The tricky path to becoming an entrepreneur
Of Indian origin, Supriya Sodhi arrived in Luxembourg in 2016. Although she holds two higher education degrees, she chose to follow her heart. Her great love…
I’m an Indian by origin and I was born in New Delhi, although I’m on my way to becoming Luxembourgish now. I moved to Luxembourg in 2016 and live here with my husband and our young golden retriever boy ‘Wookie’.
I have two post-graduate degrees, in Business Management & Marketing Communications, a degree in Psychology and years of experience in advertising and marketing, but the topic that’s perhaps closest to my heart has always been dogs. Besides my passion for dogs, I love playing the violin, reading and discovering new corners of the world, especially Europe.
After I moved to Luxembourg, I started dog sitting for friends since I really missed my two dogs in India. This made me realize that dog owners (“dog parents”) in Luxembourg struggle to find care for their dogs because existing options like kennels and pensions are often not suitable. I saw that there was a real need for ‘at-home-care services’ which can be tailored to a specific dog’s needs.
I decided I wanted to help dog owners by finding safe, reliable and suitable care for their pets. This is how I came up with the idea behind DogStays.
As I imagine any entrepreneur will say, there is a huge difference between coming up with an idea and setting up an actual business around it. This can be even more challenging if it’s your first business. Not only was this the first business I had ever set up but I was also still very new in Luxembourg and everything was unfamiliar, overwhelming and seemed very complex - the languages, the official processes, the different organizations, the paperwork involved…everything. In the middle of this huge life adjustment of moving from one continent to a very different one, I’ve decided I wanted to create a business from scratch.
Not a simple task. I was very clear that I wanted to help dog owners in Luxembourg to find safe and suitable care for their dogs in a home environment. Even though I was already dog sitting myself and beginning to understand what the need was, I did not really know how to start turning this into an actual business. The official processes in Luxembourg were not easy for me to understand and at that time a lot of this information was available in French only. I talked to people, attended start-up events and visited many organizations to gather information.
In 2018 I joined the Entrepreneurial Woman Project by the Luxembourg-Poland Chamber of Commerce (LPCC) and this helped me think further about my idea more in details, plus I’ve learned about establishing a business in Luxembourg. I won the first prize in the program that year and this also pushed me to take my idea forward. I’ve been in contact with the House of Entrepreneurship (HOE) and I’ve reached out to nyuko, which provides help for free to entrepreneurs . I joined nyuko’s Idea Launcher Program which helped me get valuable advice from subject matter experts, for example legal advice, which is something an entrepreneur just starting out might find difficult to access. Later I participated in HOE’s Business Mentoring program which paired me with a mentor who helped me to stay motivated and guided me through technical challenges. Besides these organizations, my family and friends were incredibly supportive through this entire process of starting.
By the end of 2018 DogStays was registered here in Luxembourg but I needed to build a framework and create an identity for the business. Since I was very convinced about the need, I wanted to move forward quickly. But creating these things takes time and I had a lot of research to do in order to understand the market here in Luxembourg and also make decisions about things like pricing and operations. My background in client management and marketing helped me stay organized even while being creative. DogStays has always been about the dogs and their owners.
I’m a dog owner myself and I personally prefer leaving our dog at someone’s home rather than at a boarding since I feel it is a safer and more controlled environment. I wanted other dog owners to have this option too, especially for dogs with special needs or for expats dogs owners who don’t have a large network of friends and family here. Through DogStays we connect dog owners with dog sitters who care for dogs at home. Dogs get personalized care and dog owners can relax knowing their dogs are getting one-on-one attention in a safe home environment.
While a lot of it was new, confusing and difficult in those first few months, I remember getting emails from dog owners who discovered the DogStays website and then wrote to me just to tell how much they loved my story, the website and especially the idea behind DogStays. It was a great feeling to get that kind of reaction from precisely the people I wanted to help.
In the pet community in Luxembourg people know each other and as people heard about DogStays, it grew. I connected with more and more dog owners but also with dog sitters and people who love dogs but can’t have their own (because of time commitments or other reasons) and who want to spend time with them through DogStays
"I gradually created the ‘DogStays Sitter Network’ which is the community of dog sitters that we connect dog owners with."Supriya Sodhi
People joined the network through references, joiners and sometimes also dog sitters just to reach out. The community slowly grew and at some point I had to introduce checks to ensure the community continued to represent mine and DogStays’ attitude towards dog care. Today the dog sitters in our network come from different backgrounds, have different schedules, different interests, different home environments, but they all share the same spirit of DogStays: they understand and care about dogs. My next challenge is about scaling the business even more so that dog owners have more and better options when it comes to take care of their dogs: these can be as specific and careful as they need. I don’t want dog owners to be forced to use the service of someone just because of a lack of options.
I don’t think DogStays has had its greatest success yet. However I must admit that successfully launching, building and growing DogStays has definitely been one of the most challenging, frustrating, yet satisfying professional experience for me.
It’s very important to plan and set milestones when you want to achieve something such as building a business. As I have now seen and experienced myself, it is sometimes easy to get lost in the idea and the passion that gave birth to the idea. But to make sure this dream doesn't remain just a dream, it has to be balanced with a very concrete plan and structure.
Nyuko has signed a partnership with Spuerkeess, in order to foster entrepreneurial spirit and strengthening the bank's position with company founders from the start of their businesses. More info in our article: https://www.spuerkeess.lu/en/blog/experts-corner/nyuko-fostering-entrepreneurial-spirit/.