As a child, Meggie Williams once rescued an abandoned nest of baby squirrels.
She held them and hand-fed them, forming such a tight bond that they kept returning to her family’s home long after instinct had called them back to the wild.
It’s the kind of story befitting of an animal lover and advocate with early dreams of becoming a veterinarian, but Williams instead channeled that passion into Skipper, a relationship-driven, technology-enabled dog walking and pet care service she founded with her husband in 2016. Based in Charlotte, N.C., Skipper recently raised $900,000 and, after completing the Techstars Austin accelerator program, expanded to Austin, Texas.
Williams and her husband/co-founder, Sebastian (she calls him Seb), operate Skipper with fundamentals largely lacking at competitors:
- proprietary mobile and web technology
- an in-house team of trained pros
- real-time visit updates with GPS-tracked maps, photos and personalized comments with
LOTS of playful emojis (Fido went #1 and #2 !).
In the past two years, Skipper has logged 50,000 visits and attracted more than 1,000 clients — all with Williams leading the pack.
BRAVE NEW WORD: What was your first job, and how did it prep you for entrepreneurship?
MEGGIE WILLIAMS: Besides babysitting, I was an ice cream scooper at Friendly’s. It gave me a foundation of empathy. Being in a service industry at a young age, I realized there’s a human component in everything we do. We all have our own stories and struggles, and what drives us and who we are.
BNW: What need did you see that led you to create Skipper?
MW: Seb and I bought two dogs after moving to Charlotte in 2014 and were super underwhelmed with the dog-walking options. They seemed punitive in nature, had little accountability, no tech component, no logistical capacity and hit-or-miss service. We talked to people in our peer group, and determined a universal need wasn’t being met and we could do better. Seb was using our car for work, so I started the company with a scooter. I designed T-shirts and flyers attached with dog treats, and handed them out at dog parks and breweries. Through word of mouth, we started to grow. After four months, Seb came on.
BNW:Describe the Skipper culture.
MW: We have fur clients, human clients and team clients (dog walkers). Core values apply to all. It’s critical for our human clients because we cross the threshold into their homes and take care of pets who are their family. We walk dogs, but we build trust. We consciously aim to surprise and delight all our clients with every interaction.
BNW: What’s it like working with your husband?
MW: One of my greatest accomplishments is we have a life working together in a company we built. Our skill sets are compatible, which helped when we backpacked around the world for nine months.
BNW: What makes you a successful entrepreneur?
MW: Entrepreneurship has a been a practice in knowing myself. It’s OK to fail, but life is too short not to be confident. I try to befriend my role models. My personal goal for success is to create formative, meaningful relationships quickly, build the business, and surround myself with people who share the same values.
BNW: Do you plan or wing it?
MW: I’m an executor and strategic thinker. At Skipper, we’re intentional, deliberate and metrics-driven. We’re constantly learning more to enhance clients’ experiences. Everything we do begins with planning, the reason why and a hypothesis of what to expect. If the outcome doesn’t happen that way, the gap is where real learning occurs. That said, Seb and I did buy our house sight-unseen.
BNW:What’s your personal motto?
MW:“May you live every day of your life.”
BNW:Favorite quote about dogs?
MW: “Everything I know, I learned from dogs.”
BNW:Favorite daily treat?
MW:I’m on the paleo diet, so I’m not doing that. In general, though, it’s chocolate.
BNW:Do you believe in first impressions?
MW:Yes, but be open to changing your mind when you have more information.
BNW:What habit or trait are you trying to change?
MW: It’s hard for me to slow down. I need a better sense of personal boundaries and to create a routine.
BNW:What’s the bravest thing you’ve ever done?
MW: Starting this company was pretty brave, but it seemed natural. I also bungee-jumped 80 stories into a canyon in South Africa. I think more about daily macro braves, like challenging yourself to be better at something. It’s easier to default into your comfort zone, but bravery is doing it anyway.
To learn more about Skipper, make sure to check out their website here.