When Betsy von Trapp opened the von Trapp Animal Lodge in 2018, neither she nor her business manager, Raquel White, had any experience in managing a small business. As a licensed veterinarian, what Von Trapp did have was an innovative vision of creating an all-in-one pet care center. Just over a year since opening its doors, the business has not only thrived but has focused on giving back to the community in the process.
Upon launching her start-up, von Trapp was aware that there was already tough competition in the Savannah market for animal boarding. She distinguished the von Trapp Animal Lodge by offering daycare, boarding, and rehabilitation services for dogs and cats under the close supervision of a licensed veterinarian, something most pet-care business can’t provide. She also provides a unique range of pain management and stress-relief services that promote both physical and emotional well-being, including “pet retreat” features such as laser therapy, acupuncture, hydrotherapy, and massage.
Part of von Trapp’s vision was to build a state-of-the art facility. She was able to complete construction in part through loans from the Small Business Assistance Corporation, a local non-profit that provides financing to small businesses who may not have access loans through traditional methods. The new facility on Waters Avenue features an outdoor pool, indoor and outdoor play areas, and light-filled kennels. During the construction phase, von Trapp hired SCAD students to paint the interior walls of the kennels, creating a bright and fun space for animals and humans alike.
Von Trapp Lodge’s combination of excellent care, unique offerings, and impressive facilities have proved to be a popular selling point for customers. In just one year, the business has served over 1,000 customers, of which at least 75% are repeat customers. The new company now has 13 employees, including students interested in veterinary medicine. The facility is already reaching capacity many days, and von Trapp is considering options for future expansion.
The von Trapp Animal Lodge’s mission to improve the lives of animals doesn’t just extend to the pets who get to enjoy the impressive facilities –the company has also made a concerted effort to give back to the community. Notably, the Lodge teamed up with the Humane Society of Greater Savannah for their “Dog of Week” Program.The day camp hosts a different adoptable dog each week to allow them a change of scenery and hopefully aid in adoption. The program provides additional stimulation to shelter dogs, rehab services if needed, and increases their exposure to pet-friendly members of the community who may be interested in adoption. The business also regularly donates to silent auctions in the community, including Habitat for Humanity, the Telfair silent auction, Safe Shelter, Second Harvest and the JEA gala. During the warmer months, the Lodge hosts a monthly “Yappy Hour,” which creates a social space for community while raising money for raising money for local nonprofits.
Savannah is home to many successful small businesses, but few exhibit the same dedication to community service as von Trapp Animal Lodge. Based on a unique business model, the Lodge has achieved success through an attention to detail (evidenced in the beautiful and functional building) and a customer focus (for pets and owners alike). In just one year, this business has become a community staple for pet-lovers in Savannah. With plans to grow and potentially create more jobs in the area, von Trapp Animal Lodge contributes greatly to the Savannah business scene, while engaging with and giving back to the community in positive and constructive ways.