Boston entrepreneur, Michelle Fournier is the owner and operator of Durty Harry's Doggie Boutique and Dog Wash, which has 2 locations – Charlestown and Brookline. Like most entrepreneurs she started her pet business to offer up a convenience she wished she had for herself.
Little did Fournier know, however, that Durty Harry’s, her brick & mortar business that reached Best of Boston status, would eventually lead her even further down the entrepreneurial path. More than seven years after opening her first store, Fournier has launched a mobile app called Slobbr, geared toward helping dog owners live an easier and better life with their furry friend.
Heading to Newport for the first time and need a dog friendly hotel? Slobbr will give you those options.
Want to grab drinks with friends, but don’t want to leave Scooby behind? Slobbr has you covered with a list of dog-friendly restaurants.
Being in the pet business for many years, Fournier’s loyal customers would constantly come to her for answers and advice on these pet problems. Finally, she said to herself, “There needs to be a resource for this. One place to quickly find all the dog-friendly places in your area. I need to make this happen!”
BUILD IT YOURSELF
More than two and a half years ago Fournier took her first stab at solving this problem.
“I launched a website called Harry’s Picks. We tried to combine our sense of community with big data, but we ultimately realized web-based wasn’t the right approach.”
Fournier learned a lot on her first attempt, she told me. Not the least of which was that her focus needed to be on mobile. “I had the consumer research done. Day in and day out I get asked these types of questions. Ultimately we went after the wrong platform,” Fournier explained.
She also learned quite a bit about raising money. “We weren’t ready. We struck out.”
But coming up empty from investors certainly didn’t stop Fournier. In an effort to leverage the community she had, plus today’s interest in crowdfunding, she took Slobbr to Kickstarter in January of this year.
Launching a campaign with a $65,000 goal to build an app wouldn’t be easy, but they got there.
“It came down to the final minutes,” Fournier recalled. “The final 72 hours were extremely intense. We had come so far and were so close. The total hit $65,001 just a couple hours before it closed and we eventually ended at $66,067. It was an incredible experience.”
Then reality set in. It was time to execute and deliver.
With 236 backers on Kickstarter offering up their hard-earned cash to see Slobbr come to life, Fournier was more determined than ever to build an amazing product. The app went into development in April and now, a few months later, the iOS app is soon-to-be available for Beta Testers.
Slobbr provides a platform for dog lovers to share their thoughts directly with a like-minded community of dog lovers. Slobbr’s initial release will let users post pictures and reviews of great finds - places, venues, products, etc. Slobbr will also partner with unique retailers to provide users in-app deals on doggy gear, treats and the like. This is also where the initial monetization of Slobbr will come in as they’ll receive a percentage of each sale.
As the number of Slobbr users reaches critical mass, accurate, up-to-the-minute searchable content will grow exponentially. Couple this with geo-locator components of Google Maps and the app will highlight off-leash dog parks, dog-friendly hotels and beaches, pet boutiques and more for users.
Slobbr will allow new members to instantly "plug in" to the local canine community and begin exploring with their fellow dog lovers and their dogs.
The app, for now, will be heavily marketed in the Boston area, but as the user base and data points increase and they ramp up the technical development, Slobbr will be more active in other top dog-friendly markets providing dog lovers everywhere a better way to live life with their dogs.
Fournier has big plans and high expectations for Slobbr. Her strong ties to the pet community should certainly help attract a strong set of beta testers. On September 10th she’ll have that community, including some local celebrities, together at Hotel Commonwealth for the second annual Rescue to Runway event to raise money for Shultz’s Guest House, Paws NE and Last Hope K9 Rescue . The event should also play a nice role as a live kickoff event and celebration for Fournier as she’ll be able to see many of her early Slobbr supporters in person.
While the Kickstarter campaign was extremely successful, Fournier tells me she is actively seeking investors, as much is left to be done to get Slobbr where it needs to be, including the release on Android.
For now, we invite all dog owners to support another Boston startup and (now tech) entrepreneur and visit www.doyouslobbr.com to register to be notified when Slobbr, the app that will help you Live Life With Your Dog, goes live.