Alex Argenio and Daniel Spooner are the power couple behind Dogcity – a thriving family-owned doggy daycare business. With a passion for animals and a commitment to providing exceptional care, the pair have created a safe and nurturing space for canines of all shapes and sizes that puts the welfare of their four-legged friends first.
What began as a small business at a single location has evolved to become Australia’s largest family-owned dog daycare provider. Dogcity recently won Kochie’s Business Builders’ (KBB) Australia’s Favourite Family Business competition, so KBB editor Cec Busby sat down with Alex to find out what makes this doggy daycare stand out from the pack.
Like many a startup, Dogcity’s story began out of its founders’ needs. Alex and Daniel were a young couple with a demanding Great Dane puppy who needed to be cared for while they were at work. After much searching, the pair came upon a small, dog daycare facility that seemed a perfect match for their four-legged family member.
The story could have ended with a happily ever after right there, but the couple were so enamoured of the business, they knew they wanted to be a part of it. So, they took a leap of faith and made an offer to purchase the business.
“We put an offer in to buy it with the ambition of growing it and helping it to evolve into something really special,” Alex tells KBB.
Since that fateful decision, Dogcity has relocated its original premises, opened three more facilities, and has plans for a fifth location, which is set to open soon.
A family business with a tail-wagging difference
What sets Dogcity apart from the pack is not only its status as Australia’s largest family-owned doggy daycare provider but also the exceptional service the couple and their staff deliver to their furry friends. Alex suggests the family dynamic at the core of the business gives clients the assurance that their beloved pets are in the hands of people who understand the important role of their fur babies in their family lives.
The couple believe that the responsibility of caring for someone’s pet is deeply personal, and Alex says she and the staff take it very seriously.
One of the unique features of DogCity is its four (soon to be five) locations, each working in harmony with the others. This ensures clients can access their services across the city, receiving the same high standard of care and convenience wherever they go. This consistency and convenience are DogCity’s trademarks.
Balancing family and business at Dogcity
For Alex and Daniel, the boundaries between family and business often blur, but they wouldn’t have it any other way.
“We are very fortunate in that our skill sets complement each other perfectly, so without having specific roles in the business, we can not only share the load but also play to our own personal strengths at the same time,” Alex says.
DogCity has become a part of their family, and they’ve embraced this unique dynamic. Their two daughters have grown up in their workplaces, and the business has woven itself into the fabric of their lives.
What Alex and Daniel cherish most about being part of a family business is the opportunity to work together. Where other couples say goodbye at the front door each morning, Alex and Daniel are never that far apart.
“We love that we get to spend more time together, given our professional and personal lives are merged as one,” Alex explains.
“We also love that we have this diverse, passionate, kind, hilarious, hardworking extended family of 65 people who we have the privilege of working alongside each and every day.
Alex suggests they’re grateful for the life they lead, which she tells KBB, often “feels too good to be true”.
“We have to pinch ourselves often that this is even our life,” she muses.
Running a family business comes with immense responsibility. Not only are they accountable for the services they provide and the wellbeing of their team, but they also carry the weight of their own livelihoods and the future of their two little girls.
With the business’s rapid growth and a fifth location on the horizon, Alex says the challenge lies in stretching their resources without breaking.
“A challenge that we are currently facing is that there is only two of us, and we can only stretch ourselves so many ways and wear so many different hats. So exploration for how this will work with the addition of a fifth location next year is going to be a focus for us. Sometimes these challenges can feel heavy, but the other 99 per cent of the time, we see it as a privilege that we are even in this position and have these opportunities.”
Dogcity’s values drive success
Alex says transparency is at the core of everything Dogcity does, with the brand holding itself accountable to deliver exceptional service to its four-legged customers
“We work with live animals, voiceless animals, and therefore transparency is a core professional value that we strive always to uphold. Making sure that we are always advocating for the dogs in our care and communicating these with owners is fundamental to what we do. Our furry friends can’t talk, so we see it as our job to ensure we are doing everything we do to enrich their lives.”
She also shares that fun is at the heart of the business. Injecting joy into their daily activities ensures the best possible experience for clients and their furry friends.
“Working with animals who are intuitive and receptive to our every mood and energy means that injecting fun into our every day isn’t just something we ‘try’ to do, it is something that we have to do to ensure we are able to care for our furry friends and provide their owners with the best possible service and experience,” shares Alex.
“You will not walk into a Dogcity without hearing roaring laughter, seeing someone playing a joke or being silly, or seeing ear-to-ear smiles. People that work with animals are weird and wonderful. We’re diverse and silly and because of this, we can provide a really enjoyable and meaningful experience for our clients and their dogs.”
Innovation fuels growth
Innovation is important for any small business’s growth. And Alex tells KBB “Complacency is her biggest fear.
“If we ever stopped trying to better ourselves and the business, then we shouldn’t be doing what we’re doing,” she states.
The past few years have seen DogCity embrace innovation by launching a new client web-based app called the ‘Client Pawtal.’ It simplifies booking, information sharing, tracking visits, and pre-payment.
“The goal is to streamline the client experience and free up time for the team to focus on more meaningful client-centric tasks,” Alex says.
The future unleashed
According to Alex the future holds endless possibilities for Dogcity.
“The sky is the limit for us at Dogcity, the truth of the matter is that we get bored easily and, therefore, are always chasing the next opportunity. The past few years have been focused on the development and launch of the app and computer program, but now that they are in motion, we’re moving on to something new again, opening a fifth location to expand our services even further. This will mean hiring another 10 team members and promoting some of our existing team members to senior leadership roles. Beyond this, our plan is to open a few more in the coming years.”
Advice for aspiring family businesses
When it comes to running a family business Alex’s advice is simple: do what you do well, work hard, innovate, and do it with passion and meaning.
In the case of DogCity, hard work and a commitment to providing the best service possible have led to remarkable growth and success.
“How did we go from a tiny business with a handful of staff and a small number of dogs to one with four locations, 65 team members and 75,000 dog visits per year? Just because we worked hard and tried hard to do what we do the best we could do it. Do that and everything else that comes is just a bonus.
“Also, be grateful. Everything is an opportunity, even the tricky parts, so be grateful that you even get to do what you do – it’s not lost on us how lucky we are,” Alex concludes
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