BarkPark: College grads turn ‘unorthodox’ thesis into a real business

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The BarkPark vehicle is a customized second-hand Mitsubishi L300 van. (Photo by DAPHNE CRYSTAL UMALI and CELINE AMILHAMJA / Inquirer Volunteer Corps)

Dasher bounded under the gentle sunlight of a sleepy Saturday morning. From afar, his family watched his enthusiasm with fondness.

The two-and-a-half-foot tall Siberian Husky stared back as his family chatted with a young man with glasses. Excitement turned to curiosity as Dasher’s chocolate eyes followed the unfamiliar man as he walked towards him.

The stranger gestured for Dasher to follow him inside a bubblegum-coated mini truck while his family was preoccupied with something else.

Believing himself to be a “good boy,” Dasher boarded the truck. After the truck’s door closed, Dasher was placed on a table while the man soothed him with his gentle words.

The air was cool inside, a refreshing refuge from the rising noon sun. The sound of running water echoed around the close quarters of the truck.

Water fell softly on Dasher while he wagged his tail and began his two-hour spa and grooming experience with BarkPark.

Dasher’s family watched from the truck’s clear glass window. Cameras were brought out as the owners took pictures of a satisfied Dasher enjoying the lather.

A stress-free pet grooming experience might be an exceptional tale for some, but Dasher‘s family is one of the few who wielded a secret weapon: BarkPark.

Dasher, a Siberian Husky, gets a two-hour pampering inside the BarkPark mini truck. (Photo by DAPHNE CRYSTAL UMALI and CELINE AMILHAMJA / Inquirer Volunteer Corps)

BarkPark is a mobile dog salon navigating various parts of Metro Manila. Its owners adjust to the schedule of pet owners, providing their pets with a spa-like grooming service without them needing to navigate horrendous traffic.

BarkPark is the brainchild of Christian John dela Cruz and John Christopher Tria, who both graduated from the University of Santo Tomas last June 2017 with BS degrees in Entrepreneurship.

The duo are dog lovers:  Tria used to own a miniature Schnauzer named Lexi and Dela Cruz still has a beagle named Snoopy.

So they both understood the challenges usually faced by pet owners.

“When pets are taken to stores, they get stressed with the hassle of going there. Some get dizzy in the car. Then sometimes, the slot for grooming is not sure yet,” Tria said.

The length of the grooming process depends on the type and the size of the dog. Dasher would take about an hour and a half before his spa session ends.

‘Unorthodox’ thesis

Tria and Dela Cruz needed a win for their thesis topic when they were in their final year of college.

Most of their fellow entrepreneurship batchmates opted for food-oriented topics, but the two refused to be swayed by the tide.

They wanted something unique, something bold. They veered away from the typical and the “mediocre” and instead they aimed for something “unorthodox.”

“We didn’t want to just pass the subject,” Dela Cruz said. “We want to have an impact on the batches after us.”

“If I’m not mistaken, we were the first in our program, BS Entrepreneurship, to have this kind of business,” he added. “The service type, because dog grooming falls under pet care.”

“The others, they wanted to play safe. That’s why, their profit is also limited,” Tria said.

They researched about their idea first and discovered that the mobile pet grooming industry had not been around for long. They searched for any similar businesses and none appeared except for a provincial company with the same type of service.

With an estimated capital of P250,000 to P300,000, the two finally agreed on their thesis topic, took a risk, and ventured into the pet care industry.

They did not hesitate to turn their idea into a reality.

The duo started from scratch and personally looked for suppliers, employees, and equipment. They even designed their customized truck. They made use of their contacts, met new people, and discovered who had the most affordable materials and experienced groomers.

Dela Cruz said that BarkPark didn’t follow a rigid business model.

“We were the ones who made the blueprint,” he said.

As for the truck, they bought a second-hand Mitsubishi L300 van instead of a new one to save money. They went to a fabricator who was able to execute their unique design for the truck.

The vehicle has its own air conditioner and a waste tank for used water. A metal sink sits behind the driver’s seat while the right side of the truck has a long table with a hot blower.

The BarkPark truck is parked in Sampaloc, Manila near Dela Cruz’s house since the dog groomers live nearby. Being in the heart of Metro Manila also makes it convenient for their various bookings.

Although a lot of their classmates laughed at their idea and expressed doubts, the duo brushed them off.

“Nobody will believe us except ourselves,” Dela Cruz said. “We fell in love with the idea that we should believe. It materialized and until now, the business is still up and running.”

BarkPark’s uniqueness surprised their classmates, but Tria and Dela Cruz failed to win the Best Thesis award since it did not gain the highest profit.

However, both of them are still thankful that their thesis topic now roams various parts of the metro, offering convenient service to pet owners.

Well-trained and experienced groomers

After Dasher’s soapy shower, he is moved to the grooming table for a blow dry.

White fur swirled everywhere with some clumps sticking to the windows. After a while, the windows looked like a jigsaw puzzle of fur.

Dasher shifted around inside the truck. Tria explained that dogs usually dislike the blower part the most. But he added that Dasher was a well-behaved dog.

The groomer patiently brushed Dasher’s fur, gently calling out his name and telling him to smile for the camera. Since the start of the spa session, Dasher seemed at ease with the groomer.

Tria explained that their dog groomers, who had been working in the pet grooming industry for 10 years, come from various grooming salons where they got their initial training. Groomers were trained to handle the different personalities or conditions that a dog might have, he said.

“When the dog is sick, the groomer knows if he should continue grooming or send the dog to the veterinarian,” Tria said. “If the dog is sick, we just cancel the appointment rather than they get more sick because of us. There will be no extra charge for the gas.”

The “Full Groom” service by BarkPark starts with a general cleaning, bath, haircut, ear cleaning, nail cutting, perfume and powder.

The home service costs from P450 to P900 depending on the dogs’ size.

They charge P450 to P500 for grooming of small dogs, P600 to P700 for medium-sized dogs and P750 to P900 for large dogs.

Growth and expansion

Tria and Dela Cruz said they would want to expand their business in the first quarter of 2018. They had initially planned it for this year, but there were a lot of complications with their truck.

“We saw that there were a lot of repairs because the truck was second hand,” Tria said. “Maybe if we bought it brand new, we would be able to gain the money back faster. That’s why on some days, we don’t have operations. Sometimes we call the truck sick.”

Dela Cruz continues to look after the business and making plans to expand despite being a first year law student.

“We want to expand with two more mobile salons and one shop,” he said. “We want to capture the market. Just to capture Manila. Because in Manila, you would think it’s not a city full of dogs but once you look at it closely, the market is really huge.”

Tria plans to focus on BarkPark’s expansion first. Then he will look for a full-time job as soon as they’re confident in their staff’s capacity to handle the business.

Failures and challenges

Being business owners at a young age can be challenging. The duo attribute their success to determination, willingness, and persistence.

“Let’s just focus on the word passion,” Dela Cruz said. “Anything is possible. The sky is the limit.”

“If they are afraid to fail, maybe most of the time, people who’ve fallen, they are the ones who will most likely succeed,” Tria added. “Because of those falls, those mistakes, it’s like their path through success.”

When the mini snowstorm inside the truck finally ended, along with the nail clipping and ear cleaning, Dasher’s day was capped off with a spray of perfume and a dash of powder.

With the spa session done, Dasher hopped off the truck looking handsome, fresh, and squeaky clean.

The next dog entered the truck slightly shaking. After Dashers tranquil session, it looked like the groomer was about to face a challenge. Six other dogs were next in line.

Dasher was groomed with precision near his owner’s home, without hassle and resistance. BarkPark’s two distinguishing factors – “transparency” and “convenience” – were successfully met.

Dasher shook his fur and continued to strut around the street. His owners ogled at him as his eyes twinkled while his delicate scent wafted in the air. One couldn’t help but feel drawn to his gentle demeanor and fluffy white fur.

Dasher would probably be looking forward to his next day at the spa. – Celine Amilhamja, Daphne Crystal Umali , atm

BarkPark owners Christian John Dela Cruz (left) and John Christopher Tria (right) with their BS Entrepreneurship professor Jesse Martin. Photo by DAPHNE CRYSTAL UMALI and CELINE AMILHAMJA / Inquirer Volunteer Corps)



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