Entrepreneur Insider Series – Andy Peck, TrustedHousesitters.com

Andy Peck is from Brighton, UK. He started his pet and travel business, TrustedHousesitters.com, in 2010. TrustedHousesitters.com connects home owners who are going away and need someone to look after their house and pets with trustworthy sitters – individuals, couples or families who will ‘house sit’ and look after the property and pets while the owners are away. Most sitters house sit in return for a great place to stay.

Starting the Business

Q: Where did the idea for your business come from? Where were you in your life and career?

A: In 2010 I was busy working as a writer and working on the final stages of a screenplay. I needed somewhere peaceful where I could get my head down and finish off the script when by chance I stumbled across a family in the north of Spain who needed a sitter; someone to look after their home and their dog Dave while they were away. I got in touch, was accepted for the position and a few weeks later was in Spain, house sitting.

After a bit of research, I realised that there were plenty of other homeowners worldwide who didn’t want to put their dogs into kennels and would rather get a house sitter. Soon the idea for TrustedHousesitters.com was born.

Q: What was the biggest challenge you faced when starting out?

A: The biggest challenge in the beginning was development costs and the speed of development. Up until recently development work has always been outsourced to an external company and so this has not only been costly, it has meant we’ve had a number of restrictions with regards to how fast we want to grow the site.

We’ve now taken on an inhouse developer and so we expect to be able to implement new changes and bug fixes quicker now.

Q: What would you consider your first big success in the business?

A: Getting to 1,000 members was certainly a big milestone and a big indicator that the site was onto something big. We’re now at over 10,000 members, many of whom have been using the site from when it first began.

Q: What is the toughest thing about getting to the top / staying on top in your industry specifically?

A: The TrustedHousesitters.com business model (where people house and pet sit for free) is unique and the hardest part of getting to the top is really breaking into a market that is dominated by businesses like dog kennels and traditional pet sitters who operate under a different business model (i.e. charge people).

While most people know that they can put their dog or cat into boarding, only a small percentage know that they can find someone who will live in their home and house sit for free.

That’s changing of course. We’ve been working hard to build awareness through PR and advertising and have been lucky to have been featured in a number of great publications worldwide including the BBC, Daily Mail and Sydney Morning Herald. We’ve also been featured on a number of high profile of travel and pet blogs, all of which help to raise awareness of what we do.

The Future

Q: Where do you see your industry heading in the next 5 years?

A: The pet boarding industry is long overdue a shakeup. Other industries such as travel accommodation, transport and fashion have all been impacted by the collaborative consumption movement and the startups that have come with it. Sites like AirBNB for example, where instead of booking with a traditional hotel or other accommodation provider you connect with a homeowner.

To date, the pet industry has generally managed to avoid any revolutionary startups like AirBNB, but we’re planning to change all of that!

Q: What do you plan on doing / changing in order to keep growing in this time period?

A: We’re continually re-investing everything the site makes back into a) developing the website according to our user’s needs and b) raising awareness of TrustedHousesitters.com through advertising and PR.

Q: What one piece of advice would you give to someone just starting out in your industry and wanting to make it to the top?

A: The best advice I can give to someone launching a website (not specifically related to the pet industry) is start out with a MVP and see what the reaction is. If it’s good, then worry about getting all the bells and whistles.

We continually ask our members what new features they would like on the site and although there are always plenty of requests for changes and fixes to what’s currently there, the overwhelming response that comes back is “keep doing what you’re doing well.”

So, while it might be tempting to think about launching with hundreds of great features, instead just try to launch with the one main feature, the thing that defines your business, and then work from there.

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