Gopher Entrepreneurs: Dog's Best Friend
John Sturgess, '08 MBA, talks with passionate fervor about his pet project. He dropped out of the corporate world, where he spent more than two decades in what he calls the “human hotel business,” to chase the tail of a dream and open ADOGO Pet Hotel: a suite new concept catering to four-legged guests. “You feel like you’re walking into a boutique hotel,” he says of ADOGO, which offers day care, boarding, grooming and training for dogs. “We’re not a kennel. We’re a pet hotel.”
Sturgess seems to be barking up the right tree. After opening his first location in Minnetonka in 2011 and a second spot in Maple Grove in 2014, he is now close to opening a third Twin Cities outlet while also eyeing Chicago and Dallas. Currently, the company has 45 employees and is fetching solid profits. And he expects to do slightly more than $2 million in revenue for 2014.
Sturgess estimates that 80 percent of his customers are women. “The husband might come pick up the dog,” he says. “But what I learned in the hotel business is when it comes to pets, and it comes to kids, and it comes to leisure travel, females make most of those decisions.”
He says that the key to drawing repeat business is paying attention to service and small details. Typically, his staff recognizes and calls dogs by name when they arrive at ADOGO, which impresses pet owners. “The people that work at ADOGO, they love dogs,” he says. “We really try hard to know the two-legged customer, but they absolutely know every four-legged customer.”
By Burl Gilyard
This story was originally published in the winter 2015 issue of Minnesota Magazine as part of a feature on risk takers, problem solvers, big thinkers, team builders, moneymakers, and go-getters.