On a sunny afternoon in Beacon when Corinne Hrinko pulled up for our interview in her bright green KIA Soul. As she slowed to a stop, a line of curious furry heads poked through the cracked windows in the back.
“Hello!!” Her voice sang over the sounds of six pups stirring and barking with excitement in the backseat. “The gang is all here!” Corinne popped out of the car and went to work unloading each of the dogs, double-checking their harnesses, and giving lovable praise to each one as she swiftly untangled a mind bending amount of leashes.
She finally corralled the pups into a walkable formation and I just stood by, in awe, as she guided the huge pack of dogs up and down the street with such poise.
It’s no surprise that Corrine has an impressive reputation, as one of the best dog walkers in Beacon. Yet she is the first to admit, she wasn’t always a ‘dog whisperer.’ Building her biz took some serious time and effort and I was psyched to sit down with Corinne to talk about her journey. I quickly learned that there is so much more to dog walking than I ever imagined!
Corinne got her feet wet in the dog walking business about four years ago, when she joined the popular dog walking app ‘Rover’.
Corinne: At that time in my life I was really isolating myself at home all the time, because I was doing online school. I didn’t get out much and I was feeling really down, depressed, and disconnected. When I got my first clients [dogs] Jake and Petunia, I walked them one time everyday and it really gave me a reason to get out of the house and get active.
Just this one walk each day had a huge positive impact on Corinne’s mental health and it inspired her to continue taking on more clients. In no time, she had a full roster of pups.
Corinne: That was a few years ago and it’s just taken off from then. I never thought it would grow into a full blown career!
It wasn’t long before her five-star Rover reviews dubbed her the #1 most recommended dog walker in Beacon. (wow!) Then, after a long time of successful Rover-ing, Corinne’s ambition took over and she created her own dog walking business: ‘Koypawshi’
Corinne: Once I left Rover, I started to get so many new clients in Beacon and it just kept growing! I was able to leave my other job [at Wendys] and really focus on doing this full time. It’s honestly a dream.
Corinne has walked over 150 dogs since starting her business and it continues to expand everyday. Here, she shows off her GIANT keychain with client keys and Fobs from clients all over Beacon:
With such a huge footprint in Beacon, I was curious about her marketing strategy to promote Koypawshi.
MSB: How do you market yourself & the business? Social Media? Email campaigns?
Corinne laughs and shakes her head...
Corinne: Nope, zero marketing actually! I mean I have a Facebook page and an Instagram and stuff, but it’s really all been word of mouth. People just keep recommending me and that is how I get all my clients.
Corinne has made a particularly great impression at the Beacon Falls apartment complex on Leonard Street- she walks almost every dog in those apartment buildings! She notes that building a full client list is all about building relationships with the dog owners.
Corinne: I obviously wouldn’t be anywhere without the connections I make with my clients... but it’s not always easy. So many people don’t know what goes on behind the scenes, day to day, with all the dogs I walk. It can get a little hectic!
Corinne pulled up her calendar on her phone for me to look at. From what I could see, each day had time slots blocked out with various dog’s names. Most of her days were completely blocked out, some days starting as early as 7AM and ending as late as 7PM- and that isn’t including weekends, when dogs stay with her for overnights!
MSB: Woah! It looks like you’re working all the time. Do you ever have a day off?
Corinne shrugs with a smile and I can tell it’s a question she probably is asked a lot - or maybe it was a question she hadn’t asked herself in a while!
Corinne: I’ll walk dogs on Christmas Eve if my clients need me! Hmm actually I did take a day off last year. I think it was Thanksgiving, but it was just one day. My clients need me!
She admits that she is still trying to master her work/life balance, but she loves what she does, so it really doesn’t feel like work at all. So far, Koypawshi has remained a one-woman biz with Corinne walking every dog herself since day one. But as her client list grows, I wondered if she was looking to hire another dog walker to help her out and share the load.
Corinne: You aren’t the first to ask me that! But the thing is, I have heard such horror stories of dog walkers in the area. Some just don’t show up for a walk or they treat a dog poorly- a lot of my current clients came to me because of bad experiences with other walkers, so I don’t trust anyone yet to take care of these dogs, other than myself!
Corinne recognizes that each dog is ‘someone’s baby’ and their safety and well-being are her top priority and it’s a lot of responsibility, considering she works with such a huge variety of dogs- different breeds, temperaments, appetites.
Corinne: I definitely do way more than just walking the dogs. I help with training them and socializing them. I board dogs at my home and I also have a bunch of day-stayers [dogs that stay with Corinne for full days during the week], that require special attention.
And yet Corinne’s rates are extremely fair...low, even!
MSB: That’s a lot of work! I feel like you could definitely raise your rates!
Corinne: I do adjust them occasionally... but honestly, I would rather make less and have time for each dog. I want to be able to pay more attention to each dog, instead of approaching it like ‘okay, how much money can I make today?’
Corinne’s approach to focusing on outstanding and affordable service, really ties into the whole reason she started the business in the first place, to bring her joy. Joy that clearly trickles down to the pup’s experience too.
Corinne: I think if I ran the business with a money-making only mindset, I wouldn’t enjoy my job as much- and the dogs probably wouldn’t like me as much either!
Corinne has such palpable enthusiasm and love for her work, but her extremely accommodating nature sometimes proposes challenges for her as an entrepreneur.
Corinne: Sometimes I need to have uncomfortable conversations like, if I adjust my rates to fit a client’s extra needs or if someone forgets to pay me... those conversations have ended relationships in the past. So there’s a lot of anxiety around those kinds of negotiations, asking for payment when people forget, and talks about sticking to set schedules. I never want to hurt anyone’s feelings or make them feel wronged, because I also know they can just drop me and find a new walker at any time.
These situations are rare, but it adds to the ongoing learning experience for Corinne, as her business continues to expand. Especially, as she tells me, since the market for dog walking can be unpredictable.
Corinne: I have three clients that are about to move away from Beacon - that’s three dogs I walk every week! So, it really goes up and down. That’s why I’m so grateful for people who recommend me.
(Pssst: that means she currently has 3 open slots for new dogs to walk!)
When I asked Corinne if she had a favorite dog, aside from her own of course- Dakota and Scooby, two adorable Cavalier King Charles Spaniels pictured here:
It's no surprise that she doesn’t pick favorites.
Corinne: They all have their own quarks and personalities. It’s so fun getting to know each of them...They [the dogs and their humans] have really become like family!
Corinne’s hope for Koypawshi’s future is to continue serving the Beacon community and upholding her commitment to be the best dog walker she can be.
MSB: If you could describe yourself as a dog walker in three words, what would they be?
Corinne: Fun, safe, and reliable.
Check, check, and check. When it comes to taking care of Beacon’s fur-babies, Corinne is truly as good as it gets!
Corinne is currently accepting new clients for the spring/summer!
*But hurry, hurry... this dog queen fills up quickly!