RALEIGH — Raleigh Pet Sitters will walk your pig, feed your albino skunk and cuddle with your rabbit.
Cindy Golden’s business is booming by fulfilling these unusual customer requests and catering to the needs of her many dog and cat owners.
The company averages about 1,100 visits to homes each month, and in 2012, Raleigh Pet Sitters made 13,912 pet-sitting visits. Golden has 10 employees – including two part-timers – and hundreds of clients.
Despite the poor economy, people are spending money on pets, according to the American Pet Products Association. In 2011, U.S. consumers spent $50.96 billion on their pets – $12.46 billion more than in 2006. Nearly $4 billion was spent on pet services, such as grooming and boarding.
Golden started Raleigh Pet Sitters in 2004 after she grew tired of updating websites and cleaning houses. She wanted to work with animals, so she turned to pet sitting.
“I turned 30 in that year,” Golden said. “I’m like ‘You know what? Time to start and do my own thing.’ ”
Laying the groundwork
Golden researched her competitors and pricing, built a website, put advertising magnets on her car and got a business license from the city of Raleigh.
“It’s just that simple,” Golden said.
She also developed relationships with vets, groomers and managers at apartment buildings that allowed pets.
“Once they know you, they are like ‘Oh, call Cindy,’ ” Golden said. “And then the whole word of mouth from neighbors started.”
Golden initially offered services across Wake County, but eventually limited the business to areas surrounding downtown Raleigh, including Glenwood South, N.C. State, Boylan Heights and Five Points, and North Hills and North Raleigh to cut down on driving time.
Raleigh Pet Sitters, which started out as Cindy’s Pet Service, is based in Golden’s downtown Raleigh condo, which she shares with her husband, Mike, and their two dogs, Happy and Joy.
Hiring to keep up with demand
Golden changed the company name in 2012 because she was no longer doing most of the pet sitting.
“My role is respond to emails, sign (customers) up, answer the phone, handle any problems,” Golden said.
Golden’s business formula centers on customer service that includes well-trained employees and a calendar system that allows Golden and her staff to fulfill clients’ often last-minute requests.
Also, Golden teaches her employees to do more for customers than just feed and walk their animals. Home visits include bringing in the newspaper, watering plants and washing dog bowls.
In 2007, Golden realized that she needed help and hired her first employee.
A year later, Golden hired another employee, who quickly filled up her midday walk schedule. The process repeated itself several times.
“Then it just boomed,” Golden said.