IBJNews

Pet website enables owners to book kennels

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

A south-side Indianapolis entrepreneur is embarking on an online venture that could make it a lot simpler to book Fido’s next kennel reservation.

Chris Tilson, 29, unveiled petbookings.com to area kennels in May last year, and after a trial run is launching a national campaign to attract scores of others from across the country.

Booking hotel and airline reservations on travel websites has become big business. So why not apply the concept to pets while their owners are vacationing? Tilson reasoned.

“I felt it was an obvious move for the kennel industry,” he said. People are “going online to book all their other travel plans, so this seems like a natural process.”

Tilson should know. He oversees daily operations of Arbor Lane Kennel at 4835 E. Edgewood Ave., where his mother, Kathleen, started the family business as a child on her parents’ farm in 1963.

He graduated from Purdue University in 2005 with a degree in organizational leadership and business to help prepare him to join Arbor Lane Kennel.

During his transition toward ownership, Tilson implemented a paperless central management system to track reservations and customer information.

Later, in September 2009, he began tinkering with the idea of an online reservation system for pets. That most kennels are operated by mom-and-pop outfits lacking the resources to employ such an arrangement gave Tilson confidence that his concept might have merit.

To design petbookings.com, he sought out Canada-based HBCWeb.com, which specializes in travel-type websites and is owned by Priceline.com, a site for arranging hotels, flights and other travel needs. Development took about 18 months and an investment of roughly $35,000 of his own money.

Tilson introduced his site to 11 area kennels, including B&S Boarding and Grooming Kennels in Avon. Kyle McInnes, who purchased the business with his wife nearly four years ago, said he’s pleased with petbookings.com.

About a quarter of his clientele—mostly younger pet owners—chooses the online reservation service over the more traditional phone call, or even e-mail, McInnes said.

“Believe it or not, it is something that this industry needed, in the sense that we’re all mom-and-pop shops,” he said. “Technology isn’t always friendly to us.”

Indeed, petbookings.com is proving demand for the service. The site recently surpassed $100,000 in reservations, Tilson said.

With the bugs seemingly worked out, he’s sent letters to 630 kennels across the country hoping they’ll embrace it. Tilson has received interest from a kennel in Manhattan and another in Colorado Springs, Colo.

The challenge, however, is generating revenue. He isn’t charging kennels for the service. Rather, he hopes to attract advertising, which could be made easier if the service gets listed on a major travel website such as Expedia, Orbitz or Travelocity.

“I’m dealing with a bunch of small businesses,” Tilson said. “Rather than nickel and diming them for every reservation booked, I don’t want them to have to worry about costs.”

He hoped to build participation in his site through the Colorado-based Pet Care Services Association, which distributed a services listing to every kennel in the country, but economic hardships recently forced the organization to file Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

A major upside to petbookings.com is that it seems to have little, if any, competition.

It works by pet owners’ entering the city where they want to make the reservation, and then “check in” and “check out” dates and the number of rooms needed. Owners can follow up with kennels advertising vacancies.

Included in the listings are boarding rates, operating hours, amenities and customer reviews.

Providing as much data as possible is key to making the site work, said Dr. John Swengel, who owns the south-side Swengel Animal Hospital and is familiar with Arbor Lane Kennel.

“People today who really care about their pets want to know the condition of the facility will be up to their expectations,” Swengel said. “As long as they can put that out on their website, I see no reason why it wouldn’t work.”

A portal on participating kennels’ websites also enables owners to make a reservation without visiting petbookings.com.•

ADVERTISEMENT

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
ADVERTISEMENT

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
 
Subscribe to IBJ
  1. These liberals are out of control. They want to drive our economy into the ground and double and triple our electric bills. Sierra Club, stay out of Indy!

  2. These activist liberal judges have gotten out of control. Thankfully we have a sensible supreme court that overturns their absurd rulings!

  3. Maybe they shouldn't be throwing money at the IRL or whatever they call it now. Probably should save that money for actual operations.

  4. For you central Indiana folks that don't know what a good pizza is, Aurelio's will take care of that. There are some good pizza places in central Indiana but nothing like this!!!

  5. I am troubled with this whole string of comments as I am not sure anyone pointed out that many of the "high paying" positions have been eliminated identified by asterisks as of fiscal year 2012. That indicates to me that the hospitals are making responsible yet difficult decisions and eliminating heavy paying positions. To make this more problematic, we have created a society of "entitlement" where individuals believe they should receive free services at no cost to them. I have yet to get a house repair done at no cost nor have I taken my car that is out of warranty for repair for free repair expecting the government to pay for it even though it is the second largest investment one makes in their life besides purchasing a home. Yet, we continue to hear verbal and aggressive abuse from the consumer who expects free services and have to reward them as a result of HCAHPS surveys which we have no influence over as it is 3rd party required by CMS. Peel the onion and get to the root of the problem...you will find that society has created the problem and our current political landscape and not the people who were fortunate to lead healthcare in the right direction before becoming distorted. As a side note, I had a friend sit in an ED in Canada for nearly two days prior to being evaluated and then finally...3 months later got a CT of the head. You pay for what you get...

ADVERTISEMENT