Are you an avid pet lover? Do you indulge yourself in the companionship of animals and birds? Then you are by no means alone and to prove this we have an up and coming website petsintouch.com which facilitates the networking of anyone and everyone who owns or wishes to own a petting creature.
Vannessa Serrano, the co-founding head of the portal takes us through her journey, ideas, triumphs and the heights of success she wishes to achieve soon.
Kindly give our readers an introduction to your business.
Petsintouch.com is the first social networking site uniting owners of pets from all breeds and species, featuring eight pet categories –bird, cat, dog, fish, equine, reptile, small animal, and farm pet. Here, pets rule! Whether you own a dog and a bird, and your friend a chameleon, a cat or a goat, yes a goat, our goal is to create an open forum promoting ownership diversity and for everyone to share the very best of these important pet pals that are unique to each of us and make a difference in our day-to-day lives.
At petsintouch.com, members are able to broadcast their pet photo/video in our pettube, create up to 10 pet profiles under a single member, meet new members, shop in our petmall featuring thousands of pet products and online store discounts, get valuable information in the (pnn) pet news network section, and much more!
Petsintouch.com continues to work at adding value and services for its members and have some incredible strategies planned for the short and long-term future so stay tuned.
Kindly give us a brief description about yourself.
I am Vannessa Serrano, the CEO and co-founder of Petsintouch.com, launched in April 2009. In addition to this position, I have also spent the last four years as a business consultant/project management for companies in the real estate development industry. Prior to relocating to Florida from California, I spent nearly 12 years in project and business management of which the last eight were spent with the largest publisher of pet periodicals in the world. Part of my duties involved overseeing nationwide sales support, accounts receivables, customer relationship management databases, and the pet book category for the largest pet retailer in the nation. In addition to the 15 years of business, operations and project management experience, I hold a bachelor’s of science in business management and a master’s degree in business administration from University of Redlands, California.
What ignited the spark in you to (start a new business venture) or (to make significant changes in an existing business)? How did the idea for your business come about?
After relocating to Florida right when the real estate bubble was beginning to burst, the need of a challenge coupled with the success of social media, the increased number of pet ownership and the increased revenues in the pet industry instigated me to arrive at the idea of pets in touch towards the end of 2007. Most pet social networks today focus only on cats and dogs since these are the two largest pet ownership categories but the idea of incorporating owners of pets from all breeds and species was what gave my venture an added edge. This primary difference was the base for initiating the development of our site.
How important have good employees been to your success?
Being that petsintouch.com is a new venture; it currently outsources all its business segments and has no employees. Why? There are many costs associated with the hiring of employees which may represent a financial burden on new businesses, but given that my business deals with technology, it allows us to outsource our teams until we are positioned to have company employees.
What three pieces of advice would you give to college students who want to become entrepreneurs?
- You need to be determined and believe in yourself and in what you believe as nobody else will have the kind of drive and passion you have for your business. If you ask anyone working here at petsintouch.com, they’d all agree that nobody sells my company with the same drive and passion as I do.
- Starting your own business calls for a lot of hard work, long hours, tenacity and persistence. Nobody said it was going to be easy but it is all doable and achievable and you need to be prepared to overcome a lot of obstacles.
- You must have patience as things do not happen overnight, but with all of the above you will eventually get there!
If you had the chance to start your career over again, what would you do differently?
I am not sure if I would start my career all over again because it is the experience I obtained through my prior years in project management and exposure to the pet industry that have placed me where I am today. I have also been very observant of top executives and business owners who taught me quite a few helpful tips that helped me initiate my own business. I’ve learnt that it is never too late to start your own business.
What would you say are the top three skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur?
- Be determined
- Believe in yourself
- Be patient
How long do you stick with an idea before giving up?
How long one should stick to an idea is difficult to predict as it would depend on what has to be accomplished. I believe the timing should be determined by the overall impact on the business and the ability to execute your decisions. For example, when petsintouch.com was ready to launch, there was a section that wasn’t ready and we were unable to get past it. We had to reach a decision on whether to weigh the impact of delaying the launch or to momentarily move forward without that section so it could be addressed at a later period. We realized that the launching of the site could no longer be delayed and so we went ahead with the launch. Now we are ready to go right back to where we left that section unattended and have it added in 2011.
How many hours do you work a day on average?
As with most entrepreneurs, my hours are crazy too. Also I currently have a full time executive day job and am working towards being able to transition 100% of my time to petsintouch.com. It is a slow process and I’m yet to get there. How many hours do I work inn a day? As of now I am answering these interview questions and my watch says it is 4:45 am. So I think that answers the question.
How has being an entrepreneur affected your family life?
I have been very lucky in context to my family life because although I get the occasional guilt speech for missing out on some events or always being in meetings, most of my family gives me great support. In the case of my immediate family, I couldn’t ask for more support.
What motivates you?
It is difficult to answer this because entrepreneurs do not have anyone patting on their backs telling them what a good job they are doing, or not. The progresses on the business as well as goal achievements are motivating factors for me; however, the vision and belief of achieving the endless possibilities keep me going forward.
How do you generate new ideas?
As an entrepreneur, your mind never stops ideating but the new ones come from analyzing not only the industry related to your business but also other industries and noting what is new and/or what the hottest trend is. In the case of petsintouch.com, I am always interest myself in coming up with ways to add sections that add value to our members and that gives them a reason to want to be part of our pet community. It is not always easy because you may ask ‘When do you do this?’ There are only so many hours in the day and not enough time for everything but in the world of internet especially, you must always be constantly alert and a step ahead of others.
What is your greatest fear, and how do you manage fear?
I believe my greatest fear is not being able to perform to a level that meets my own personal expectations and the satisfaction of those who gave me their unconditional support. Not sure if this is more of a self-imposed fear but to manage it I work every day trying to give it my all and I believe that is all I can do.
How do you define success?
As an entrepreneur, I would be lying if I said that success is not defined by dollars, because in some ways it is. However, my further definition of success relates to the accomplishment of a project from beginning to end. For example, my husband and I owned a little bed and breakfast in Brazil. I defined the success of this project right from the beginning to the end when the first and last person paid and stayed at the bed and breakfast. In the case of petsintouch.com, I define it as successful when you have members joining the community and also when we had our first revenue from advertising. Both processes enriched my business experience and taught me a lot during the way. I am sure I still have a lot of things to learn with petsintouch.com but I am ready for it!
What is the best way to achieve long-term success?
All I can say is that as an entrepreneur, I take one day at a time, one month at a time and one year at a time. Of course, planning is done ahead but adjustments must also be done along the way. Most people would define long-term success as successfully running and growing a business for at least five or more years. Although we are yet to reach that stage, we work every day, every month and every year giving it our best to make it big.
Where did your organization's funding/capital come from and how did you go about getting it? How did you obtain investors for your venture?
To this date, petsintouch.com has been self-funded between my partner and me. Our goal was to bring the company to a certain level and we are now gearing up the process to obtain additional capital and investors for our venture.
How do you build a successful customer base?
Nowadays, the internet is an excellent tool and in the case of petsintouch.com, we build our database by participating in charity events and using existing online tools for marketing such as facebook and twitter to obtain exposure. Other strategies include press releases, search engine optimization and media.
How did you decide on the location for your business?
Given that the United States is the number one country on leading technology plus the number one on pet ownership and pet industry expenditures, it was indeed important that I established the company in this country and if possible, in a pet-friendly state. However, petsintouch.com has reached members from all over the world and this fact is thanks to the internet which knows no geographic boundaries.
Do you believe there is some sort of pattern or formula to becoming a successful entrepreneur?
I don’t believe there is a pattern or formula to becoming a successful entrepreneur more than there being the right attitude and determination as each business is different and each business would be faced with different challenges.
What is your favorite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
My favorite aspect of being an entrepreneur is that I get to be creative and develop ideas while experiencing the growth of my business from concept inception to fruition.
To what do you most attribute your success? What would say are the five key elements for starting and running a successful business?
Aside from what was previously mentioned during this interview related to persistence, determination, and timing, I consider two other important elements to be recognition and budget management. With regards to recognition, entrepreneurs tend to always be on the go and thinking what comes ahead or what is next, but I think it is also very important to stop and see what has been accomplished. It is important to recognize progress as it helps re-evaluate expectations and set the upcoming business strategies.
And, with regards to budget management, I can share the best advice from my prior boss who was also an entrepreneur and taught me to always keep a tight hand on what I can control which are operating expenses. This tip of advice can make the difference on whether or not a business will make it and has been the best advice I received and applied for my business.
What has been your most satisfying moment in business?
I have to say my most satisfying moment in business for this venture was when our first (unknown) member registered since at the beginning we prompted all known family and friends to register and also when we sold our first online advertisement.
What do you feel is the major difference between entrepreneurs and those who work for someone else?
The personality is the major difference between entrepreneurs and those who work for someone else. Being an entrepreneur is not an easy task and is not for everyone. When you work for someone else, you show up to work, do your job, get paid and go home and is perfectly fine. When you are an entrepreneur, you work for you and the work is constant as you become much more observant and are basically on call 24 hours a day apart from being on the move always. In my case, I am currently employed during the day and wear my entrepreneurial hat all other times.
How do you go about marketing your business? What has been your most successful form of marketing?
All new ventures have limited budgets and mine is no exception so we have placed a large emphasis on taking advantage of what is available to us at no cost such as other social networks such as Facebook and twitter at which locations we also have petsintouch.com pages.
What kind of culture exists in your organization? How did you establish this tone and why did you institute this particular type of culture?
The culture that exists with everyone involved in petsintouch.com is that of openness and free speech to share ideas, propose changes, and make suggestions. I completely shy away from anyone wasting time and pointing fingers or blaming others for things or situations. I try to instill the culture that we already have our hands full with working at moving the company forward and we all should focus on solutions and not on creating problems because we already have plenty of issues to address and overcome. How did I instill this particular culture? Believe it or not, I am the gatekeeper of everything and so if one person starts complaining about something the IT department did not do for example, I make each side understand the other side so everyone who is a key person has learned to be more tolerant with each other and more respectful and sensitive of each others’ function and responsibility. I also remind everyone that we are to have fun with this business because the pet industry is a fun industry.
In one word, characterize your life as an entrepreneur.
What are some of the biggest mistakes you've made?
So far, I can safely say that we have not yet made what I would consider big mistakes. I consider everything from inception to this date to have been part of the development and implementation process a learning experience. There are things that could have been done differently but these are not necessarily mistakes.
How can you prevent mistakes or do damage control?
I believe mistakes can be prevented by implementing good planning and communication strategies with your teams and personnel involved. However, mistakes are going to happen and all you can do is address them one at a time and within the fastest possible timing. It is also important to establish conflict-resolution priorities, for example, in the case of petsintouch.com, anything affecting our members or members’ page usability becomes the first priority as other items can be handled in the back of the house at a later time. I may know about it but not our members so anything affecting our members or viewed by our members would always get addressed first.
What are your hobbies? What do you do in your non-work time?
This may sound funny but I really like to take a nap (when possible) during a Saturday afternoon for example. This is one of the best ways for me to recharge my batteries after working long hours during the week. I also take walks with my husband and our German shepherd Major. Some of my favorite hobbies include world traveling, going out to dinner and spending time with family.
What makes you happy?
This is a difficult one to answer because I believe “happiness” has a personal descriptor which only pertains to me. In other words, what makes me happy will not necessarily make others happy. With that said, I think finding the right balance in life between my personal and professional life is what brings me happiness.
What sacrifices have you had to make to be a successful entrepreneur?
The biggest sacrifices mostly relate to time spent with family and as the company grows, this sacrifice will only be greater considering more travel would be involved. I trust I will be able to continue managing as my immediately family is the most important aspect of my personal life.
Excluding yours, what company or business do you admire the most?
The two businesses I admire the most are Wal-Mart as a for-profit organization and Susan G Komen (breast cancer) as a non-for-profit organization. Sharing a passion for operations and logistics, I believe Wal-Mart owns the best retail management system in terms of maximizing inventory, customer satisfaction, product logistics, and pricing. I truly consider them to be the best at what they do. With regards to Susan G Komen and breast cancer awareness, I also believe this organization to be the best at what they do. Its global implemented strategies have become the model to other organizations in search of fundraising and overall support. This organization’s success has even made them a case study at Harvard University and is truly an organization that inspires me.
Where you see yourself and your business in 10 years? 20 years?
My immediate goal is to take petsintouch.com to a level in which capital and investor funding can provide me with the ability to transition 100% into the business. Once I have accomplished this immediate goal, the possibilities are endless because the pet industry has endless opportunities. Petsintouch.com aims to be the number one pet social network with the number one pet news network providing the most up-to-date and latest news and trends to the pet community.