Allie's Walkabout grows from child's dog-walking business to thriving family doggie day care

With boarding and grooming, too

ERLANGER, Ky., -- When you hear the term "family business," what comes to mind?

A business that Mom and Dad start, and then hand over to their children, right?

Allie's Walkabout, an Erlanger doggie day care, boarding and grooming business, is a family business. But in this case, one of the children started it and handed it to her parents -- and her siblings.

In 2010, when she was 9, Allie Clegg asked her father, David, for some spending money. David told her no and suggested she ask their neighbors if she could walk their dogs for pay.

She did, and soon had more business than she could handle. Dog owners began asking her to watch their pets when they were out of town, and soon the house was filled with dogs. She recruited her older brother, Simeon, and older sister, Audrey, to help her and the family was walking them four and five times a day, David said.

"It was crazy," Allie said. "We had 40 dogs in our little ranch home in Villa Hills."

Allie Clegg and her dog, Niki.

In October 2015, the business began leasing its present facility, with 12,000 square feet under roof at 2640 Crescent Springs Pike. It holds about 80 dogs but could hold more than 120 if all the space were built out, David said.

About 30-35 dogs do day care there, and they're all expected to follow the facility's "no barking" policy, which was put in place out of necessity when the dogs stayed in the house. The staff makes that happen by trying to find out what's stressing the dogs and removing that stress, David said.

Each of the staff of 20, not including family members, takes about 20 hours of training designed to help them understand dog body language and interaction language, he said.

This board details some of the perks you can buy for your dog at Allie's Walkabout, including bacon-flavored bubble play.

The business has turned a profit every month since its third month in Erlanger, David said, which was "wonderfully surprising." It's done so well, in fact, that now, the goal is to have 25 locations by 2025, when Allie turns 25. David expects a second location to open within 18 months.

"My dream is to help young people who may have never believed they could have owned their own business, and then teach them (how)," he said.

To make that happen, said Hugh Dayton, a volunteer with the Greater Cincinnati chapter of SCORE, the owners need to codify their policies and procedures so that they can be replicated in a second facility.

"Right now, I think they're very dependent on the personalities of the people involved," he said.

Dayton has also advising them as they work on a business plan, and on how to meet their ambitious financial goals for this year.

"It's a very positive, family-oriented business," he said.

Dayton is mentoring the business through Aviatra Accelerators (formerly Bad Girl Ventures), whose Launch class Allie's Walkabout joined earlier this year. There's no better place for the children to learn what it takes to run a business, said their mother, Mary.

Mary Clegg, one of the owners of Allie's Walkabout -- and Allie's mother -- poses with her dog, Murphy, a terrier mix, by the business' front desk.

She works full time for the business, and she and David are the legal owners. But they plan to make Audrey a partner this year, since she's turned 21, and eventually make Allie a partner. Ultimately, they'll step aside in favor of the kids.

The most challenging aspect of this business has been managing the family dynamics, Audrey said. It was especially stressful when the family watched dogs in their own home, David said.

"There are days when we want to rip each other's hair out," Audrey said. "Being around a lot of dogs has helped lighten the mood."

Mary handles the financial aspects of the business, while Audrey makes work schedules and trains employees. David, who has his own reputation-management business, the Social Sherpa, handles marketing and visioning for Allie's Walkabout. And Simeon does doggie-doo pickup for customers around Northern Kentucky.

After working a year for a local Chipotle Mexican Grill, Allie returns to her namesake business this month. Her parents had encouraged her to work somewhere else, just for the experience.

But she's committed to Allie's Walkabout, and plans to spend a year helping to grow the business after she graduates from high school this spring. After that, she plans to study business at the University of Cincinnati, with a minor in entrepreneurship.

Allie gives her family credit for teaching her the value of hard work, and for being there when she needed help. Now, she's hoping that the business' expansion plans will help other families grow too.

"I'm so happy that this (business) was able to provide for my family," she said.

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