Natural born entrepreneur, Brittany Alwerud, turned her part-time college dog-walking gig into a 20-person business that essentially runs itself. Inspired by books like E-Myth Mastery and The Four-Hour Workweek, she created her very own on-demand platform and app called Handlr, that helps small businesses scale and run without much effort. Brittany's entrepreneurial spirit and savvy business sense has allowed her to create two successful businesses, travel to over 25 countries, and work from the comfort of her rustic Topanga pad in LA - home to two horses, a donkey, three dogs and a cat. Let's get to know her better...
Tell us the story behind your entrepreneurial ventures.
“My whole life I’ve been a crazy animal girl. I grew up on a little avocado ranch in Temecula and my childhood was filled with horses and dogs. When I went to UCSD, I missed having animals in my life, so I decided that I would create a job for myself that would allow me to bring my dog to work and so that I could get my very own puppy. I started taking care of my neighbor’s dogs and before I knew it, word of mouth took off and I was walking a dog on almost every street in La Jolla. I was working two other part-time jobs at the time, while driving up to LA for modeling gigs and also going to school full-time. By the time I graduated, my small business was taking off, so I decided to quit my other part-time jobs and invest my modeling earnings into creating a professional dog walking and dog sitting company. My family was initially shocked to learn that I went to UCSD to become a dog walker, but I put my head down and worked extremely hard to prove to them (and myself) that I was a business woman - not just a dog walker. My mom became my first employee and the rest is history. Today, DogZenergy employs 20 people, and together, we take care of 200 dogs per week.
I’ve learned a LOT over the past 12 years running DogZenergy. At one point, I was extremely burned out; I was so exhausted from working 12 hour days, that I literally ran into the back of a trash truck. At that point, I knew that I needed to re-gain control of my business and my life, which is when I decided to put myself into my own mini MBA and read every business book I could get my hands on. I read E-Myth Mastery, by Michael Gerber, and The Four-Hour Workweek, by Tim Ferriss. These two books changed my life; they taught me that I needed to start working “on” my business and not just in it. I needed to put the systems, software and team in place so that I could create a sustainable business that could run without me.
For several months, I searched for software that could do all of the things I dreamed of. I wanted to offer my clients the on-demand app experience that Lyft, Airbnb and OpenTable offered their clients. I also needed a way to schedule and dispatch my team of dog walkers and be able to GPS track them to make sure they were completing all of their scheduled walks for the day. Even more importantly, I wanted a way to store my client list and their credit cards, so that upon completion of a service, my dog walkers could checkout, and it would automatically bill my client’s credit card. I hated invoicing and tracking my clients down for late payments. So I created Handlr, an on-demand platform that does all of this and more. It automates scheduling, fleet dispatching, GPS tracking, performance ratings for my staff, and invoicing. It does everything for me so that my business runs itself like a well-oiled machine. Because of Handlr, I’ve been able to achieve the four-hour work week with DogZenergy and have since traveled to over 25 countries. I’ve been able to dedicate myself to Handlr and focus on helping other small business owners overcome burnout and grow their businesses beyond their wildest dreams.
How do your passions and values align with the ethos of Handlr?
I'm extremely passionate about creating the life that you absolutely love. A lot of people start a business to gain freedom from the 9 to 5 work week, but then find themselves working 24/7 and become slaves to their business. I love helping business owners scale their business to the point that they can put a team and systems in place to create revenue that affords them the lifestyle that they’ve always wanted. I value family, friends, pets and travel more than anything, so it’s important that I can dedicate as much time to those things as possible.
What's the hardest part about running your own businesses?
Where do I start? Ha! Running a business is painful. It's not glamorous whatsoever. You have to learn as you go and it’s ok to scream, cry and find yourself balled up on the floor. As long as you pick yourself up and keep going, you’re all good. I used to get extremely emotional about every bump in the road, but after reading a ton of self-help books and studying Zen Buddhism, I’ve trained my brain to see adversity and look at it as an opportunity to grow. With every hard thing I’ve gone through, I’ve learned a huge valuable lesson. The next time the $hit hits the fan, I know how to handle it. I’ve also realized that the unknown is scary, but if you surround yourself with people that can help you and educate you, it becomes less scary with the more that you know. There’s also a great quote by Mark Twain about worrying that I like to repeat to myself, “I’ve had a lot of worries in my life, most of which have never happened.” My dad always used to say that it’s amazing how many things can go wrong in any moment and yet, 99% of the time, things are really good. A meteor could drop out of the sky or you could get a call that you’re being sued, but most of the time, that’s just not the case. Worrying about bad things happening is just going to zap you of the mental energy you need to carry your business forward. It will also rob you of your happiness in the moment.
How do you define success?
I'm still seeking to define this. But as I write this, I currently have a cat on my lap, a dog on my feet and another one snuggled up next to me on the couch. There’s a pot of soup on the stove and I get to have dinner with my Love. Pretty sure it’s the little things in life that make it so worth living.
Who do you admire?
My husband is one of the hardest working people I know and he lives life to the fullest. It’s hard to keep up with him because he’s always in pursuit of maximizing the small amount of time that we have on Earth. He’s taught me so much about staying positive and pursuing the best experiences with the people you love. We’ve been together 12 years and every year I somehow fall more in love with him and more in love with life itself.
You have tons of animals, most of which are VERY large! Tell us why you love having such a full house.
Oh how I love my animals! Currently, we have two golden retrievers named Daisy and Taj, an Irish Wolfhound named Wolford, a cat named Monkey, two horses named Gracie and Moo, and a mini donkey named Goose. We're also getting a new mini donkey baby named Zeus who is the full brother to Goose, but he’s still with his mom. I can’t wait to bring him home to the Little Brown Farm!
My whole entire life I’ve been motivated by being able to ride horses. As a kid, my mom would buy me a Saddle Club book if I got an A on a spelling test. I was only allowed to ride if I kept my grades up and my parents told me that they would only get me a horse if I could prove that I could keep straight A's for all of elementary and middle school. As an “adult” I’ve always been motivated to be successful in business so that I could afford to have as many dogs, horses and donkeys as I want. My dream is to have a huge ranch one day so that I can rescue tons of horses and dogs. I want to invite kids who have never experienced animals and nature to feel the love, healing and lessons that animals can provide for us.
Your TOP 3 HANDBAG ESSENTIALS, go!
Three dog poop dogs. Because you never know when one is not enough!
Do you have any daily routines that keep you motivated and refreshed?
Raking my Zen Poo Garden (aka picking up horse poop). I get my best ideas doing this! I also love to cook and I try to do some sort of physical exercise 5-6 days per week to keep my mind sharp. Whether it’s horseback riding, riding my Peloton bike, hiking or doing pilates - I'm happiest when I’m able to break away from my desk. As a business leader, it’s important to clear your mind and look for inspiration away from your desk in order to drive your business forward with new ideas."
December 3, 2018
Photos by @CAMBRIA_FODEN