How Katie Guastapaglia Went From Working Part Time at Dog's Trust to Creating Scentventure, The Hottest Dog Training Craze Taking Over The World
Discover how Katie turned her small local field business into a huge online membership for dog owners everywhere, the amazing Scentventure community.
Watch this short interview where Katie shares her inspiring pet business story...
Full Transcript Below
Dom: Right today. I am joined by Katie Guastapaglia, AKA Katie G, and Katie is going to tell us a bit about her and her business and how you started and all that.
Katie: So, yep. Katie Guastapaglia, Queen of the Fields. So I run Dogwood Adventure Play, a Scentventure park in County Durham. We started in 2018 and basically we offer private hire Scentventure parks, Scentventure training, and Club Dogwood, which is the online home of Scentventure.
Dom: So when you came into my world, you had the field business, which was thriving and you were very keen to do something different and, Lao, who sadly passed away recently, he's deeply woven into the whole story of how the Scentventure park came along. But you also went part-time with Dogs Trust as well, weren't you?
Katie: Yeah, that's right. So when I first got in touch with you, Dom, we had the one field, up, thriving, booked every day, and we'd just opened the second field. So I was kind of looking for your help to be able to fill it in the same way that the original field was filled, which was booked every day, several months in advance.
I was working at Dogs Trust as well so I had a lot on my plate. And I realised that I couldn't keep working two full-time jobs. So one of my goals when I came to you was to be able to leave Dogs Trust. It was really sad, I didn't want to leave Dogs Trust, I loved it.
Always, as you know, I've had a passion for rescue dogs and supporting them. So yeah, that was my goal. And so when we first started working together, one of your first kind of ideas for me was to put on the open fields day, which was to invite the community along to Dogwood. And it was a huge success because we had, I think it was over 600 people through the gates that day.
Dom: It was a bit wild, wasn't it?
Katie: It was, yeah, completely wild. We were like, "Okay, we need more parking." And we also raised, I think it was about 1,200 pounds for a local charities that day. So that was amazing. And from there, yeah, we haven't stopped really.
Dom: Unbelievable. No, we haven't. So it was interesting because you were very keen to get more intensive help from myself, weren't you, from the start?
Katie: That's right, yeah, absolutely. I have a lot of ideas, too many ideas. And like I said, I was working far too hard. I was working two jobs. And so, I needed someone to help me get on track so that I wasn't wasting time because, like I said, I was doing an awful lot of work, had all of these ideas, and I was just really kind of hungry to be able to implement these ideas and I needed to do it more efficiently.
Dom: And what comes up a lot on these type of case studies that we're doing now, we fix first, we try and fix what we've got now, and then that creates room, and time and head space for the next thing that we want to do. And that's exactly what we did. The event was a huge success. I was so happy with it because it did everything that I wanted to do from a marketing point of view, it positioned you was a local leader, an expert bringing the community together, which I know is very heart-centred, and something you're really passionate about. It raised money for charities and we filled the books. So it's like tick, tick, tick, tick, all of these kinds of boxes, wasn't it?
Yeah. And then I remember the next phase, I was keen to get some kind of membership going for you. I have some interesting calls with clients when I'm in the garden sometimes, and one of the ones that we had was when you were tossing around this idea of something that you wanted to do. You wanted to do something outdoors for dogs, and there was an indoor version at the time. You'd been on a course with somebody else, do you remember? It's not important. Yeah, so then this idea, you came to me with this Scentventure idea, didn't you? How did that come up?
Katie: Yeah, so it was stuff that I'd already been doing for Lao. So basically the story of Dogwood is the story of Lao. He was a rescue dog, he had a bad history. I was having a lot of trouble with him, I just wanted to be able to help him, but he was incredibly reactive, he had no recall. We'd moved back from Italy, where in Italy, we had a lot more space, he was able to just have that freedom. When we got back to the UK and he wasn't, and I just felt so incredibly guilty that I wasn't able to give him what he needed. Which is why we bought the field originally. It was for Lao, it wasn't even to start a business, it was to solve a huge problem in my life, and that was to give Lao, this amazing, sweet rescue dog the life that he deserved.
But what I found was that it wasn't actually so much the field itself as what we did there. So it was basically Scentventure, we would do scent work, we would explore, we would kind of do adventure style activities there as well. And that's just improved our bond, our partnership, no end.
And so, yeah, it wasn't the field, it was what we did when we got there. And I saw how many benefits it had for Lao.
I took those concepts and you helped me kind of form those concepts of exploration, scent, partnership, and environment. And so they became the four compass points of Scentventure. So yeah, it was all based on what I was doing in the field with Lao anyway. And you helped me put it together into the amazing thing that is Scentventure.
Dom: Crazy, isn't it? Interesting, when you talk about, it's not the field, it's what you do with it, really harks back to what John Rogerson taught me back in the day, it's not the toy, it's what you do with it, and all that, it's about the relationship, isn't it?
So this was a full... And I can remember being excited, I know you were excited as well. I was really excited about like, I knew this could be a thing and we just need to take all of these ideas, like you said, and put it into something that we can sell, essentially. So tell us about how that rolled out then and how did you sort of reconcile the... Because you are incredibly, like I said, heart-centred, and you want to help, and how did you reconcile that with me trying to help you make a business out of it?
Katie: So like a lot of people, I guess I used to think that selling and marketing was on the complete opposite end of the scale to wanting to help dogs and people. It's absolutely not. You can't help dogs and people unless you are able to effectively talk about the services that you provide. If you can't market, then you can't help a lot of dogs and people. Well, you can, you could probably help a very limited amount, you could give a very limited amount of dogs all of your time. But in order to be able to help more families and impact more lives, then you need to be able, yeah, to talk about what you do.
Dom: Communicate that vision, yeah.
Katie: To communicate the vision, exactly. And so once I kind of grasped that concept, it was so easy because I knew that the reason that I created Scentventure was from such a great place, it was to help Lao, and I knew that it could help other dogs as well. Originally I thought that it would just be for reactive dogs, like Lao, but actually it helps so many different kinds of dogs with all different kinds of issues.
And so once I started delivering my in-person Scentventure classes, that was when I had left Dogs Trust. I didn't have time to put that on as well while I was at Dogs Trust, so that was kind of something that I started doing when I left Dogs Trust. I saw that this concept of the four compass points could help other dogs as well, then that's when I knew that I had to open it out to even more people.
Dom: The way the list was growing, wasn't it?
Katie: It was seven months long at one point, yeah, but that was the point where you were thinking that I needed to do something online, I was thinking I needed to be able to help more people and cut down the waiting list so that those people who were on the waiting list could have something to do in the meantime before they actually started the in-person classes. So that's when Club Dogwood was born.
Dom: And so you've got this concept that you've put together yourself, that you're teaching people one-to-one. And then the trick was like, "Right, we need to turn this into a one-to-many experience, don't we?" Know what I mean? So you can help more people and make it more of a viable business, a scalable business, wasn't it? Because even adding local Scentventure people, they weren't going to be able to impact the amount of people that you wanted to help, hence the membership came about.
Katie: So that started in early 2020, just before the pandemic. It was really good timing from the point of view that I already knew how to deliver an online programme. And so when the pandemic hit, that meant that I already had all the systems in place, a lot of other people were kind of trying to catch up, exactly. But it meant that because I had all of that already going, I could create these, I think I did three free challenges for the community.
At the minute we have, I think it's around 250 members.
Dom: 250 members, fantastic, yeah.
Katie: And the community, it's thriving, I absolutely love my Club Dogwood members. I love spending time with them in there and just seeing their results, it brings me so much joy.
Dom: And it's growing and you're building a team. But the great example of that was the recent Northeast Dog Festival, despite the fact you didn't have the PowerPoint and we got over that, you got up and spoke and you were wonderful and you gained members at that event as well. And it you had this whole team around you and there was the whole have a go area that you had. Yeah, to me, that was a good moment, wasn't it? I think the next moment you have like that will be when you get the package and you open your book, I think that was one of these seminal, "Oh, right, this is..." And you said yourself when you looked around at what was going on at Northeast Dog Festival.
Katie: Yeah, absolutely. The growing the team is just the best thing that I've done recently for myself, for my family, and for Dogwood, and Club Dogwood, and Scentventure. I was one of those business owners who thought they were a superhero and nobody else could do it quite the way that they could. Club Dogwood members were so precious, how could I trust anyone else with them when they need to be nurtured and it's only me that knows how to do that. Like, oh my goodness, not at all. The team are just absolutely incredible. In some respects they can do things that I can't, and so I was so narrow minded really to think that it was only me that could do it.
Dom: It's all part of the process, it's okay, we all go through this, definitely. You say once you grasp it, then it just frees up so much more time for you to plan and stuff. So what kind of difference has this made to, without going into specifics, the finances and the business stuff. And obviously, like you said, with the pandemic, we effectively created another income stream to compliment what we've already had with the field.
Katie: So in terms of how it's helped me, it's given me so much head space, and as you mentioned, Lao passed away a couple of weeks ago, and it just completely broke me in a way that I just was not expecting. And I ended up taking about 10 days off in the end. I thought I'd be back to work in a couple of days, but I couldn't face talking to anyone... As you can see, Lao's everywhere.
I open my computer, his picture's everywhere. All of my stuff around Lao is Scentventure. And so, yeah, I needed to take some time away. And during that time, the Scentventure guides just took care of everything. They loved me, they supported me, they loved and supported the members and our clients, and they're just amazing. They are amazing, they just take care of everything.
Dom: Importantly, from a business point of view as well, the money kept coming in, do you know what I mean? Because obviously if you'd had... If all we'd been doing at that time was the one-to-ones, then that would have obviously stopped, wouldn't it?
Dom: How we feel now about the business then and how we feel now about the future? What kind of things we got planned?
Katie: Just so much better, just really optimistic and positive. And so obviously the book will be coming out early next year once I finish it. So what I'm going to be concentrating on a little bit more now is helping other people outside of the community come into Dogwood. So an online membership isn't for everybody straight away. And so I want to be able to help those people who are perhaps a little bit worried about entering into a subscription, even though you can cancel any time, there's really no risk.
Dom: Of course.
Katie: But some people do have an aversion to that. So I feel like there are still a lot of people that I could be helping with Scentventure. And so I'm just going to be creating more courses that people can buy individually rather than coming into the membership. More free events, which I really enjoy doing, so more webinars, another challenge in January, masterclasses, workshops. Now that the world has opened up again, some in-person events at Dogwood as well next year.
Dom: Super exciting. The book for you, I think it's going to be a real... On its own, even just on its own it'll be a pretty amazing thing for the business. And the book itself has touched so many people's lives, but like you said, when we're creative something like what you've created with an online membership where we're teaching one to many, and it's almost infinitely scalable, really. We just want to have lots of different ways for people to be able to take that step. And the book is one of them steps, like you said.
We did a lot of challenges last year, put some webinars, we did some mini courses and stuff, and we just have all these little things, all just kind of feeding people into this amazing community. Amazing. I'm excited.
Dom: Thanks so much for coming on and sharing your story, I really, really appreciate it. And where can people go to find out more about Dogwood and Scentventure?
Katie: So they can go to www.scentventure.dog.
Dom: Brilliant, fantastic. Katie G, Queen of the Fields, thank you so much.
Katie: You're welcome. Thanks to you.
Dom: Guys, if you're watching this, if you're interested in taking part in the coaching programme that Katie's a member of and which has helped her do all these wonderful things, if you got a big idea for a new business to come from your own pet business, then click on one of the links below and I'll help you do just that. Thank you once again, Katie.
Katie: You're welcome, Dom. Thanks.
If you would like to join Katie inside the world famous the Platinum Pet Business Coaching Program then click on the link below.