She Once Asked Her Dad for Money & His Response Turned Into a Family Business
This is a story about a girl and her dog—actually her many, many, many dogs.
Allie Clegg is 16-years old and already well on her way to establishing a local dog care empire called Allie's Walkabout, currently based in Crescent Springs. What started out as a kid knocking on doors and offering to walk dogs has turned into a 12,000 sq. ft. facility that can provide numerous canine services and can board up to 200 dogs at once.
The plan calls for 25 Allie's Walkabout locations by 2025 and for the company's ambitious namesake to finish college with business degrees.
Allie's family, especially her parents, Mary and David, have been instrumental in making Allie's business into what it is today. David explained that when Allie was a young girl, she asked him for money to buy a hamster, but he had a better idea of how she could raise he funds.
“I told Allie and her sister that I will never give you money, but I will teach you how to earn it,” David said. “So, we had a discussion of how to earn money and I said if you walk up and down the street and knock on every door and ask them if they had a dog to walk, somebody is going to pay you money. She was shocked that someone would actually pay to have their dog walked. So she and her little brother went out and walked these dogs and came home with eight or ten bucks or whatever it was and they were very excited.”
From there, neighbors began to seek out Allie to watch their dogs while they went on vacation. The next step was to create a basic website that began to generate local search traffic, which surprised David.
“Eventually, I started to wait for it to wear off, to where it became too much work," he said. “At that point it was not uncommon to have five or six dogs in the house on the weekend.”
Allie and her family did not own a fenced-in yard at the time so they had to walk all the dogs constantly. By the end of the summer of Allie's third year in business, she had saved as much as $5,000 and David suggested making a capital investment of installing a fence in the yard.
“I expected her fully to say that she wasn't going to spend all of her money on a fence, but her first response was that it would make her business so much easier,” David said. “That's when in earnest we just blew up. My wife and I looked at each other and said, oh my goodness, this is a real business.”
After the fourth year of Allie's Walkabout, the family started to look to move the business out of the house to a place with more space. Initially it was difficult finding a building to take over that would allow for the proper zoning designation for such a business.
“Everybody loves the idea of the business until you want to be in their neighborhood and then they don't love it as much,” David said.
Now that Allie's Walkabout has a permanent home in Crescent Springs, it's easy to see the steps the family has taken to become a good neighboring business. There is a no barking policy at the daycare facility to limit the noise you might find at some other facilities. They are able to foster this kind of environment because the dogs are not on leashes and play all day. This allows for the dogs to go home well-exercised and not stressed out from barking.
“Dogs always need someone in charge, so if you're going to have a group of dogs in off-leash play, you kind of have to be able to show them who is boss. That's why all of our employees go through training just so they know how to be the boss of their own yard,” Allie said.
Also, the floors are constantly cleaned to prevent the various dog smells that could otherwise accumulate.
At this point, Allie's has over 1,000 customers with new walk-ins every day. Allie intends to go to college first before becoming the operating owner. She plans to study business and entrepreneurship.
“I have the dog part down pretty well. A lot of people ask me if I want to be a veterinarian but that's not what I am passionate about. I really do enjoy the business side of things so I would like to have a lot of that behind me,” Allie said.
The number 25 has become a goal for Allie, as she hopes to have 25 locations opened by 2025 when she turns 25 years old. With an eye on that target, new staff members are selected now in hopes that they can someday become a manager of their own location in the future. Currently, Allie's employs 12 staff members, but that number is expected to go up as business continues to increase.
“We really do want committed employees who are as passionate about it as we are,” Allie said.
Her parents never expected to become owners of a dog care facility, but they both enjoy it immensely.
“It's not a burden to us at all. As we grew and the numbers doubled every year and we realized that this was a viable business to continue, every year we would ask Allie if she wants to continue because we can stop at any time,” Mary said. “It got to the point where David and I talked about it and decided that if she said no we would still go ahead with it because we enjoy it so much.”
The Cleggs enjoy the relationships they build with their customers and have even planned a mixer at their place for the dog owners to get to know one another. They call it a "yappy hour" where the humans and dogs can come and hang out to build a sense of community.
“We grow attached to the owners as well as the dogs,” Mary said. “They do become more than clients, they become friends.”
Written by Bryan Burke, associate editor