In this episode we interview Sean Downey, creator of MyBuddysPlace.com. Sean is a former branding executive with Nestle and was responsible for the Butterfinger brand. Sean took his marketing success and pivoted his career into technology and ultimately discovered his passion for animals and animal rescue. Sean first developed the cloud-based software, My Buddy’s Place, to help rescues manage their animals, volunteers, and fosters. Information is then transferred to pet parents through an easy to use mobile app upon adoption. Sean brought his experience from the corporate world and combined it with his passion for animals. “I want to redefine the business of rescue and help save more great animals,” says Downey. Learn more about what Sean is building next in this episode.
Welcome to the Professionals and Animal Rescue podcast, where goal is to introduce you to amazing people helping animals and share how you can get involved with animal rescue. This podcast is proudly sponsored by do bert dot com. Do Bert is a free website designed to connect volunteers with rescues and shelters and the only site that automates rescue relate Transport. Now on with our show today, we’re speaking with Sean Downey. Sometimes you can find true love in a bar. That’s what happened, Sean. One lazy summer afternoon in 2006 at Lucky Baldwin’s in Pasadena. Sean wouldn’t know yet, but meeting Rook, a six month old black and white Australian shepherd, would change his life. Just a little over a month later, Sean received a call from Rocks trainer, rocket, run out and open gate and have been sheltered at the Pasadena animal shelter for a few days. Brooks Familie was expecting a baby and decided they didn’t want the responsibility of an active, energetic Australian shepherd. Brooks trainer. Remember the connection that Rick and Shawn had and called to see if he was interested? Sean had to track a Labradors at home, but there was No doubt that Ruk was a one in a 1,000,000 dog that he would love to bring into his family. Johnson realized that dog is specials. Rook should be shared with others. He was a natural therapy dog. For the past 10 years, he’s been making weekly visits to nursing homes and foster homes in Pasadena. Hey, Sean. Welcome to the program, Crest. Thanks for having me. So tell us a little bit about you and give us some background on how you got into rescue. Sure. I started my career working for Nestle. Um, I actually managed the better finger brand. Don’t know if you remember the old, similarly campaigns birds on those. Yeah. Ah, And from there I got a really good, uh, background and branding. And then I moved into high tech. I did the jump like a lot of folks did around, you know, late nineties early two thousands and jumped into high tech and worked in high tech for about 10 12 years, working on in things from messaging. Like if you got ah, message from Southwest Airlines that told you that your baggage was lost, we worked on things like that. And then I moved over, um, into working with rescue and animal shelters, and I started by just doing volunteer work. Uh, I found an often dog named Brooke at the local shelter, and we started doing therapy work. And that’s how that was my real introduction into the world of rescue an animal shelters. From there, I started to realize, Wow, you know, I really need help. I had no only rook, but also had Bella and Mr Bobo. So I had three dogs and they were getting older. And I was like, I can’t keep up with their medical records and everything that needs to go and with, um And so I started to build a site that would help help me manage my records basically and help me manage, you know, my dogs lives. Nothing overly complex with just something to help. Um, from there I saw that I will be talking with rescues and people in rescues, and there was software and things out there form, but it was really complex, and it ended up being that they didn’t use it. And that’s when I realized there was an opportunity to help people and rescue by creating a simpler software solution. And that’s where my body’s place really evolved into what it is today. Um, we provide software to rescue organizations for free and then at the time of adoption, and this is a really big thing. All the information is transferred electronically, so no more file folders. You can still keep him, but they don’t have him. And those files thought that the information is transferred electronically, a new pet hair. And we found great success for that. So that’s how I kind of got started, started with doing branding, got him to high tech, uh, adopted a wonderful rescue animal and then saw that there were some need in rescue. So I thought I’d bring my skills to help them. Yeah, that’s really interesting. You’ve got kind of, ah, really diverse background with, like you said branding and then technology. That’s an interesting spin. So how how long have you been doing animal rescue related things? Now it’s probably coming up on 89 years now, Chris. I mean, when you start with the actual therapy dog stuff that I did with Rock where we went and visited, you know, folks in, you know, old folks homes and and working with young kids to, uh that are in need. It started that. And so it’s been about 89 years. Wow, that’s pretty cool. It time flies fast, doesn’t it? It does. It really does. Because when you ask me that question, I was like, Wow, it’s been eight or nine years. Then you kind of feel a little bit, you know, like, wow, where did the time go exactly? Yeah, yes. So now obviously through a problem that you had and just trying to manage rook and your other dogs records as they as they age. That was kind of your inspiration to come up with my buddy’s place. So give us a little bit more on that, that when did you launch my buddy’s place and kind of How does it work? Like with any idea? I think a lot of people start to see Gosh, who’s there was something out there that could do what I need, right? And then you start to think about it, and that was probably got long is back in like 2011. I was thinking about things like that, and then finally, the opportunity presented itself in 2013 to start kind of thinking about even more seriously and working on it. And then I really started full time on it in 2015 so that’s when it really started. But I want people to understand that like you can have the germ of an idea and always be thinking about it. That’s kind of like, always nurture that you know, always work without, even if you’ve got a full time job and you’re doing other things. I found nurturing it over those couple of years I was thinking about. It was really, really good. So I started in 2015. But like I said, it was a germ of an idea. As Faras backs 2011 God sets Now Is this your full time job? Are you still trying to hold a day job to keep my buddy’s place running? Well, you know, that’s always the great question, right? I would argue that it is the full time job, and I spent all my time on it. But you do have Teoh, you know, work to to pay the bills as well. So there’s a combination of ball. Yeah, I think the future is it’s going to be my full time job. Um, and we’re building it out such, but right now you have to balance ball. Yeah. No, that totally makes sense. And I think you’re, like, a lot of us and rescue Our hearts are in the right place, but we also know we have to put a roof over our heads and take care of our families, So yeah. Yeah. And, you know, some of what we’re trying to do is redefine the business for rescue. And we could talk a little bit more about that, too. Yeah, And that’s kind. I’m glad you said that, cause that’s kind of an interesting Segway. I mean, you started this out solving a problem, right? So keeping track of the records and things like that, And then just through your own experience with rescue and realize that Hey, wait a minute. I’m not the only guy out there that has this problem. Right? Adopters probably have this problem on the records coming from the shelter. There’s probably no easy way to actually transfer them and maintain them, right? Absolutely. I mean, just to give you a real life example, what happens during the adoption process. Rescues and shelter personnel tell me this all the time has do the adopters right. You’re going through the process. You adopt the dog or cat or given the paperwork, you’re so excited you throw the work in the back of your car and you’re just in love with your new buddy, right? And then, you know, two weeks go by and you go. You know what? It’s time to get my little new dog groomed and then you need the paperwork and you to raise your certificate. You need the board of tell you need whatever information you need to be able to, you know, to really introduce your dog to the world. And now you can’t find your papers. And now you’re calling the shelter of the Rescue to get it. It’s amazing, Christie amount of this just this little example of time wasted and chasing down. I need a copy of my Rabies certificate with what we’re doing with it all online that goes away because the documents always available to them, either through their mobile device, like an app or ah through the web. So that’s just one example of a real world problem that we solved and you would not believe the amount of time wasted looking up old records. Yeah. No, I can totally imagine. I know a lot of vet offices air starting to get some of the records online, but they’re not all connected. And so if you use multiple, that’s or if you end up switching vets, you’re kind of at their mercy, right? It’s You lose your data. So, you know, one of the things I thought was really cool when I was looking at my buddy’s places is the passport talk to us a little bit about the passport and what does it do? Well, that was another thing that we saw. You know, there are companies out there now. They’re walk your dog and, you know, and and baby sit your dog or overnight your daughter or whatever. Um, but what was interesting is our as our dogs become or more part of our lives to be traveling with us going, you know, restaurants going wherever you know. I mean, Doctor really kind of like kids. One a now three idea. The passport came out of that, and what the passport is is more than just your dog’s health records. It has pictures and has its personality in there. It has safety information like it’s chip information. It’s kind of a complete, you know, set of information, including human pictures for your dog. And what’s great is you can use the passport and you can send it to people that are gonna care for your dog or, for example, is going to go to a hotel and they want information. You can actually descend it. And it’s in a nice really we think, well designed interface that allows people all the information necessary for your dog to interact with wherever they’re going, be it the groomer beat a hotel or even to be in at Sally coming over to baby sit. Why you and your wife go away for a weekend? So it’s really, really a neat little tool. Yeah, no, that’s really cool when you think about it. And like you said is there’s a lot of use cases for it because as people are doing more with their dogs, there’s a constant need for that information and the latest, you know, records and where they vaccinated and what type and you know I know when Ah, my wife and I go away for a weekend or vacation. We’ve got four cats and one dog, and she literally has a binder of all of this information that she leaves for whoever’s sitting for our pets. Exactly. So you can imagine instead of having leave that binder, they just log into buddies and they can look up all the stuff or you can just send it to him and it’s all electronic and they can log in and get their information. It’s It’s a really neat little tool, and the good thing about it is it’s not. You’re not leaving all your valuable information with them. It’s all online. I mean, they can read it, but they can’t. They can’t change the information. So it’s great. And the other thing is, let’s say you’re traveling and you get in an emergency. Well, you’re not gonna have those records with you, you know, I don’t mean conceptually. You’re not carrying your dogs records. Everywhere you go right. But with the buddies place, passport and the bodies much app, By the way, um, if you have all your dog stuff right at your fingertips, whatever you need. Yeah. No, that’s that’s really cool. And I definitely think it’s a great resource for people. You know what? What? I find really amazing about what you’re doing. Those Sean is You guys haven’t stopped there, right? I mean, so you’ve built this thing. That’s great. And people can use this passport, but, you know, talk to us a little bit about the rescue story, because I really think that’s amazing what you’re trying to do to help out rescues and shelters as well. Well, the thing that we saw, you know, there’s a business part of me too, right? I mean, I was raised it, you know, working for Nestle. And Nestle owns Farina, you know? So I’ve I’ve been exposed to the pet care industry and also with the high tech stuff. I saw an industry Chris pick. Here’s a $70 billion estimated $70 billion industry in the United States. Right. Um, we still, though, have almost 1/3 of our animals that atop the animals going into shelter and rescues that are being put down. In addition of that, about $70 billion industry animals being put down. You have a bunch of people trying to help those animals get adopted and the funding just isn’t there. And what we looked at was, how do we help them? Kind of self fund. If you ask rescues, what they need the most is time and money, right? Right on these volunteers, They’re giving their time, um, and and we’ll talk a little bit about that. So first is when they’re getting their time that you know they’re not. They need help with the administrative side. So buddies evolution into the administrative side was to give them the software we were just discussing earlier. All that management, health records, all that kind of stuff. The second aspect of it is money. Well, where they get their money is through donations for the most far and the adoption trees that they get from, uh, from the new pet parent. But there’s still a gap there. If you want to know the real numbers, it’s you know, typically, they get between 52 to 75 $300 for an adoption fee and a typical animal cost anywhere between 4 to $800. Teoh to save so you can see there’s a gap there. Um, and that’s you know, if you look at it as they say in the business side of the world, a fully loaded you know, dog that’s been saved can average $700 including all of it all the, you know, getting its Spain neuter, you know, getting the shots up to date. Any medical care it needs grooming. Is it needed it all that stuff. So there was a big gap there. So what we did was we said, OK, $70 billion industry, It’s growing. Everybody wants to get into it. You know, Blue Buffalo just sold for you know what? $8 billion crazy. You know, that’s crazy. So he said, How could we help them out? So what we did was we credited Pets. PetSmart slash chew ease for right, dedicated to rescues and shelters. So we have a large online store that delivers within 2 to 3 days food treats, collars everything you would expect from a PetSmart injuries, delivers it to your door fund, and the proceeds go back to animals and animal welfare and rescues. So we don’t need at purely Furman a cash perspective. 6% of of the sale price directly to the rescue of the of the parent or purchasers choice. So you don’t It’s not just going to a general fund. You can actually tell us where were the sending money. And then the rest goes to support all that administration and software support that we give that. So all the money’s flowing back to rescue and shelter organizations in one form or another. And, you know, parents gonna buy this stuff anyway. Why not buy as we say, Why not shock for good and use the money? Thio, Thio, You know you’re gonna buy the pet food, you’re gonna buy the bold you’re gonna buy the caller’s. Why don’t you do something in the help support animal Rescue with the overall goal of making them completely self sufficient. So you can imagine we’re gonna We’re gonna try to help them, you know? Unfortunately, it is business. We’re gonna try to help them, um, managed that businesses well as they can so they can do what they’re really good at, which is help rescue and save more animals. We really believe Chris at the end of the day that we can increase the percentage of animals that rescues can say by using our administrative support, and then we can help fund them, um, at a rate probably up to. But we hope one day, 100%. But our goals are, you know, get them to 50% funding 75% fund and you know, just kind of grow that over your time so that their self funded so you could imagine they can save more animals, they’re more efficient and their self funding, that’s our ultimate goal with it all with it ended up being that we hope one day, just like best friends and other organizations, that we’re in a point where we’re at an equilibrium where we’re almost a no kill nation. Of course, that’s got a lot of definitions to it. But you understand what we’re trying to go. Yeah, no. And I think that’s what’s really cool. Is your bringing your business background your branding your technology just in just in your business sense and recognizing something that I know? I’m a big proponent of which is rescues and shelters. They are a business right there business with a nonprofit mission and goal, but they still have to operate as a business where they’ve got, you know, expenses and costs. And they need to bring in some form of revenue to offset that. A lot of them obviously focus on donations. But what I really think is interesting is your You’re taking something that they need. Anyways, you said so people are going to buy pet food and treats and things like that. So why not buy them in support of that organization that they adopted the animal from? Exactly exactly. You know, we call it like we said. We call it shop for good. And the whole concept is Look, we have all the products that you need. It’s not like we’re just offering something random. We have all the big brands. We have high quality collars and leashes and bowls on beds. You name it. We have it. We have, you know, upwards of 10,000 products on the site. So we have what we are looking for, and the goal is shocked with us. And we go back and support where your animal came from. So there any Yeah, go ahead. I’m sorry. These are even in the case. Where? Let’s say you didn’t get a rescue animal or you don’t have a rescue of your choice. But you want to support animal welfare. Great way to do it. Yeah, So if there’s an organization you know, a rescuer shelter or obviously just a general public person that’s listening to this, what do they do to get to get involved in to get going with us? Well, there’s two things that you knew. They can actually write me at Downey at my buddy’s place dot com. That’s my direct email, and I will put them in contact with our staff. I mean, office. I’ll reach out and talk with them and then put them in contact with her staff and get them set up. And we can set up their their rescue account for the administrative stuff that takes literally about five minutes to get it set up. We have a technology that really automates a lot of what they have to do so that it’s pretty easy for them to get set up. And then as far as the story goes, that’s just really ah, working with us on what we call co branding the site, which means that our brand and their brand is on the side. So when people come to shop. They realize they’re supporting their rescue, but they can shop for all the items they want. So for that, I just think if you’re out there and you have a rescuer a shelter, think of it as, um, your own personal PetSmart last year. He’s online. Yeah, I know. What I really think is cool is that you’re really working hard to put a large percentage back where it belongs, right with the rescues and shelters, the people that are doing the most work that hard, this work. I know a lot of times people talk about Amazon smile and Amazon does, you know, support charities. But it’s a little lower rate than I think what you’re doing. So so kudos to you for really dedicating. Thank you, Chris. That’s one of the things is Amazon donates 0.5% of your purchase through Amazon. Smile 0.5%. So if you spend $1000 they’re gonna donate five. Right? Um and you know that Hats off Amazon gigantic company. Everybody knows. So that’s good. I’m glad that they’re noting something back. Use Amazon smile. We would donate $60 so we would donate at least 6% plus all the other work, including the software in the administrative help that we that we work with, as we discussed earlier with the rescues. So that’s 12 times with Amazon donates for the same things you’re gonna anyways. So what we say is shocked with us. I mean, when you buy a £30 bag of dog food from us, you’re donating 10 meals to a shelter, not one, that’s the difference. And imagine organizations working yeah, organizations working with their adopters to start buying from the store, they could actually get a really good set of recurring revenue coming in. Exactly. And the other thing that you have to think about two is and we work with so many rescues that ah, you know, we see this, which is It really allows you to stay engaged with your user to, because we send reminders at the end of the month that hey, thanks for your purchase. You’ve donated to X y Z rescue, and it keeps that relationship going, which is really important because that keeps it also fresh when you do want to get a donation. So there’s what this is all this is like a win win for everybody the pet parents get. You know the information, Elektronik read. They get an app that helps him care for their dog. They get opportunity to buy really high quality products from a store that those at good prices and good value. Then that money ends up circling back to the rescues that they want to support. And then the rescues get the money and they’re adamant support. So, like I said, it’s this beautiful circle that we think we hope to continue to grow. And as you see us rowing one day, you’ll hit. People go, Yeah, Doctor, my dog and I got buddies with, You know, that’s what we hope that if people say or do you use buddies? It’s great because it helps support, you know, animal welfare in the US. Yeah, well, kudos to you for building such a forward thinking platform, so you kind of touched on. But But what’s next for bodies? Place? Where you taking? Exactly what we talked about is we want to connect all the dots and bring it. Think about right now. We’re on the West Coast and we we were in Florida. And what we’d like to do you think of our Our platform is a complete ecosystem for rescue and shelter animals, and we can place that platform in Seattle, in Milwaukee and New York. Now when I say place, it means let’s start really concentrating on it. So what we want to be able to do is take what the success we’ve had in basically California and Florida and bring it across the country so that everybody is aware of the body software in the buddies marketplace and that complete ecosystem for shelter and rescue animals. Our goals is fan through the U. S. On and continue to create awareness, which you giving us US opportunity today to talk about. What we’re doing is we’re really thankful for it because it helps people become more aware of what we’re trying to accomplish. Yeah, I know, and that’s really cool, Sean, And it sounds like there’s gonna be a lot of great stuff in the in the years to come, so well, thank you for coming on the program and explaining a little bit about you and your background and how you got into this. Is there anything else you want to share? their listeners before we wrap things up. Yeah, I think I would check us out at my buddy’s place. B u D b Y s p l a ce dot com And that will be the rescue and shelter side and the adoption side of what we do. And then on the other side is my buddies marketplace, which is the store on. They are interconnected, but we have to. One side is for the rescue and adoption, and the other side is for the store. So if you have a chance, go check those out. It’s my buddy’s place. B u D d Y s dot com and my buddies marketplace dot com. Great. Well, thank you shown for coming on today, and we look forward to seeing what’s coming in the future. Absolutely uh, really excited. Thanks for tuning into today’s podcast. If you’re not already a member, joined the Air P A. To take advantage of all the resources we have to offer. And don’t forget to sign up with do bert dot com. It’s free and helps automate the most difficult tasks in animal rescue