Garden Oaks residents Saylor and Athena Atkinson recently joined the ranks of kid entrepreneurs with the formation of their dog-walking company, the Canine Caretakers.
Also in the club — 6-year-old Warren Buffett, who knocked on doors to sell chewing gum, and Richard Branson, who founded his own magazine as a teenager. Last spring, The Leader profiled elementary school student Gavin Guy, a.k.a, The Worm Guy, who sells mealworms at the Farm Stand at Petrol Station.
For the Atkinson sisters, who attend Garden Oaks Montessori School, the germination of their business started on a family vacation to Canada.
“I saw a lady at her front door with about five or seven dogs on leashes and I thought she must be taking care of them,” said Saylor Atkinson, who is 10 years old and in fifth grade.
The sisters thought people in the U.S. must have dogs that needed to be walked, too, and set about formalizing their company.
Their rate for walking dogs, which is $3 per dog for each 15-minute increment, was more of a gut feeling. Saylor said $2 seemed “too cheap” and $4 seemed too high.
The slogan for the Canine Caretakers – “we’re not just people, we’re dog people” – was a joint effort. One sister said the first sentence, the other said the second and they knew they were on to something.
It was the slogan which helped them secure their first customer, Stacy Gross, who saw the notice of the business on the Garden Oaks Facebook page.
“I was going to go out of town and I thought if they could walk dogs, maybe they’d look after mine, too,” Gross said. “My husband asked if they were ‘dog people’ and I said, ‘Why yes, they are.’”
It wasn’t just one dog, though. It was four of them that were all senior dogs needing special attention and medication.
“We went over the day before we started with the dogs to learn about what we needed to do,” said the 13-year-old Athena, a seventh grader.
It worked out well, and now the girls have their first satisfied client.
Barbie Atkinson, the girls’ mother, said the moxie behind the endeavor is all girl-led. She says their entrepreneurial spirit is “in the blood.”
“They really did it,” she said. “As a little gift to them, I got them a logo from an online designer. I helped them with their schedule and setting up an email address through Gmail.”
The address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Athena said she checks the business email twice per day and Saylor checks it after school. Both girls said they plan to bank their earnings.
Barbie credited the kids’ Montessori education for giving them the tools to develop the Canine Caretakers.
“They saw a need and they were problem solvers to meet that need,” she said.