Abby has always been a hard worker. I know that people say that about successful people who go into business for themselves, but Abby has had a strong work ethic from the time she was in-womb. Abby grew up at the Commodore Theatre in Olde Towne Portsmouth. Literally, since she was conceived! Her mom assisted with the renovations and the opening of the theater while she was pregnant and once Abby was born, her parents set up a crib in the theater’s office. This continued as her and her brother got older, with the school bus dropping them off not at home, but at her place of work. “I got a lot of child labor jokes,” recounts Abby, “Aren’t you too young to be working?” She says with a laugh. “But I remember as soon as I could walk I would take popcorn orders to people’s tables. It was a dinner movie theater, so you sit down, and you eat dinner. People would give me a quarter and I would get so excited and go buy candy!”
Abby launched Barksley in January 2017 after many years of planning. The business is growing rapidly mainly due to excellent reviews and strong word of mouth. Initially, Abby contacted us to post an ad looking to hire additional dog walkers and pet sitters so she could expand in the greater Richmond area, but we wanted to get to know this lively person who embraced us since we were first introduced at CHABA (The Church Hill Area Business Association).
What drives a young person to start their own business and how do you make it work in our neighborhood?
Abby’s mother is a dog and cat veterinarian with over 35 years of experience. It was at her practice, Timberlake Veterinary Hospital, in Virginia Beach, where Abby found the tools and the knowledge she needed before she opened her own business. “I just learned how to handle animals, what are common issues, medications, and illnesses with different breeds. I’ve seen seizures. I’ve unfortunately gone through the euthanasia process. So, just a little bit of everything. I really wanted to feel comfortable that I was providing a quality service before I started Barksley. I wanted to know what I was getting into.”
It is that kind of research and attention to detail that attracted clients like Justin and David. I met Abby at David’s house as I wanted to see what it was like first-hand to go on a walk with her furry clients. This is where I met Libby and Charlie, both mixed pits. Charlie is a special case since he suffers from vestibular disease so he gets a little more attention and a customized plan. Charlie and Libby each get different care, for example, Libby is dog aggressive so Abby has to be cautious not to allow other dogs to get near her on walks. David is nothing but pleased. “Every time, no matter how long or short the visit is, we get a summary of Abby’s walks with our dogs. Sometimes they’re short and sometimes they have adventures! But it’s a big comfort that there’s someone who obviously cares for them”.
It seems like, for Abby, every pet is an adventure. As we go on our walk with Libby, she tells me about another one of her clients. “One of my client’s dogs (Brando) loves to play in his water bowl. One time I refreshed it for him, put it down, and he shoved his whole face in it! I included that in the update, and the pet parent was like, “Oh yeah, he does that for us. We call it snorkeling.”
Barksley is based in Church Hill and services mostly, for now, the East End area. So neighbors from Montrose Heights, Union Hill, Shockoe Bottom and Shockoe Slip are some of her clients. “That’s a big reason I’m looking to expand by getting additional people. I want somebody who will do the same as me, in the area around them.”
Growing your own business and having it be successful sometimes means a bigger team. Abby has been making it work on her own, but the key to maintaining growth and availability is to have more hands on deck. “My interview process that I’ve designed is actually kind of long, and it’s long on purpose so I can really get to know somebody and know their character before I start to say to my clients, “I trust this person enough to take care of your pets in my stead. I need to feel confident that this person will be doing an excellent job, and will be valuing their time with the pet, and they’re not just watching the clock, thinking about their paycheck. I want them to genuinely enjoy their job, have a great time. Because the dogs and the cats, they know that. They know if you’re there for them and enjoying the time with them.”
On that last point, it is important to note that Barksley is not just for dogs. Barksley caters to small pets: cats, rabbits, and birds (sorry, no spiders). “That’s why the meet-and-greet is so important, to see that everything works out. But yeah, all pets. We have no breed restrictions, we have no weight restrictions.”
Think you’d like to work with Abby? Check out the job posting here:
Click the link if https://www.barksleyrva.com/career</a>you’d like to schedule a “Meet and Greet” and see if Barksley can be a good match for you and your pets.
Barksley offers morning, afternoon, and evening visits. Check out the pricing and what is included in a visit here: