In the first of our start-up stories, we had the pleasure of talking to Gerry Molloy, founder of WoofAdvisor. Gerry is a graduate of Digital Skills Academy who launched his startup last month.
We are trying to provide pet owners with a platform to plan travelling with their pets. We aim to offer more than just reviews of where you plan to stay but to also include information about the stops en route. For example, if the hotel was pet-friendly but you are not able to leave the pet alone, then this would be good to know. It is good to have as much information as possible, both en route and at your destination.
We researched the market and found there was a great opportunity. There is a large market of people travelling with pets, of which 80-85% are dogs. This is very different to travelling alone. It’s a growing market in Ireland and even bigger in the UK too. Dogs and pets, in general, are becoming more and more a part of people’s families. This is becoming more normal, and so people want to include them more and more in what they do. Our company, WoofAdvisor was created to help people to achieve a better experience when they travel with their pets.
I had the idea in October 2013. Several people I knew had been to the West of Ireland on holiday with their pets and had had unsatisfactory experiences. They had researched it, but they still had poor experiences. I asked them if they had looked it up online. They had, but there were no pet-specific reviews. The name WoofAdvisor was suggested then, and I have worked on it ever since.
We only launched this month. Developing the site took a long time, but it was also time well spent. We put a serious time investment into it. We wanted it to be something that engaged visitors, and also looked professional, to attract other businesses to it. We are launching this month and have had good media coverage. Many newspapers have contacted us to do a piece about WoofAdvisor. It’s a good validation of the business and of the website. Getting the business to the point of launch has been a good learning period to make it really work.
I studied with Digital Skills Academy in 2013. I came up with the idea as I was finishing up on the course. I did the course with the idea to create my own business and the definite goal of launching my own website.
The project management modules and the presentations were really helpful. By practising and practising we really improved. I wouldn’t have been able to make all the business presentations I subsequently made for WoofAdvisor without the skills I learned at the Digital Skills Academy. Also, your confidence is often low when you retrain, so the business presentations for the course really helped to restore your confidence about selling your idea and yourself.
I did extensive research, on the desktop, and also at the local university library. I used existing business research and reports, to consider current and potential competitors. I did an online survey in the UK, of over 350 verified pet owners, with specific questions relevant to my concept. I also asked would they use something like WoofAdvisor? Were they being served already for this need, if they had used another service, how relevant it was? I also used the Euromonitor findings. It seemed clear that no one targeting this sector, but that there was a potential 30% boost in revenue for those businesses that do consider this area, of people travelling with their pets.
It’s early days, but the media coverage has been significant. We’ve been featured in radio, print, Ireland AM, all sorts. It shows what we’re offering is relevant to their listeners. This is a big success and validates the business case. It’s been really diverse coverage too, from The Sunday Times to Senior Times to RSVP.ie, who have invited WoofAdvisor to contribute a weekly Blog Post of our choice, linking back to WoofAdvisor.com!
3 income streams:
Being a start-up on a limited budget is a challenge. It would have been good to bring it to market with a team. This would have been easier. If you can try to put a team together as soon as possible, with the right skillset, and people you’re happy to work with.
The concept was a light bulb moment. With WoofAdvisor, it’s 100% about community, pet owners are very sociable, and love to share content. We’re about a global social community of pet lovers. We’re trying to serve this need to allow people to engage with each other socially.
WoofAdvisor is not a Directory Listings, it’s not just about Travel, or even solely about Pet Travel + Reviews. Pet owners are extraordinarily social, especially when it comes to sharing about their pets.
Ultimately WoofAdvisor is really about people and their pets – about Social and Community – providing a platform for a global Social Community of like-minded Pet Lovers who would like to engage with each other.
Pet Photos / Videos have one of the highest (and fastest) likes, comments and shares of all online content.
There is a next stage planned, however first we’re validating it at the moment. I want to spend a few months building it up, and then talk to potential investors to scale it up. We will need backing, financial, but also technical, and geographically. This could be the social network for pet lovers globally!
WoofAdvisor's Mission is to provide a platform to help the community of caring, devoted pet lovers around the world plan and enjoy their travels with their pets.