Aaron Hirschhorn (’05) and his fiancé (now wife), Karine, enjoyed their vacation, but their dogs did not have fun while they were gone. DogVacay, their online pet-sitting services company, was born after an East Coast trip meant a poor kennel experience for their dogs here in Los Angeles. “We were extremely unhappy and knew that we had to find alternative care for our dogs before we took our honeymoon later that year,” Hirschhorn says. “We decided to open up our own home for dog boarding and ended up watching more than 100 dogs in eight months.”
Business was good, proof they were barking up the right tree. In fact, they were able to pay for their wedding and birth a new venture. Launched in March 2012, DogVacay recently raised $15 million in new investment, and plans new hires to manage the hundreds of thousands of overnights with more than 10,000 hosts across the U.S. and Canada. “We’re creating a new income for dog lovers,” Hirschhorn says. “Some of our most dedicated hosts are even able to support themselves entirely by the money they make through watching dogs.”
And, while the reality of running a business brings surprises not discussed in class, Hirschhorn says UCLA Anderson gave him much-needed insight. “UCLA Anderson was a fantastic introduction to entrepreneurship. Through a mix of classes, late night conversations, the Knapp competition and AMR, I had a great foundation for understanding the multiple aspects of starting a business from the ground up,” he says.
Running that business means the Hirschhorns might not get their own vacation for quite some time. “Our plans are to be the leading brand in the United States that stands for care,” Hirschhorn says. “We are solving a problem that all pet owners face by providing an alternative to the kennel, and we’re very much focused on creating innovative new services and offerings to better the pet care services industry.”