ecosystem of technology.” You can find out more about Velourit here.