On a mission to leave Pawprints of Happiness, we caught up with the creator of BorrowMyDoggy to talk about the sharing economy and the challenges of bridging online and offline communities
With a background in charity work and delivering aid in disaster zones, Rikke has always believed that you should make a positive difference to other people's lives where you can. Originally from Denmark, she’s been living in the UK for ten years and after dogsitting her neighbour’s Labrador decided to share her experience with dog-starved dog-lovers by creating BorrowMyDoggy. Now with 500,000+ users and happy hounds, we caught up with Rikke to hear more.
Q: What’s the ethos of BorrowMyDoggy?
A: We aim to leave ‘Pawprints of Happiness’ on the lives of millions of dogs and people and clarifying our ethos is an important part of being able to do that over the long term.
Our values are focused around caring, happiness, compassion, innovation, being positive, going above and beyond, and making a positive difference.
Q: Tell us about the story behind BorrowMyDoggy?
A: I came up with the idea for BorrowMyDoggy in 2012, when I was looking after my neighbour’s dog for the day. During the day I thought “there should be a site where dog owners can have their dogs taken care of by people who absolutely adore dogs and miss having a doggy in their life. All owners need to be away from their pooches sometimes. There is no need for a doggy to be home alone, to pay for a dog walker on a lovely Sunday or a kennel when there are lots of people, just like me, who adore dogs but unfortunately can’t have them (due to work, travel), who would love to take care of doggy for free. In addition to this, it would allow owners and doggies to get to know more people locally and spread lots of happiness.”
It worked out great for everyone. I spent the day taking care of Aston (a very cute brown Labrador), and my neighbour’s mind was at ease knowing that his dog was being watched by someone who really cared for her instead of being stuck at home alone. Aston spent the day in the park having fun, and looking after her made me so happy.
After I had the idea for BorrowMyDoggy, we built a landing page in a few hours, and hung up a few posters in a local park and in a few cafes to see if anyone was interested. To my surprise 85 people signed up to the site in the space of three days, and everyone had different stories to why they were signing up. I was very touched when I read the backgrounds of the people who signed up. BorrowMyDoggy was built out of respect and caring about our first lovely members as I realised needing help with a dog or wanting contact with a dog was a pain-point many peole have in their lives.
I never expected BorrowMyDoggy to be more than a weekend project. It’s so amazing to see our young pup of a company develop and how people are helping each other and forming friendships in local communities - all through their shared love of our four-legged furry friends.
Q: Can you explain some of the tech behind what you’ve created? What function are you most proud of and why?
A: Our entire website was built in-house from scratch so we were able to create a system that was completely bespoke to our business. We’re a platform that introduces two different parties to each other - in our case, dog-owners and dog-loving borrowers.
There isn’t one function in particular that I’m most proud of, to be honest, I’m proud of the whole website and what the team has built. I was so happy and incredibly proud when the site first went live and I still am today.
Q: You’re bridging online and offline communities - can you tell us about some of the challenges you’ve faced?
A: Understandably, people’s primary concern is safety, which is why we have focused a lot of effort on making BorrowMyDoggy as safe and secure a platform as possible. In addition to our verification process that all members must go through, we have a 24/7 Vet Line and third party liability insurance in place to give everyone peace of mind.
BorrowMyDoggy is about meeting people locally who share a love of dogs, it isn’t about handing your dog over to a stranger. Once members have found a person they would like to meet with, they schedule a ‘Welcome Woof’, a meet and greet, just like you would do with a dog sitter or babysitter. Getting to know each other is so important. The great thing about meeting a match through BorrowMyDoggy is that members live in your neighbourhood. We’ve even seen friendships form between people who live on the same street and even in the same apartment building.
Q: Technology has a huge role to play in the sharing economy, we’re seeing a boom in sites like airbnb, whilst dogs of course aren’t possessions like houses, do you feel BorrowMyDoggy fits into this atmosphere surrounding modern tech? What are your thoughts on this space?
A: BorrowMyDoggy absolutely, or should I say absowoofly, fits into this space. Apart from the fact that we are membership-based and non-transactional, the fundamental principles are the same.
The sharing economy fosters trust and connectedness. In many ways, it is also contributing positively to the environment as it helps to reduce waste and pollution, for instance via car sharing. TakeBla Bla Car, for example, who reported that thanks to their carpooling company, an estimated 1,000,000 tons of CO2 was saved over the last twelve months.
For BorrowMyDoggy, we call it a woof-woof (win-win) situation for everyone involved. When owners lend their dog to a trusted dog borrower, the benefits are multiple: the dog gets more love and exercise; the borrower gets companionship, and the owner gets the peace of mind that whilst they are busy, their dog is having fun.
Q: How do you think technology will change the way we interact with one another in the future?
A: In general, technology makes it easier to interact with people, to foster friendships and also keep them alive, regardless of time or distance. Personally, I’ve benefitted from technology in this way. Having lived all over the world and travelled extensively, technology has allowed me to keep in touch with friends from home, as well as stay in touch with the wonderful people that I have met along the way. Still, there are some things that cannot be replaced by technology, no matter how advanced, like spending time with a four-legged furry friend. Without technology, that allows us to build location-based services, we wouldn’t have been able to build BorrowMyDoggy. We’re using online to get people offline.
Q: What’s your favourite BorrowMyDoggy story from your community?
A: A story that’s very close to my heart is from one of our very first members. She signed up to the site as her son was desperate for a dog. Due to the fact that the father is allergic to dogs, they were unable to get one of their own so BorrowMyDoggy sounded like the perfect solution.
This was before we had launched our platform, so I manually matched them with a local owner and her two gorgeous Border Terriers. During the matching process I got to know all of them well and they lived closed to my house in London. A few months after they were matched, the mother invited me round to their house for tea and cakes in the garden to say thank you and I was so touched by how much of a positive impact the dogs had on the whole family. The little boy was so happy and kept telling me, very excitedly, about the dogs he and his family were borrowing, and the mother and father were happy because their son was so happy.
That story is the very essence of why we started this company because it is all about making dogs and people happy.
Q: What’s the dream for BorrowMyDoggy?
A: The dream is to make a positive impact on as many dogs’ and people’s lives as possible and to create a company that anyone can be proud of being associated with, whether it’s a community member, pack member or anyone else that we work with.