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All-Inclusive Vacations for Dogs (and Their People)

Share Your Story: Unique Entrepreneurial Businesses & What Makes Them Successful

By CanineClubGetaway

Owner/CEO's Name & Business's Name

Janice Costa and David and Carole Kralstein

Year Established

2009

Why is your business unique and what's your pitch?

Canine Club Getaway is the ultimate resort vacation for dogs and the people who love them. The hugely successful launch of PetAirways proved that people don't want to leave their pets home when they travel. Recognizing the passion people have for their dogs, we created a vacation where the dogs don't just come along, they're an integral part of the fun. Our all-inclusive vacation offers dog sports (agility, Frisbee, lure coursing, flyball, hiking and swimming -- yes, dogs are allowed IN the pool), seminars by top trainers, behavior experts and a veterinarian, Yappy Hour, gourmet dining and more.

What led you to start the business?

I have two large dogs, and my business partners have three. We are passionate dog lovers who met at a dog training class, and we enjoy including our dogs in our activities. We have many friends who are involved in various dog activities (training, agility, therapy dog work, etc.), and I am an evaluator for the AKC's Canine Good Citizen test and the Therapy Dog test. I also run a dog social group through Meetup.com.

My partners and I love to travel, but we never really liked the idea of leaving our dogs behind. Unfortunately, not many places are dog friendly, and even those that are don't always want to take multiple dogs -- and most also don't have anything to do with your dog once you get there. And who wants to schlep their dogs for hours and hours in a car just so they can be stuck in a hotel room while we go out and have fun?

Having many friends who are also dog lovers, we knew we weren't the only ones who felt this way, so we decided to put together a vacation that people could share with their dogs. Of course the dogs will tell you it was their idea. )

Basically, we looked to create our dogs' dream vacation. We believed that there was a market out there of dog lovers who enjoy doing things with their dogs, and who would feel an investment in this kind of shared time would have value to them. Our goal was to launch in 2010, but there was enough interest that we decided to do a "test run" in September 2009 to see if the idea had legs.

We rented a resort hotel in the Catskill Mountains of New York, put together a staff of top dog experts (dog sport instructors, trainers and behavior experts, a veterinarian, dog nutrition experts), planned a dog-friendly agenda of activities and seminars and started spreading the word. Because of the late timing and our limited budget, we did this mostly through word of mouth, and through partnerships with various dog charities and rescue groups. We got good press coverage because of the uniqueness of the idea (we were featured in stories in the NY Daily News and Newsday, and on various radio and local TV stations, as well as on various dog blogs and sites), and to our surprise, we came close to filling the place. We actually had to move to a larger facility for our 2010 Getaway, planned for June 2-6 in Lake George, NY. We decided to add some "people friendly" activities, such as horseback riding and on on-site spa, as well as expanding our Getaway from four days to five. We're now marketing for 2010.

Lessons Learned

  • Prepare for every contingency. At our first Getaway, we had so much rain, we thought we might have to build an ark. When we chose a new location for 2010, we made sure there was abundant indoor space so our guests could still enjoy all of our activities, rain or shine.
  • Planning ahead pays off. Whether it's ordering brochures or buying "barks and crafts" supplies, everything costs less when you're not doing a rush job. Likewise, you can find "sales" on advertising and PR if you take the time to do your research.
  • Partnering with like-minded groups cuts costs and maximizes exposure. Support charities where you can

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