Your pet probably has a tag on his collar—but is it enough to get him home safely if he gets lost? Isn’t there cutting-edge technology out there that is simple and accessible? Enter Pawscout, the brainchild of founder and CEO Andrea Chavez. Pawscout has helped over 6,000 lost pets find their way home by creating a community of engaged pet lovers (the “petwork”) centered around a free interactive mobile app and an affordable smart pet tag. Pawscout comes without the hefty price tag and monthly service fees of GPS pet trackers and has sold over 250,000 tags through retailers such as Walmart (WMT), Kroger (KR) and Amazon (AMZN). I sat down with this mompreneur and self-described “crazy dog lady” to learn more about what inspired her to found Pawscout, how she recently secured over $3M in funding and her tricks for balancing work and motherhood.
Caroline Castrillon: With two other start-ups under your belt, you are clearly a serial entrepreneur. What is it that attracts you to these new ventures?
Andrea Chavez: I grew up poor and was used to seeing my parents be scrappy and enterprising. I started working when I was 8 years old as a church musician. Often, they’d forget to pay me, so I had to get used to standing in the receiving line asking for my $25. I wouldn’t say I liked it, but it made me more resilient.
Castrillon: What was the inspiration to found Pawscout 3 years ago?
Chavez: About five years ago, I started reflecting on what I was passionate about. Pets were at the top of the list, and the traditional pet tag hasn’t evolved in the 200 years it’s been around. There are some nice expensive solutions, but most people can’t afford the high price point, monthly fees and frequent recharging needed with other tags. We initially self-funded our company, built 10,000 units and tested it to make sure it was going to work. When that was successful, we were just off to the races.
Castrillon: How would you describe Pawscout to someone who is not familiar with the company? What is your mission?
Chavez: We’re all about the happiness, safety and well-being of pets. Anyone who cares about that will get a lot of value. Fundamentally, you don’t even need to use the tag. You can just download the app and join the community. We tell people to create a profile for their pets. That way in case anything bad happens, you’re ready. If you lose your pet, in 30 seconds we’re broadcasting it out to everyone nearby and enlisting the help of the community. If you have the tag, it provides much better geolocation data. With our app, you can scan the tag and immediately contact the owner. Alternatively, if you mark your pet as lost, anyone who comes within 300 feet of your furry friend gets an alert. It’s essentially crowdsourced pet safety.
Castrillon: Do you have any productivity hacks that you can share with other working moms that help you work smarter?
Chavez: I try to be efficient with my time. Exercise is incredibly important to me, but I don’t always have dedicated time for that, so I actually work on a treadmill desk. It keeps me sane. I usually get things done in the morning that require my brain and reserve the afternoons for calls or meetings—just constant schedule hacking. Then for two hours in the evenings, we just put aside all our devices so we can connect as a family.
Castrillon: What advice do you have for people who may be afraid to take the leap from employee to entrepreneur?
Chavez: You can explore your idea while you’re still employed. Doing a proof of concept can be very powerful.
Use your free time before you make the leap to define the opportunity. Really go out and talk to stakeholders, do market research or create a simple prototype. All those actions can inspire confidence. Set goals and take baby steps. Entrepreneurship is incredibly rewarding. You just have to be really persistent. And I mean, honestly, that’s 90% of it—keeping going.
Castrillon: You recently raised more than $3 million in seed funding. What was that experience like, and did you experience any challenges?
Chavez: As we already covered, I’m used to asking for money since I started when I was eight! So that wasn’t a huge deal. What was much harder was learning that you really do need some bravado when going into those meetings. You have to get out of your comfort zone, and for me, it was just tons and tons of practice. I would give that pitch to anybody who would listen. Finally, I got advice from a mentor who gave me about 25 very targeted ideas for improvement. I took that and completely redid my pitch. It was incredibly helpful.
Castrillon: What is your vision for Pawscout 5 years from now? How do you see the company evolving?
Chavez: I would like for it to become the platform for pet owners and pet lovers. A community where anybody who has a pet, wants a pet or loves pets can go. That’s the beauty of it—about a third of our users don’t even have a pet. They just enjoy being part of the community.
The conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.
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