UI, Parkland grads continue to expand pet-sitting business

In the wake of her mother’s unexpected death, 20-year-old Lauren Morenz, a recent graduate from Parkland College, found herself at a stand-still. The year was 2008, and like other recent alumni, Morenz found herself struggling to juggle the many stresses that come with adulthood. She had just gotten married, had abruptly lost her mother to lymphoma, and now was unhappy with her job at a publishing company.

Around the same time, Kristen Duffy, a 2002 University alumna, made a career-changing decision. She purchased Fetch! Pet Care, a pet-sitting franchise located at 1100 W. Bloomington Road in Champaign, from their corporate branch. Fetch! is a pet-sitting service that saves clients the inconvenience of having to take their pets to a boarding facility while they are away by bringing services directly to the homes of their clients. In addition to pet-sitting, the company also provides dog walking services, doggie play groups and other various specialty services.

It had long been a dream of Duffy’s to run her own business, and through Fetch!, she believed her dream could become a reality. However, Duffy also had plans to become a lawyer, and she had been accepted to John Marshall Law School in Chicago — about 150 miles away from Champaign.

Unsure of how she was going to run a business in Champaign while simultaneously earning a law degree in Chicago, Duffy said she knew she needed to find some help.

Fast-forward to June 2009. Morenz, still unhappy about where her life was heading, sat at her desk, trying to think of odd jobs she could pick up. While sitting at her desk, she pulled up the Google homepage and typed “dog walking” into the search engine. The Fetch! website popped up, and she clicked on it.

“I started reading about Kristen (the owner of Fetch!) and I thought I would take a shot in the dark and call her,” Morenz said.

The timing could not have been more perfect. Morenz said she had no idea at the time, but her call to Duffy would serve as one of the most pivotal moments of her life.

“I originally applied just to be a pet-sitter,” Morenz said. “We met for the first time and did an interview while we walked a dog named Ranger. We got to talking about the ways that I would be interested in growing with the business.”

After Morenz’s hire in June 2009, Duffy offered her an opportunity to buy into the business in August 2010.

“We ended up working so well together, I decided to offer to her to buy in,” Duffy said. “It was then that we started working more as team. Lauren has come up with a lot of great ideas,” Duffy said.

In the four years since Morenz has joined the Fetch! team, the duo has worked to continuously grow the Fetch! brand. Today, Duffy spends most of her time away from the Fetch! office and can be found in Chicago pursuing her law career. In her down time, she focuses on Fetch!’s business operations and deals with their financial statements, tax returns and billing. Morenz, on the other hand, resides in Champaign and handles the day-to-day operations.

This year, Morenz and Duffy decided to expand their work further. They created “Pet Stop, LLC,” a sister company to Fetch! that builds on the success of Fetch! by offering services including behavioral training, pet massages, pet supply inventory and pet massages.

At the time of Morenz’s hire, the business had no paid employees, and it served more than 100 clients and worked with several independent contractors. Now, the team employs five staff members and 18 contractors, and its client base of nearly 750 includes Champaign-Urbana residents, students and University administrators.

Jeff Brown, graduate student in LAS, uses Fetch! for his 25 different pets: two cats, four geckos, five frogs and 14 fish. He said he views Duffy and Morenz’s business as “professional” and “courteous.”

“It is clear that Fetch! is an extremely well-run business, and that is demonstrated by how much they seem to care about their clients,” Brown said.

Jed can be reached at [email protected]

Editor’s note: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Fetch! co-owner Kristen Duffy offered Lauren Morenz an opportunity to buy into the company two weeks after her hire. The article should have stated that Morenz was hired in June 2009 and didn’t buy in until August 2010. The article also stated that the business served 25 clients and no contractors at the time of Morenz’s hire. It should have stated that the business served more than 100 and worked with several independent contractors. The Daily Illini regrets these errors.