How a Passion for Pets Saves Over 1700 Animals in Iowa
My name is Sara Henderson and I love animals more than people. (Kidding. Some days.) So in the Fall of 2009 when I met other women who also cared about animals and wanted to change the world, we put our collective brains, skills and resources together and formed The Pet Project Midwest.
What produces or services does your non-profit offer?
We had big dreams for our future, but very quickly realized that the best thing we could do to help animals (and people) in central Iowa was to help those who were having a hard time keeping their pets. Reducing the number of loved pets turned over to shelters was something we could do that would have a ripple effect of ‘good’. The pets win, the people win, the community wins. The cost of keeping a pet in its home averages $15 per month while the cost of rehoming a pet via a shelter is $10-15 per DAY and that often comes from taxpayer dollars. The animals without homes win because they have more time to find the right love match.
We’ve had our doors open, officially, since April 2010. In that time we’ve posted hundreds of lost and found pet alerts on IowaPetAlert.com, a free website that uses technology and social media to get the word out and reunite families, all for free. Our biggest program is the Pet Pantry. In 16 months we’ve kept more than 1700 animals in more than 900 households. We provide food and supplies for up to four months, to give people time to get back on their feet.
That’s where inFlow comes in. Before we had inFlow, we used a Filemaker database to track client information and monthly distributions. It was clunky, ugly, and not as helpful as we would desire (I can say that, since I designed it). Since we’re 100% volunteer run, anything that makes life easier counts, a lot! We were able to start using inFlow almost immediately, with almost no learning curve.
What are some day to day challenges you face?
Managing inventory is tricky for us. We get products from company food drives, individual donations and corporate donations. We also make purchases from a wholesaler and receive retailer donations of ‘partial’ bags.
We get completely different products every day of the month, so when we are building a client ‘sales order’, we can’t say “40# Purina One.” We have to say “35-40# dry dog” and then look for anything that fits the range (pet food manufacturers are not consistent in the weights of their packaging). It may not be sexy but it works. inFlow has definitely improved our lives and helps us get back to our families sooner in the evenings, although there are still some quirks we’d love to overcome – like batch printing sales orders, queried by date!
What advice could you give to other small businesses?
My thoughts for small businesses (and other nonprofits) are to have a good idea of what you’re going to sell, build a great team of coworkers, appreciate your supportive family, maintain a bank of Pollyanna-style energy, and find software that keeps you on track without causing hair loss. It’s absolutely worth it, despite the long hours and the rookie mistakes. Whether you’re keeping pets with the families who love them, or getting the perfect shoelaces to market, nothing feels as good as knowing you’re making your dreams come true.
Anything else to add?
For more information on the pet project, be sure to visit The Pet Project Mid West Webpage.