Britt Alwerud started her first business at 19 and has made millions of dollars walking dogs. Now she’s made it her mission to help other small business owners become bigger business owners. Britt is the founder and CEO of Handlr – an app that handles busy people’s lives on-demand.
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Time Stamped Show Notes
(click the time stamp to jump directly to that point in the episode.)
- [01:25] – Handlr is a software platform that makes it easier for people to handle their daily operations
- [02:02] – Britt worked out how to scale dog-walking by creating an agency
- [03:36] – “I gave it my all… I was walking 30 dogs a day, 7 days a week, and I was exhausted.”
- [05:17] – How do you generate revenue in your business? – Britt employs 15 dog-walkers through DogZenergy
- [05:50] – She created Handlr to help manage her team – and to help other small-business owners.
- [07:52] – “We’re aggregating a whole lot of small business owners so that people can handle their whole lives in one place.”
- [08:18] – Worst Entrepreneurial Moment: One incredibly low week, she was involved in a traffic accident… and realized that she was too worn out to keep going.
- [09:46] – You don’t have to be Gary Vaynerchuk
- [11:00] – Take care of yourself. You don’t have to do it all.
- [11:35] – “Life isn’t all about work”
- [12:05] – Entrepreneurial AH-HA Moment: Being told “You are not a businesswoman – you are just a dog walker” – and realizing that she needed to have systems and processes in place to work as a business.
- [14:15] – Be in the game. You aren’t going to get feedback until you start.
- [15:05] – “Be gritty and never give up”
- [15:10] – Biggest Weakness? – “I can be unrealistic”
- [15:40] – Biggest Strength? – “I’m scrappy and I’ll get it done.”
- [15:51] – What has Britt most fired up today? “Version 2 of Handlr, coming out at the end of the summer”
- [19:15] – The Lightning Round
- What was holding you back from becoming an entrepreneur? – “Absolutely nothing. I’ve always been an entrepreneur”
- What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received? – “To not just work in my business, but to work on it”
- What’s a personal habit that contributes to your success? – “To not be too stuck on habits. I’m all over the place and that’s okay”
- Share an internet resource, like Evernote, with Fire Nation – Asana
- If you could recommend one book to our listeners, what would it be and why? – The E-Myth
- Imagine you woke up tomorrow morning in a brand new world, identical to Earth, but you knew no one. You still have all the experiences and knowledge you currently have – your food and shelter is taken care of – but all you have is a laptop and $500. What would you do in the next 7 days? “I would go on Handlr and I would start 5 on-demand service businesses. I’d use that $500 to make the business legit.”
- [23:16] – Connect with Britt at email@example.com or on Instagram
- [23:33] – Parting piece of guidance? “Do what you love. But find a way to scale what you love to do.”
Britt Alwerud: I’m prepared to ignite.
Britt Alwerud: Let’s do this, John.
John: Britt started her first business at 19 and has made millions of dollars walking dogs. Now, she’s made it her mission to help other small business owners become bigger business owners. Britt is the founder and CEO of The Handler, an app that handles people’s busy lives on demand. Britt, take a minute and fill in some gaps of that intro, and give us a glimpse into your personal life.
Britt Alwerud: Hey, John. Yeah, thanks for having me on the show. You make LA traffic way more fun.
John: There will always be traffic in LA.
Britt Alwerud: No, that’s exactly what I do. I play with puppies and create more hours in the day for busy people. Handler is something I created because it’s not easy running a small business. I couldn’t find any sort of software platform to make it easier to manage my daily operations. So I thought I’m going to ahead and make it happen.
John: Making it happen. I love that. Now, when I first read through your bio here, I was impressed obviously. I was saying millions of dollars walking dogs because to me that just seems so non-scalable and not leveragable. You can only walk so many dogs. People can only pay so much for you to walk their dogs. Let’s go ahead and dive into that just a little bit. How did you make millions doing that?
Britt Alwerud: Right. Well, just to be fair it’s been a few years that I’ve been doing this. But one of my mentors is a really successful businessman. I remember about seven years ago and I was still excited about this little burgeoning small business I have. I was telling him about it. This is a guy who has a billion-dollar portfolio of companies. He goes, well, to be honest, I’m not that excited about it. It’s not a very scalable business. I’m not one to be told no.
When I’m told no it’s like that’s going to light a fire under me. I’m definitely going to get fired up over that. So that’s … but I took his words to heart. I realized he’s right. It’s not a very scalable business. How do I make it so that it is? So that’s when I realized I needed to stop being a dog walker. I needed to start being a business woman. So that’s when I decided to fall in love with my business as much as I was in love with dogs. So that’s when I decided to bring on a team and create systems and processes to make it so that I could give my clients the same quality as not just Brittany, the dog walker, but as Dog’s Energy the best dog walking agency in all of San Diego.
John: Wow. I guess you must have done that by the millions of dollars walking dogs.
Britt Alwerud: It’s a very fun business. It’s not easy. A lot of people are trying to get into it because they think I’m just going to walk dogs outside all day. It’ll be great. But it’s hard. I just gave it my all. I mean, all those dogs I treated like they just are my own. So emotionally, physically I was walking about 30 dogs a day all by myself seven days a week. I was exhausted. I loved seeing all the happy puppy faces and wagging tails.
It almost was like they were speaking English to me because I had a relationship with each one. I’m a crazy dog lady. But, yeah, I just decided that I can’t keep doing what I was doing which was the 10-hour day where I would walk 30 dogs all by myself. I would end the day with some private training sessions with clients. Then, I would get home at 8:00 at night, and I was so exhausted. But then, I would have to –
John: Quick question. Were you wearing a Fitbit? Do you know how many steps you were taking during these days?
Britt Alwerud: Oh, gosh. No, I don’t think Fitbit was out yet.
John: It was probably like 30,000 steps.
Britt Alwerud: Probably. It was miles and miles per day.
John: Unbelievable. What are the most dogs you’ve actually had on one leash at a time, or you were walking at one time?
Britt Alwerud: My record was 12.
John: 12. Wow!
Britt Alwerud: Yeah. That’s when … there were so many dogs. But the thing is that when they know that they can trust you and you’re their leader, they know … they all just kind of stay in a line. They all travel behind me. We have a regiment; they do what they need to do. So it’s really fun. They love it.
John: Wow. So let’s talk about today 2016. How do you, Britt, generate revenue in your business or businesses today?
Britt Alwerud: I have 15 dog walkers that are currently on my Dog’s Energy team. These are the biggest dog lovers you’ve ever met. So we do private walks; we do group walks. We do dog park visits, pet sitting, and training. So we do it all. We’re one stop like pet concierge. But the thing is that I really needed a way to manage all these people because this is a trust based business. So in order to hire people, I knew that I needed to be able to put systems and processes in place in order to manage my team and make sure that every single dog is getting walked and getting walked for a long enough amount of time.
So that’s when I decided that Uber and all these other on demand apps came out. I went bingo. I want that for my business, but it was really, really cost prohibitive to build something like that for my business. So I decided that I’m going to go all in; I’m going to build this on demand mobile technology that Uber and Glam squad and Soothe and all these huge on demand companies that have millions of dollars in funding. I’m going to go and build what they have, but I’m going to give it to small business owners like myself so that we won’t get ran over by these huge on demand companies that are trying to disrupt our industry. That’s not fair.
As small business owners, we’ve been doing this for 10 years. It’s not fair that somebody comes in with a fancy little app and thinks they can destroy us. So I am championing for the small business owners so that you can scale. You can use this amazing dashboard to see how much you’re making on a daily, weekly, monthly basis to give all of your staff and team an app so that they know all the appointments they have for the day. They can get directions; they can check in and check out of the appointment. They can get GPS tracked.
On the customer’s side what’s awesome is all of their customers get an app too so that they can book on demand. Then, the other great thing is the Handler Customer app not only allows you to just book Dog’s Energy for dog walking, but also you can see the dog groomer on there. You can book the dog groomer. You can also go while my dog’s getting walked, I think I’ll get a massage and book a massage therapist too.
Britt Alwerud: Yeah. So anyway, we’re just aggregating all these really awesome small business owners that offer home, personal, and pet services in one place. So busy people can get their whole life handled just within a few taps. For the small business owner, they can scale their business.
John: Brittany, hearing your voice, your energy, and your vibe, people might be wondering like has this girl ever had a bad day? The reality is we all do. You’ve had some tough times. What would you consider your worst entrepreneurial moment to date? Take us to that moment, Britt. Tell us that story.
Britt Alwerud: I very specifically remember this one really rough week. One of those really low weeks where I was just drained. Emotionally and physically, I was tired. The day before, one of the dogs had gone to the bathroom all over the back of my dog mobile and got all over 10 dogs. I had to wash all of them. It was a total disaster. But then, I also was so tired because I was just racing around from one house to the other. I was trying to make everybody happy, all of my customers happy. I wasn’t making myself happy at that point in my life.
This is when I was doing it all by myself. I was tired. I didn’t even have time to stop and eat. I was eating all of my meals on the go in my car. I was driving along one morning, and I looked down to get a bite of that perfect oatmeal and bam. I just plowed into the back of two cars that were stopped behind a stopped trash truck. I literally hit a wall. Thank God everybody was okay, and I didn’t hurt anybody. I just knew I’m exhausted; I can’t do all of this by myself anymore. This is just … I can’t go on like this.
John: So there’s a lot that I want you, Fire Nation, to take away because it is so easy to get caught up in the Gary Vaynerchuk mantra. By the way, I listen, I watch, and I like Gary V; but wake up at 6:00 am and you’re going until 12:00 am, 1:00 am, 2:00 am. It’s just that constant grind. That is for some people. Gary is a very special person. He can do it; he can handle it. So far, it’s worked out for him. But, man, you need to know yourself. You need to know what you want out of life, out of business. I actually did a JLD snap rant a while ago about GV180 about how I consider myself in a lot of ways the anti-Gary Vaynerchuk. The opposite. Like I’m the 180.
Yes, I work hard but in a different way in batches and sprints. Then, I’m down on my hammock at 11:00 am swinging in the palm fronds just reading a book or doing this or doing that. So I’m all about batching and sprinting. Gary is all about the long term. Brittany, you found likely what’s worked for you. Fire Nation, I hope that you find what works for you because whatever that is, that’s where your greatness is going to lie. That’s where you’re going to be able to get the most effectiveness and life happiness. I mean, that’s what we’re trying to create here is a lifestyle design that works for you, Fire Nation, the individual. So that’s my big take away.
Brit, just like in one sentence, what do you want to make sure Fire Nation gets from your story?
Britt Alwerud: Yeah, it’s to take care of yourself. You know, you can’t do it all. You need to let go of that control; you need to be able to ask for help and be able to trust that you can hire a team that is going to help you build a business that thrives even if you are not there. You need to have that business so that it keeps on. It’s a whole entity of its own that’s successful and makes everyone around you successful too. Take care of yourself. Hop in that hammock and go on a vacation. Life isn’t all about work. That’s the thing, there’s so many amazing tools out there that you can use to automate so many things so that you can do it all without actually doing it.
John: Yes. So many. In fact, we might be talking about a few in a little bit, Fire Nation. But before that, Britt, let’s shift to one of your greatest a-ha moments that you’ve had to date. I mean, you’ve had some brilliant ideas. We’ve talked about a couple of them. What’s one of your greatest epiphanies that you’ve had that you want to share with Fire Nation today?
Britt Alwerud: So this goes back to one of my worst moments. So in that same week that I plowed into the back of the trash truck, I also was really behind on invoicing. It’s just such a pain to do. Because I was walking dogs all day, I just didn’t have time to then at 8:30 pm to go through and tally up how much everybody owed me. Then, make sure everybody got their invoice and all that. I hated it.
John: Yeah, then follow up with people who hadn’t paid you. It’s a nightmare.
Britt Alwerud: It’s a nightmare. I always dreamed of having a button on my schedule I could just click and charge their credit card, then I got paid because I did the work and I deserved it. Anyway. So I gave one of my clients who I adored … who she’s a really successful business woman and I looked up to her… I gave her an invoice that was two or three months late for $1,000.00 worth of dog walking. She goes oh, my goodness. Brittany, my husband is going to kill me. You can’t give me an invoice like this. Then, she goes, Britt, you are not a business woman. You are just a dog walker.
That hit home. I was so dedicated to making my business the best business and offering my clients the absolute best experience that it hurt when she said that. But that was the best thing I could have heard because that’s when I decided I am going to show her. I am going to be a business woman and a dog walker. Now, I’m not walking dogs anymore, but I still have the best dog walking agency in San Diego. But the way I did that was I had the epiphany that I need to have systems and processes in place.
I need to have that software to run my business. I need to have a team. So that’s when I decided to throw myself into creating Handler.
John: Fire Nation, you have to swing the bat. I mean, this is my biggest take away from what Britt is saying. She got it out there. She got in the game. She was like put me in, coach. Let me walk some dogs; let me figure this out. Let my passions go forward; let me build a business around it. Guess what? Because she was out there doing the thing, walking the walk, talking the talk; she’s actually getting feedback. The feedback is not always going to be all great, but that constructive criticism can really be what the turning point is to actually become an entrepreneur.
To actually become a business man or business woman. So think about that, Fire Nation. Are you waiting until you have that “perfect” business plan before you launch? I’ve got news for you, your business is fake pre-launch. Your business doesn’t exist before you’ve put it out there in the world. It’s just thoughts; it’s just possibilities. Get it out there. See what happens. Get your feedback and move forward. Britt, in just one sentence, what do you want to make sure Fire Nation gets from your a-ha moment?
Britt Alwerud: Be gritty and never give up.
John: What’s your biggest weakness as an entrepreneur?
Britt Alwerud: Sometimes I can be really unrealistic. As a dreamer and somebody who is always trying to be as efficient as possible with my time, I think I can be unrealistic about how long things take. I want them done now. That doesn’t always happen. But at the same time, it’s okay to be unrealistic because when somebody tells me no or something can’t be done, I find a way to figure out how to make it happen.
John: What’s your biggest strength?
Britt Alwerud: I’m scrappy, and I’ll make it happen. The harder it is to do, the more I want to make it happen.
John: Britt, you have a lot of things going on that you’re fired up about, but what’s the one thing that has you most excited today?
Britt Alwerud: I’m super, super excited about version 2 for Handler that’s coming out at the end of the summer. I mean, there’s features that are coming out that small business owners have never thought was possible. So we’re going to be tracking a whole bunch of profitability. We’re going to be doing one click and run your payroll. We have a lot of really exciting things happening so that they will save hundreds of hours per month so that they can go off and go to Puerto Rico and go visit you, John.
John: Wait a second, Britt. That sounds amazing. Just a quick question. Where can Fire Nation find out a little bit more about Handler?
Britt Alwerud: Well, you can go to myhandlr.com. m-y-h-a-n-d-l-r.com. Couldn’t get the e in there. Pretty much every name is taken but anyway. Myhandlr.com or you can download our Handler app. H-a-n-d-l-r in the App store or Google Play.
John: It’s kind of vogue to drop the e anyway. You’re not that cool of a company if you have an e in your name.
Britt Alwerud: Yeah, who needs those vowels anyway?
John: This is coming from eofire.com. So Fire Nation, we’ve got some value bombs like that coming up in the lightning round. So don’t you go anywhere. We’re going to take a quick minute first to thank our sponsors. Britt, are you prepared for the lightning rounds?
Britt Alwerud: Yeah, I’m excited.
John: What was holding you back from becoming an entrepreneur?
Britt Alwerud: Absolutely nothing. Yeah, nothing was holding me back because I’ve always been an entrepreneur since I was a kid. I was selling avocados from my family’s ranch on the side of the road. I literally sold seashells by the seashore in [inaudible] [00:17:05]. That didn’t go so well. Apparently there’s a lot of seashells –
John: Well, I could just pick that up, or I could pay her for picking it up.
Britt Alwerud: They were Christmas ornaments, but I had a lot of Christmas ornaments for other people because I couldn’t sell them. So that was my first failed startup. Hopefully the last.
John: You learned a lot. Now, what is the best advice you’ve ever received?
Britt Alwerud: Best advice I’ve ever received is to not just work in my business but to work on it. Make sure that it’s scalable because I don’t like to have a ceiling over my head. I mean, the sky is the limit for me. If I feel like have that ceiling, then I’m going to figure out how to burst through it.
John: What’s a personal habit that contributes to your success?
Britt Alwerud: Well, I think one of my personal habits is to not be too stuck on habits. I know that sounds really weird and I’m supposed to say that I wake up at 5:00 am every day with the birds. But I don’t. I’m all over the place. That’s okay because as an entrepreneur, you need to be really flexible. Not every day is the same. Sometimes you’re going to have to get up at 4:00 am to make something happen. Sometimes you’re going to have to go to bed at 2:00 am to work with your team abroad. I mean, you have to be flexible; you have to do whatever it takes to make your company successful.
John: Can you share an Internet resource like Evernotes with Fire Nation?
Britt Alwerud: Well, I love Asana. Asana is a really good project management tool that I use to manage my team. I really like to have this kind of mobile experience for my team so that they can work from wherever and achieve work/life balance. As long as I know they’re getting their projects done in Asana, then we just keep chugging along.
John: If you could recommend one book, what would it be? Why?
Britt Alwerud: This one is easy, The E-Myth. I know that a lot of your people that have been on this show have recommended this book, but it’s true. It’s the best book if you own a small business because it really gets you out of your head and into the role of being a business owner and not just a technician and not just a somebody who is just walking the dogs. Somebody who is actually doing the actual work instead your working on your business and able to create this experience for your clients that’s always the same. But anyway, read the book The E-Myth by Michael Gerber. It’s awesome.
John: Britt, this is the last question of the lightning round, but it’s a doozy. Imagine you woke up tomorrow morning in a brand new world identical to Earth but you knew no one. You still have all the experience and knowledge you currently have. Your food and shelter is taken care of, but all you have is this laptop and $500.00. What would you do in the next seven days?
Britt Alwerud: I would go on Handler and start five on demand service businesses right away because you can start with zero capital. I would probably use that $500.00 to make the business legit and get all my legal and insurance things in place. Then, I would just start a car detailing business. I would start a dog walking business, house cleaning business … you could have million-dollar business going in no time.
John: Britt, let’s end today on fire with a parting piece of guidance, the best way that with can connect with you. Then, we’ll say goodbye.
Britt Alwerud: The best way to connect with me – you can reach me at hellomyhandlr.com. That’s h-a-n-d-l-r.com. You can also find me on Instagram – I love Instagram – at Doggone Tech girl. I’m on Twitter as myhandlr, m-y-h-a-n-d-l-r.
John: And a parting piece of guidance?
Britt Alwerud: Do what you love, but figure out how to scale what you love to do.
John: There’s got to be scale. You can’t just walk 10 dogs every day seven days a week.
Britt Alwerud: Nope, you will burn out. You don’t want to be a hamster on the hamster wheel. You need to be able to have a life too. Enjoy what you’re doing. Just go for it. Just do it and get it done. I would say it’s 99 … well, 1 percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration. It takes a lot of hard work. You’re going to have good day; you’re going to have a lot of bad days. Just celebrate those good days.
John: Fire Nation, you’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with. You have been hanging out with BA and JLD today. So keep up the heat. Head over to eofire.com. Just type Britt in the search bar. Her show notes page will pop up with everything that we’ve been talking about today. Best show notes in the biz, timestamped, and links galore. I just want to say email Britt directly, firstname.lastname@example.org. Remember that’s h-a-n-d-l-r.com. Britt, thank you for sharing your journey with Fire Nation today. For that, we salute you.
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