Swapaw: Stef Ivanov and Desi Velikova

After struggling to find the right care for their frenchie before going on holidays, these entrepreneurs combined their love of digital and dogs!

Name: Stef Ivanov and Desi Velikova
Company Name: Swapaw
Location: Greater London
Date Launched: 18/03/16
No. of employees: 2
Website: www.swapaw.com

Tell us what your business does:

Swapaw is an online platform that connects dog owners and helps them take care of each other’s dogs when they’re away. Instead of paying for pet sitting, Swapaw members can find other vetted dog owners to look after their dog and then return the favour when the same person or another community member needs help.

Swapaw members save hundreds a year on dog boarding and the best part is that their dogs don’t stay alone for long and don’t suffer from depression or separation anxiety which is becoming a huge issue for dog owners.

The platform offers booking, messaging and listing functionalities to make it quick and easy for dog owners to find the right match and book swapaws (that’s how we call our bookings).

All our gold members are invited to pass our 4-step verification process, so dog owners can rest assured that we personally check and verify each member.

Where did the idea for your business come from?

We were always struggling to find the right pet care for our frenchie Bruno when going on holiday or when we used to work long hours in Central.

Two weeks’ holiday costs around £400 and we would never leave him with someone with no experience. One day, before our holiday to Morocco, we thought how great it would be to find other dog owners and just “swap” our dogs when we need to be away from home.

You not only save money, but your dog will have real canine friends, just like people do. We were surprised to find out that there’s no similar product on the market, so we created it.

How did you know there was a market for it?

Before embarking on the entrepreneurial journey, we did our homework. We spent a few months in researching the industry and interviewing dog owners, so we knew there’s a gap on the market for a well-made, easy to use product like Swapaw.

What were you doing before starting up?

Stef: I’m a freelance UX/UI designer and have been helping start-ups to build their products in the last few years.

Desi: I was a social media manager at Gamesys, a leading online gambling company. I left my job to start working on Swapaw with Stef.

Have you always wanted to run your own business?

Yes! We’ve always wanted to have our own business that makes an impact in people’s lives, not just something that generates income. The best thing about Swapaw is that it combines our passion for start-ups, digital and dogs!

How did you raise the money?

We haven’t raised any funding yet. We’ve been self-funding the project so far

Describe your business model and how you make money:

We’re a subscription based business. The annual membership for Swapaw is £29.50, which comparing to the average cost of £25-30 a day for dog boarding, is a bargain.

What challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them?

Building the product took longer than expected and we had to launch with less features than initially planned, but this is part of the game.

What was your first big breakthrough?

We got over 100 users in the first 20 hours. We’ve only been live a few weeks, so we hope there’s plenty of breakthroughs to come.

What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?

Don’t spend too much time on planning and don’t wait for the perfect moment to start working on your business idea. It never comes!

Where do you want to be in five years’ time?

We want to live in a world where ‘No Dogs Allowed’ is a sign from the past and Swapaw is the first step to achieve this.

Our aim is to build products that make the lives of dogs and their owners around the world easier and happier.

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