New pet care company ‘has your tail covered’

Kristen Duffy sits on the porch of her house with Porkchop, a 5-year-old American Boxer, Monday afternoon. Duffy, a 2002 graduate of the College of Business, recently opened a pet day care service out of her home. Fetch! Pet Care provides services to pets Erica Magda

By April Dahlquist

After graduating in 2002 with a degree in Accountancy, Kristen Duffy has returned to Champaign, not as a student but as an entrepreneur.

On Oct. 8, Duffy opened a branch of Fetch! Pet Care, which provides pet care services to anyone in the area.

Although she was working at Ernst & Young, one of the “Big Four” auditors, Duffy was tired of her desk job and wanted to try something new.

Despite the struggles of opening a franchise, finding her own insurance and underestimating financial costs, Duffy was able to get Fetch! up and running with the hope of breaking even within the first year.

“I actually work harder now than I did in accounting,” Duffy said.

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    Having two cats of her own, Duffy knows how tough it can be to find a pet sitter at the last minute, which is why she thought Fetch! would be a handy service for students.

    “If students are at class all day, then you don’t want to leave an animal in a small apartment,” Duffy said. “Or students who don’t live around here and want to go home for the holidays, instead of driving there with the pet or putting him on a plane, it’s easier and less stressful on the animal if you can leave the animal in their own environment and let the pet sitter come around.”

    However, Fetch! isn’t the only pet service in Champaign for students to use. Craigslist offers a variety of pet-sitting companies as well as students just looking for pet-sitting opportunities.

    The owner of Critter Sitters ‘R Us, Sherry Smith-Stanford, lives in Sidney, Ill., and she will travel within a 15-mile radius to her clients. Having 22 pets of her own, pet care takes up a lot of her time.

    Duffy, however, is not concerned by the number of competing companies. She said pet-sitting is a huge market with room to grow, explaining that two-thirds of Americans own pets, but only 5 percent use pet services.

    “I think there are enough pets out there for everybody and enough work to go around,” Smith-Stanford said.

    Gas prices, however, became a problem for companies because of all the travel time involved. Smith-Stanford invested in a Smart car so she could get more miles to the gallon.

    “It was getting pretty bad,” Smith-Stanford said. “If I would come into Champaign it would take a full gallon of gas to make the full trip there and back which is $5 right out of my pay. I make three trips to Champaign a day, which can really add up.”

    One company, 3 PhD’s Petsitting, went out of business in June because of the high gas prices, Duffy said. Using this information to her benefit, Duffy hired pet sitters who live in Champaign, Urbana, Mahomet and Savoy, so driving long distances is never a major issue.

    Duffy explains that Fetch! is different than other pet companies because they “always have your tail covered.” With a staff of pet sitters, someone will always be able to come, even if the customer calls at the last minute. Also, they always have backup sitters in case something happens to the first sitter.

    “Some companies are just one person running it, and if you’re just one individual you can only take in so many dogs,” Duffy said.

    Junior in Education Jenny Linsenmeyer has already used Fetch! Pet Care and felt her dog was treated very well.

    “I looked at other people on Craigslist, but she got back to me right away so the promptness was appreciated,” Linsenmeyer said. “She was just really outgoing, she had a lot of information, she knew her stuff and was ready to meet the dog that day.”

    Regardless of the financial drain of starting a business, Duffy is donating 8 percent of monthly profits to Champaign County Humane Society, Champaign County Children’s Advocacy Group and the Crisis Nursery Urbana-Champaign.

    “I’m into giving back to the community and making sure everything stays in Champaign,” Duffy said. “I think that is important in a community; looking out for kids and homeless animals, those that can’t take care of themselves.”