Even just a cursory online search for pet sitters reveals a slew of services and organisations, suggesting that, even in South Africa, that minding and walking pets is a boom market.
As a matter of fact, such is South Africans’ love for their pets – little wonder that pets now go by the colloquialism fur-kids – that the country’s pet-care market is estimated by some to be worth some R4.6 billion right now, and expected to grow to R5.5 billion by 2021. “People spend a lot of money on their pets,” says Boitumelo ‘Tumi’ Menyatswe, the young and energised young tech entrepreneur with some smart plans to break into that market.
Her strategy is built around Minderz (minderz.co.za), an online platform that allows pet-owners to sift through the vetted home & pet-minders featured on the app to find one they would trust with their beloved fur children. On Minderz, they will find an array of services. There are house-slash-pet sitters. There are minders who will take pets into their own homes for overnight stays. There are drop-in visits, and a dog walking service. Owners are also encouraged to meet with the minders – although if the transactions are taken offline, Minderz takes no responsibility if anything goes wrong – and can also make payments on the platform itself. To make sure minders are credible and reliable, Tumi has struck up a collaboration with an online identity verification service that runs a series of checks on those applying, on the platform, to be minders.
Not a developer herself, Tumi has recruited other developers to design the system that serves as the backbone for minderz. “I’m a dreamer,” she says. “The kind of person who likes to think that anything is possible, and wants to make that dream come to life.”
Those dreams may drive her, but Tumi, an entrepreneurship graduate from the University of Johannesburg, knows that they have to be backed up by some of her own nuts-and-bolts expertise.
She’s found that at InnoTech, a business incubation and acceleration programme that aims to take black-owned start-ups from concept to market. The programme is run on behalf of Telkom FutureMakers – Telkom’s enterprise and supplier development programme – by the Bandwidth Barn in Woodstock, which forms part of the Cape Innovation and Technology Initiative (CiTi). Through InnoTech, start-ups are provided with business training, office space, internet, telephone access, and a R20 000 ‘angel grant’.
All that support has been invaluable, says Boitumelo, whose Minderz is one of seven start-ups now on the programme. But if one part of that bundle of services that has stood out, is being within a shouting distance to other InnoTech fellows who, like her, are looking to make it big.
“Building a business is pretty much like walking a very long and lonely, lonely road,” she says. “We all work in one office, so even though we’re all working on our own businesses, just being with each other every day, seeing each other, being able to talk to each other, and really just understanding what the other person is going through, that has been amazing.”