Pandemic pet care is Lara Rostom’s specialty. Rostom launched Pawsitive Love, her home pet care business in March 2020, just as COVID-19 was changing everyone’s lives. For many people, the bright spot in facing all the pandemic restrictions has been adding a small animal to their households.
“It’s beautiful to hear so many people have added fur babies to their families during this time,” Rostom said in a recent telephone interview. “It is absolutely wonderful that animal shelters and rescues just can’t keep up with the demand.”
The unique needs of rescued pets was one of the reasons Rostom started Pawsitive Love.
“When an animal has experienced trauma, you see their anxiety when you break routine to go to the groomer or to the vet,” she said. “They’re often shaking and people tell you they vomited in the car. The number one reason parents call me to take care of their animals is the comfort that is given with in-home service. The animals are so much happier and relaxed. It gives everyone peace of mind.”
The Animal Care Program graduate has worked both in the veterinary setting and groomer setting. Her experience convinced her there was a market for home-based small animal care.
“Educating people about what they can do at home to maintain their pet’s fur and nail shape is a privilege,” she said. “Avoiding maintenance and upkeep because you don’t want the stressful trip to the groomer or the vet is a huge health and hygiene issue. I am so happy to be able to help.”
Rostom acknowledges that she can help small animals and their families today because she received a little help. Rostom is a graduate of the Starter Company Plus Program offered through the Mississauga Business Enterprise Centre (MBEC).
“The Starter Company Plus Program is going to change my life,” she said. “With this grant, I can move to the next level. When I started, I had an idea and just a basic draft of a business plan. After four months of webinars, consultations and mentoring, I pitched the final result.”
The pitch before MBEC’s panel of local business, finance and legal experts saw Rostom win a $5000 grant to support her new business initiative.
Rostom intends to put the grant toward a commercial vehicle that will be fully-branded with decals.
“The car teams with my marketing efforts and word-of-mouth. When I am at clients’ homes and their neighbours see this car parked outside, it starts a conversation. My business is all about referrals. Once people see me at their neighbours, working with their animals, they will see the trust we have built and they will feel immediately safe.”
There are other lessons Rostom credits to her participation in the program.
“They not only taught me how to complete my business plan, but how to perceive it as a living document and to update it as my business grows,” Rostom explained. “It was a great gift to be able to see it that way. It’s a tool for how to stay on track, like having a live check list, making sure the finances are in order and that my digital marketing on track.”
The most important lesson
“They taught me to constantly find a detour,” she explained. “There is always an alternate approach to how I provide my service and show people the benefits. Initially, the answer was to shut down like so many other businesses. Now? The answer is to expand my thinking and creativity to show people that nail trims can be done on their front lawn or that grooming can be done in the garage.“
That thinking was necessary when clients who booked Pawsitive Love for in-home care in March to take two-week vacations cancelled their bookings.
“After restrictions are lifted, people will travel again,” Rostom said. “Until then, we’re pushing through the pandemic because Pawsitive Love is all about giving positivity during these times. I have put safer systems in place with porch drop off and pick up, or transferring care in the backyard. Contactless service and contactless payments are all in place.”
And how should we be preparing our fur babies for life after the pandemic?
“Pets are happy to have their families there,” Rostom says, “but they also need their space. Some parents are telling me the fur babies are fed up, so make sure they always have a safe spot available that is for them alone. Pet parents should prepare for their babies to have more time alone. When they go for groceries, stay in the car for an extra half an hour, or take a walk for an hour alone to separate from the dog a bit. It’s important to let our animals know they will be OK when we leave the house, that their people will come back.”
The Starter Company PLUS Program is delivered by the Mississauga Business Enterprise Centre (MBEC) for the Mississauga area. MBEC is a business unit of the City of Mississauga’s Economic Development Office. The Starter Company PLUS program is funded by the Province of Ontario and is delivered by Small Business Enterprise Centres (SBECs) across Ontario who are part of the Province’s Ontario Network of Entrepreneurs (ONE). For information about the program outside of the Mississauga area, please refer to the list of Small Business Entrepreneur Centres and Community-Based Provider Locations in Ontario
The Mississauga Business Enterprise Centre (MBEC) is a business unit of the City of Mississauga’s Economic Development Office. MBEC is your central source for business information, resources and guidance. For information and guidance, our team is currently available to serve you remotely. Please contact us by phone or email.