Rachel Bowers, the founder of Brooklyn Bark, has been offering her services free of charge to medical and frontline workers during the pandemic. Rachel founded the company in 2010 and she shares her thoughts on how COVID-19 has impacted her business and how she is adapting her business model post-COVID. Rachel was also a recipient of a Thryv Foundation Small Business Grant and speaks about how it gave her hope in those initial dark days of the pandemic.
At Brooklyn Bark, we recently celebrated our 10th anniversary and we help take care of many types of pets but most of our business comes from dog walking. What makes us a little different is all of our staff is highly trained and certified in pet CPR and first aid. Although we are not considered an essential business and thus closed, some of our clients are medical workers or frontline workers in various capacities. We have been trying to give back where we can and care for their pets free of charge while they are out there saving lives.
We shut down a few days before New York City shut down and that was really hard. We had to put a lot of thought into that decision because we didn’t want to risk losing customers or employees after 10 years of building those relationships. I’ve always preached that safety is number one and we wanted to put our employee safety first. Amazingly our employees and clients were very understanding and respectful of that decision.
We applied for everything we could find related to the various government relief programs. Eventually, we were able to secure some funds but the whole process has been a bit of a mess. I don’t think anyone fully understands the details behind the payroll protection loan (PPP) and New York is a little different than other states when it comes to restrictions.
We heard about the Thryv Foundation Small Business Grant from one of our clients that works in the mayor’s office. She sent over a list of all the various grant programs and we started applying for them. It kind of felt like you were applying to college again and waiting to hear back that you got in. The Thryv Grant was the first guiding light that showed up for us and gave us hope.
Post-COVID we expect to see a lot of changes in our business and the world around us. What is safety now, wearing a mask, social distancing, not getting into crowded elevators, or waiting in long lines? We are working on ideas related to how we best protect our staff and clients to decrease the risk of contamination. Our main goal is that we can operate in a way that keeps our staff, clients, and their pets safe.