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Cleaning Up (After Canines)

Sometimes, the glory in business is not what you do. It’s that you do it at all. Jon Wood has proven his mettle by carving out a niche scooping dog poop, and has been named a winner in the 2008 StartupNation Dorm-Based 20.
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You have to be a dog fan to run a business like Jon Wood’s. I mean, you have to really, really like dogs.


In case the name of his business, Hurricane K-9 Waste Removal, doesn’t speak for itself, Wood cleans up dog poop as his vocation. It may sound gross, but it’s a service that busy people need where he lives and works, in Tulsa, Okla.


Wood is at the top of the list in StartupNation’s “Blocking and Tackling” group in the 2008 Dorm-Based 20 ranking. Winners in this group were not selected for their revolutionary concept, but instead because they demonstrate a willingness to do difficult—even “unpleasant”—work. They get the job done no matter what, and in this case, one pile at a time. Now that’s showing some work ethic.


Visit the 2008 Dorm-Based 20 Winners


Wood, a brand new graduate from the University of Tulsa and an Omaha, Neb., native, had a motivating factor for his business choice. “I just realized that moving out of the fraternity means the rent is going up,” he says, pointing out that he would like to retire as early as possible. “And the usual J-O-B is not going to get me there.”


So Wood decided to take the proactive route. He launched his business last January, hoping to gain some traction before his graduation. So far, it’s worked, and now Hurricane K-9 is his full-time endeavor.


Underscoring that there’s nothing original about his business, and that that’s not always important as long as there’s plenty of demand, Wood modeled K-9 Waste Removal after some friends’ businesses back home who offered the same service and were making good money. “The more I got to think about it…,” he says.


But it’s likely none of this would have happened for Wood if he wasn’t a life-long canine lover. The 24-year-old grew up with Golden Retrievers. “I was always very much a dog person,” he says. “My dog was a living teddy bear.”


And the gross factor isn’t that bad, Wood says, thanks to majoring in biology.


“Compared to microbiology and some of my experiments, it’s nothing,” he says.

In starting his business, Wood discovered more about dog poop than most ever knew existed. He is now a member of the Association of Professional Animal Waste Specialists. He actually has liability insurance to do his job, just in case a customer’s property is damaged. He also started a Web site and online marketing campaign to promote his business – all part of the blocking and tackling this group of Dorm-Based 20 winners is known for.


His day-to-day costs aren’t that high. He has his scooper and uses grocery bags to dispose of the waste. Of course, like many others, he pays at the pump to keep his business running.


To come to your house twice a week, Wood charges $56 per month. The charge is $40 for once a week and $30 every two weeks. He is also considering the addition of premium services such as lawn mowing, in part because it would help him do his primary job better.


“I really appreciate it if people mow their lawns regularly,” he says, adding that navigating tall grass can make it tougher to track down feces.


For now, Wood’s clientele mainly consists of young professionals who are too busy to clean up after their dogs and elderly citizens who might not have the energy. He offers discounts for senior citizens and for animal-health professionals as well.


Besides discounts, Wood is considering other forms of philanthropy. At some point he would like to set up a partnership with an adoption agency. He has plans to partner with his sister, who is a veterinary student and a foster mother for dogs. “I want people to understand and appreciate the joy of having a loving companion,” he says.


Wood’s future goal is to continue to grow his business and maybe get bought out—or should we say, “scooped up”—by a larger, out-of-state outfit.


Until then, he will keep cleaning up poop, a business he’s fine with, as long as he remembers the little things.


“If I get done and forget to empty out my trunk, it’s pretty nasty,” Wood says.

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