The doors at Dogdrop Denver just opened two days ago, but Carolyn Siria’s dog Thena is already pulling on her leash to get inside.
“This is only Thena’s second time here,” Siria says with a laugh. “But as soon as we pulled into the parking garage, she started to get excited!”
What has dogs so eager to try out Dogdrop, Denver’s newest short-term home away from home for your best friend?
For Thena, it might be the enthusiastic welcome from the staff—or the mini-agility course set up to offer mental and physical stimulation—or the chance to socialize with new buddies like Hugo (the Bernese Mountain dog puppy), Goose (the Goldendoodle), Pete (the Boxer), Remington (the Weimaraner), and Nova (the mostly German Shepherd mix).
Thena’s owner has her own reason to smile as she drops off. She likes the convenient location, the flexibility, and the high quality of services.
In the heart of the trendy 9+CO commercial and residential development, Dogdrop Denver reinvents the idea of dog daycare. Forget the traditional image of a large space that smells of day-old disinfectant and is filled with barking dogs running in circles. Dogdrop sits on a smaller footprint and feels more like a charming preschool with fun and stimulating activities set up in several rooms and led by engaged caregivers who give each dog personalized attention.
“It is like running a preschool,” says Dina Silverman, owner of the first Dogdrop to open in Denver. “For many people, their dogs are like their children. Because of that, Dogdrop offers services with an elevated level of care and concern.”
Silverman is well known in JEWISHcolorado circles for her work in Women’s Philanthropy. She co-chaired the 2022 Women’s Philanthropy “Cultivating Hope” luncheon, featuring JFNA Board Chair Julie Platt as the keynote speaker. Opening Dogdrop is not her first foray into running a small business. This new venture came about—like so many things in the past few years—as the result of the COVID pandemic.
Finding work-life balance
Check out Silverman’s resume and you will see she has deep corporate experience with companies like Kraft Heinz, Walt Disney, and Starwood Hotels. But balancing work and life in a corporate setting can present challenges.
“Traditionally, corporate work means long hours and inflexible schedules,” she says. “As a mom of two young kids, it just was not sustainable.”
She took a break for four years to be a full-time mom, but after her husband’s work brought the family to Denver, she decided to seek a more flexible approach to work by launching a career as an entrepreneur. In 2018, she became a franchisee for StretchLab which offers professionally assisted stretching routines.
“We were a year into it, and things were going great, like it was a well-oiled machine,” she says. “And then COVID hit.”
She kept the business going throughout the worst of COVID closures, but when a good offer to buy StretchLab unexpectedly dropped in her lap, she took it. She wasn’t ready to give up on owning a business though. She is a dog owner and found that she had a hard time finding services for her dog when she moved to Denver. She also began watching a market trend that developed during COVID.
“All these people were getting dogs, but the number of businesses serving dogs was not increasing,” she says. “I saw a business opportunity.”
She started looking for a way to elevate the quality of service offered in dog day care and offer people a convenient way to access dog care in the heart of a densely urban area. In Los Angeles, she found a model she liked in Dogdrop which was created by founders Shaina Denny and Greer Wilk. Silverman signed on as the first franchisee, confident that her experience owning StretchLab would serve her well in this new venture.
“Yes, it’s risky,” she says. “But being the first has its rewards.”
Offering a new model in dog daycare
Dogdrop opened almost one year to the day after Silverman signed a lease in an empty space (“it was a hole in the ground with no floors and no walls”) on the ground level of the Theo Apartments at 985 Albion, just a half block off Colorado Boulevard. The space is surrounded by multiple apartment complexes, restaurants, green spaces, wellness amenities, shopping destinations, and commercial buildings—all filled with people who own pups in need of care and activity while their owners work, shop, dine, exercise, or just take a nap.
The business is membership only to maximize personal connections between Dogdrop and dog owners. Dogs undergo a two-hour “good fit” test to ensure they are comfortable with other dogs, with humans, and in the space. Staff (or “Droperators” as they are called) are professionals with experience in handling dogs and training in dog behavior and psychology.
Unlike many dog day cares which require reservations, Dogdrop emphasizes convenience with curbside drop-off and no reservation needed whether the dog is staying for an hour or a day. For owners who work long days, there are extended hours.
“A lot of people want to have dogs, but they have no yards, they work from home, or they work long hours away from home,” Silverman says. “We give them flexibility—that is what people want today in their jobs and in their dog day care.
The 9+CO location is the first of three Dogdrop locations that Silverman plans to open in the Denver area. She believes that the economy is cyclical—fads come and go—but people will still want their dogs, making a dog service business recession-proof.
That’s not to say it was easy to get Dogdrop to opening day in a post-COVID environment with construction delays, supply chain issues, permitting backlogs, and labor shortages. But now that dogs are walking through the front door (racing through the door, in some cases), Silverman can finally breathe out and smile.
“It’s the positive feedback from customers that reminds you why you are doing this,” she says. “Now that we are finally open, the fun part starts—with a team, and dogs, and a business.”