DogSpot is a company that is dedicated to making a life for dogs easier. The organization provides air-conditioned dog houses in public places to help pooches cool off in hot weather. The innovative company is based in New York and is helmed by Chelsea Brownridge, a North Carolina native.

Chelsea moved to New York in 2011 to pursue her Master’s degree. She was a project manager for Ashoka and SYPartners—both of which are companies that are cutting edge as far as social impact, entrepreneurship, and innovation go.

Via a collaboration with the Huffington Post, Chelsea co-foundered a grassroots movement-building nonprofit called Ignite Good. It was while in this position that Chelsea rescued Winston, an adorable terrier mix. Winston went on to inspire Chelsea and her partner, Todd Schechter, to establish DogSpot in 2015.

In its earliest days funding for DogSpot was achieved primarily though pitch completions such as the Business Plan Competition, the Frontier Tech Startup Showdown, the Brooklyn Public Library PowerUp!

and the National Hardware Cup as well as the NYCEDC Futureworks program and the Urban Tech Hub program which is based at New Lab.

Chelsea granted an exclusive interview where she discussed her experiences as an entrepreneur and her plans for the future of DogSpot on May 5, 2019.

Business, nonprofits, and dogs

Meagan Meehan (MM): How did you get into the business world and why did socially conscious companies draw you in so much?

Chelsea Brownridge (CB): I was an economics major at UNC-Chapel Hill and one of my earliest business experiences was in undergrad with a microfinance organization in Peru.

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They would make small loans to (mostly) women who wanted to start businesses like selling food or handmade crafts. These small loans could and often did change these women's lives and their families' lives. For me, I saw the good that finance and business could do for people and communities and developed a deep admiration for the entrepreneurial women I met.

MM: You established a nonprofit called Ignite Good, so what was that process like and what is its main mission?

CB: Ignite Good was funded by Arianna Huffington, so the vision for the nonprofit was inspired by her.

She wanted to develop a way to get young people involved in service. There are many organizations that do that kind of work, so for us as we started to build an organization around that goal it was important to understand the landscape and be additive rather than redundant. Building a nonprofit isn't so different than building any kind of company -- we did our research, talked to potential customers to understand their behaviors and what was missing from the market, piloted a few programs quickly, learned from those programs and its participants, iterated on the model, hosted a few more programs....

MM: How did you come to adopt your dog, Winston, and how he did inspire the launch of DogSpot?

CB: I'm originally from Charlotte, NC. We've always had dogs in my family since I was born. My mom told me my first word was "Daisy", our family dog's name. When I moved to Brooklyn, I wanted to rescue a dog of my own -- my first dog outside of the family dogs. So, I got Winston from a rescue in Bedford, NY. Having a dog in a walkable city like Brooklyn presented new dog-ownership challenges -- while the city was his backyard and walking around after work and on weekends was his favorite thing in the world, the majority of places are not dog-friendly.

If I needed to run an errand after work or on the weekend, I found myself having to leave Winston home alone way more often than I wanted to, just because I was going to the store for a minute -- and I wouldn't risk tying him up outside the store.

MM: What is your company’s primary mission and how did you get the word out to the public?

CB: DogSpot is committed to providing safe and innovative solutions that build communities, support local economies, and open a world of possibility for dogs and their humans.

Dog houses, challenges, experiences, and the future

MM: You design air-conditioned public dog house “rest stops” in the city, so how many are on view now and how did you get the city to agree to place them?

CB: Yes, though "rest stops" should not be confused with "restrooms.” No, dogs don't go to the bathroom in them--that’s probably our #1 question! DogSpot is a safe place for your dog to wait instead of being tied up or left in the car. We operate on private property in NYC. In other cities, we also primarily operate on private property. When we're on public sidewalks, we have permission from the city -- those permits vary based on the municipality.

That said, we have over 25 Letters of Invitation from Mayors and Mayor's Offices from around the country inviting us to bring DogSpot to their communities -- places like Miami and DC and Columbus and Chattanooga. Cities want the latest technologies to improve the day to day lives of their constituents. With more dogs than children living in our cities, taking care of pets is a top priority for cities. DogSpot also contributes to more vibrant main streets, encouraging shopping and economic development.

MM: How different was the prototype dog house from the final version?

CB: Pretty different looking!

Our first house was built with all off-the-shelf parts. Thought many of the safety features are still similar: internet-connected, web-cam monitored, fully ventilated, lockable...

MM: How long did it take you to launch the company and what were the challenges of establishing it, funding it, and keeping it afloat?

CB: I had the idea in the fall of 2014 and we launched the prototype in October 2015. We were bootstrapped early days, funding it while still working full-time jobs. Since then we've raised venture capital.

MM: You just got featured in Newsday, so how did that come about and do you feel it helped you a lot in regards to getting exposure?

CB: The writer reached out to me after the Queens Chamber of Commerce recommended that he talk to us. It was a quick call and I was happy to participate! We're a fun business, so we tend to get people's attention. People love talking about dogs and technology! We happen to be both!

MM: What are some of the best feedback and experiences you’ve gotten from your involvement in DogSpot and what are your hopes for the company’s future?

CB: We've had so many positive responses from our location partners and our members. It's an amazing feeling to build something from scratch, put it out into the world, and see people use it!

I hope DogSpot continues to serve people and their dogs in the public realm where it's most needed and expand into new verticals to make our cities, even more, dog-friendly. If we can make it easier to have a dog and be a dog, then more people can experience the joy of having a dog in the family.

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