Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
Hey! My name is Donald and I run Fraternityk9 dog training. In this business, I specialize in dog obedience and behavior modification. Most people that enter our program are dog owners who either need or want their dog to listen whether the dog is displaying dog aggression or just pulling the owner down the street.
Monthly on average, we are making $5,000.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
I started as a young kid who always loved dogs but never knew how to take care of them. I had several dogs in my life. A Lab/terrier mix, a pit bull, and several other mix breeds. I would always watch Cesar Milan and think “I could do that”. It wasn’t until I had a dog that would bite your hand when you took its food bowl that I realized it was a lot harder than I thought. I decided I was going to learn this dog training.
Everybody always says do what you love, but what if that thing you love makes no money?
I spent hours studying and then I got wrapped up in it. I would learn something new and become obsessed with dog training even more. I ended up learning from different teachers and knew I wanted to be the best.
I came up with the idea for Fraternityk9 after I visited the medical school. I passed most of my chemistry classes and all I had left was biochemistry. I passed my physics class and I had plans to become a naturopathic doctor. After visiting the school something felt off. I didn't feel so enthusiastic to go. I felt myself spending more time dog training. I decided I was going to give it my all. I named it fraternityk9 because of the camaraderie that goes on in fraternities. I wanted every dog to feel welcomed and every person too.
Now I am not a business person per se. I just had a vision. Everybody always says do what you love, but what if that thing you love makes no money? I looked at other dog trainers and saw if they were making a good living.
I started with not much money so I had to work a job to pay for my dog training education and business education. Dog training was very insightful to learn, but everything I learned was not fun to learn.
Learning a little bit about taxes isn’t fun, but it will save you a ton of money. I learned a little bit about writing copy and how to market. I also learned about sales. You must learn about these things, because if you don’t then there will be no business.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
So I didn't have to design a product, but I had to design a program. Most dog trainers just do random lessons. I wanted to give people a life-transforming program for them and their dogs. Then I came up with the NY 9-week dog challenge. This took most dogs from misbehaving (trying to bite strangers, digging, ignoring their owners when being called) to owner and dog developing a mutual understanding with minimal conflict.
How did I come up with this program? I came up with all those ways I can help a dog better behave and put it in a program. It was that simple. The hard part was deciding whether to INC the business or LLC. I spoke with an accountant and decided to do and Scorp for tax benefit purposes. That cost me about $800.
In the beginning, I had more time than money so I worked hard. I charged lower prices to learn and grow my dog training career.
Describe the process of launching the business.
Startup cost wasn’t that bad for me as my girlfriend was a graphic designer. She’s the one who did my website and designed it. She even did my logo. I am grateful for her as these things would have been outside my budget when I first started.
I hired someone to write a copy. I'm not sure if you know but copywriting is not easy unless you know what you are doing. Most do not know and it is hard to find a good copywriter. This particular person was $150 an hour. I would pay that any day of the week for some good copy.
Just to remind you I had no business sense so I didn’t understand digital marketing or advertising in general. I was talking one day with my boxing coach and explaining to him how I started my dog training business. The only problem was I didn’t know how to get clients. He’s the one who gave me the answer. He said “ just put an ad on Craigslist” very casually. That's exactly what I did and I landed my first customer.
I was nervous. At first, it was hard to ask people for money. It wasn’t until I got better at training dogs that I felt more entitled. That first customer taught me a lot. He was a middle-aged man with a husky dog. I learned how to talk to people. I also learned how to give bite-sized information to clients instead of a mouthful. I learned all this by doing the wrong things first.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
Since the launch, we have grown and currently, I am the only full-time trainer. In the beginning, I didn't see much growth. It was more about learning on the job. I had to get better at dog training, better at presenting my offer to potential clients, and better at business. To grow, you must learn to scale. But first, you must know how to calculate your conversion rates. You have to know where you are going.
To increase traffic and sales, I had to have a process. A process that took me from meeting customers to closing a sale. You stay in business when you make sales. That's the name of the game. I tried numerous things. Some work, others didn't.
The first thing I tried, after Craiglist, was going to vet offices and handing out my business card. This wasn’t a bad way to start. I did receive some calls from potential clients, but the sales were inconsistent. I didn't have much to work with. I would get 3 calls over the span of a month.
Such little potential, desperation, and little sales training led me to NOT close most of the referrals. The one thing I took away from this experience was that people go to the vet’s office because they need a vet, not because they are looking for a dog trainer
Next, I started getting into sales funnels. I had read Russell Brunson’s books and I was excited. It all made sense in my head and on paper. I did some research and bought a couple of courses to learn more about how I can build a “6 figure business”. The courses helped me with understanding the process, but technically I had no idea how to create a sales funnel.
One day out of the blue, I saw a webinar on my timeline on Facebook. It said, “want to make an extra 10 to 15k a month in dog training sales”. That definitely got my attention. I decided to hire them after we had a conversation on the phone. This is when I really learned about the process of the sales funnel. We launched it on Facebook. I started making money for a few weeks, then it dried up. I was spending way more money than I was making. I stopped running the ads for a while and wanted to learn what went wrong.
After doing some research I learned that it's not just about having a sales process but also about the content that goes into it. I started focusing more on quality ads. I also started looking at the message I was conveying in my ads. I had an ad where I was working with a couple of Pitbulls, German SHepherd, and other big powerful dog breeds. Guess who I got as clients? It sure wasn't the owner of a Poodle or Shih Tzu or Maltese. It was those same breeds that I had in my ads.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
Today I am still growing. Facebook leads have gone up but I have made up for it with better close rates. I have also been looking into more organic traffic ways. I use Instagram a lot now. It was the easiest for me to be consistent on which is the most important thing to do.
My ad spend on Facebook typically fluctuates. It’s primarily about $600 a month. I probably could get more sales if I up my ad spend. I make about 5k-6k a month. Looking to make more shortly. I also want to open up a facility to be able to board and train dogs and hire other trainers. So that would be a long term goal. A short term goal would be to make $20k in a month.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
There are many things that I learned in business. One thing is that a business takes time to learn. I used to hear about people that made 40k within the first 2 months of launching their business. I don't doubt that, but there is some information being left out. Most of the time this is not their first business. Also, they are not telling you the years of trial and error it took for them to get it right. It took me a while to understand this.
Another thing I learned is that it’s your job to deliver the results. You can’t be upset about the potential customer who said they were going to buy but did not. You can’t be upset with the market. Everything is on you!!! I had to get up early and go to sleep late.
The final out of many lessons that I learned is that you have to grind and know what you’re doing. Most of us understand the grinding part. America is all about that. But a lot of us don’t understand the “know what you’re doing” part. My suggestion would be to hire a mentor. I always hire people that are where I want to be. You wouldn’t take health tips from a guy with only 4 teeth in his mouth and dirty clothes. So don’t take advice from anyone who is not where you want to be.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
I use very few platforms. I try to get good at one before moving on. I use Facebook, Instagram, and GoHighLevel.
Facebook and Instagram are my social media outlets. This is where I engage with my audience and run ads. I like them because it is easy with social media to post and talk with people. GoHighLevel is where I access my clients and data. I can see my conversion rates for the month and text message clients.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
I enjoy reading so I have read a ton of books. I mentioned earlier that Russell Brunson's traffic and expert secrets books were good reads. I have books from Pamela Reid. And I have listened to the podcast of Jerry Bradshaw, a dog trainer. I also read Tony Robbins’ books Money Master the Game. When it comes to business I took courses.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting?
My advice is to not take it personally. You will lose money. You might feel like you should have just gone and got a job and quit dreaming. I feel like all entrepreneurs feel this way. Never quit and keep going. Find a way. I had a daughter on the way and was spending more money than I was making. I had to find a way and I did.
Entrepreneurship is a journey. Don’t get too comfortable. It is easier to get comfortable at a job, but not your own business. You can be making one day and losing it the next. Always keep learning so that you can become more efficient.
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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