What: Online networking communities for dog-lovers
Who: Sheryl Matthys of Leashes and Lovers
Where: New York City
When: Started in 2003
Startup costs: Less than $1,000
Sheryl Matthys was born to be in the spotlight. After graduating from Butler University, she worked for several TV and radio stations before moving to New York City to work on industrial videos as a commercial actress. But it wasn't until 2001, when she got her first greyhound dog, Shiraz, that Matthys, 45, found inspiration--and a new calling. She developed and launched a website, Leashes and Lovers, a social community for people who can't get enough of their canine friends, and hosted dog-friendly cocktail parties all across the city to help launch the site. Leashes and Lovers is designed to connect dog-lovers and provide them with a sense of community, a place where they can set up doggie play dates and find charity and sponsored events. The site also offers a social networking feature called FetchaFriend. You can set up a profile for yourself and even your dog.
"Whether online or in person, it's much easier to strike up a conversation [when you have a dog]," Matthys says. "They provide a natural icebreaker for all of us." FetchaBiz is another section of the site where members can search for dog-related products and services. Members can also set up business profiles to promote their companies and sell items on their own.
Matthys is currently working on her book, The Dog Lover's Guide to Relationships, which should be released some time this year. In addition, she plans to start selling dog leashes and develop a clothing line for Leashes and Lovers members next year.
With 2008 sales of approximately $150,000, Matthys is pleased to be doing what she loves with the perfect canine companion by her side. "It never feels like work to me," says Matthys. "It always seems like playtime, and that's really rewarding."