By Jamie McAllister
Owner: Jennifer Morrone
Location: Home-based in Newport News
Number of Employees: 4
Jennifer Morrone started her pet-sitting business, Critter Sitters & More, in the summer of 2013 after her cat, Raja, passed away from kidney failure. After seeing firsthand the lack of pet sitters trained to handle animals with special needs, she stepped in to fill that gap for pet owners on the Peninsula. In addition to offering typical pet-sitting services, such as walking dogs, filling food and water bowls and cleaning litterboxes, Morrone is also trained to administer injections to pets. All her employees are trained in animal CPR and can administer pet medications.
Morrone is a natural networker, and when she decided to start a business she instantly began tapping into her resources. “I didn’t sit back and hope someone would hear about us,” she says. In addition to meeting other professionals in the area, Morrone is also big on nurturing relationships with apartment communities. She hosts “yappy hours” for pet owners, complete with a “muttini” bar. “Hosting events at apartment complexes is a great way to connect with people who are new to the area,” she says. “I want to meet clients and know them on a personal level.”
Running a small business can be a challenge, but Morrone enjoys the daily opportunities to hone her leadership skills. “I love being in the service industry and occupying a spot in the community as a business owner,” she says. “I think about the people I loved working with in the past so I can model that behavior for my employees. I want to use my past experiences to create a business my employees are proud to work for.”
Business is good, and Morrone is looking to bring on several new employees in the near future. She is proud of the cohesive culture she has created within her company. “We all work together in a team environment,” she says. “When something happens, a coworker is always there to step in and help out.”
Coastal Virginia has been Morrone’s home for all but two years of her life, and she says she can’t imagine living or working anywhere else. “We’re so close to everything, from cities to beaches to mountains,” she says. “I also love the diversity my work brings, from cuddling a cat at a client’s home to taking a dog for a walk along the beach.”
As her business grew, Morrone and her staff struggled to keep track of clients and schedules. Last November she switched from using a Google calendar to Pet Sitter Plus, software designed especially for the pet-sitting industry. “The system freed us from having to keep track of pieces of paper,” Morrone says. “The software is one hundred percent mobile. My staff can log in to the app to do everything, including send photos of pets to their owners, track schedules and check in and out of visits.”
From networking with other local professionals to joining professional associations, Morrone advises new entrepreneurs to experience the power of community. “You never have to go it alone,” she says. “Do your research for support services. There are tons of resources out there for you to use.”
Learn more at CritterSittersAndMore.com.