A lost pet can be one of the most painful and scary moments in a person’s life, but a young Southwest Miami-Dade entrepreneur wants to help end that suffering.
Khareem Oliver, 18, has launched beta website Find or Found and hopes to soon release a smartphone application that allows people to find their lost pets.
Oliver said he always wanted to own a pet, but that the apartments where he lived and his family didn’t allow it. His love for animals never went away, so he figured out a way to take care of them without actually owning one.
The teen began volunteering at PetSmart in Midtown seven years ago. He quickly gained the friendship and trust of mentor and now friend Tia Williams, who brought him on board and guided him in his passion, shuttling him to and from the store. Through her organization Operation PAW, they would go into neighborhoods and trap stray cats, get them spayed or neutered and adopted.
Oliver’s middle school, Richmond Heights, offered a zoo program in which students take science classes at the zoo and interact with exotic animals and pets on lab days. Now a senior at Coral Gables Senior High, he has turned his experience and love for animals into a business idea. He’s in the academy of finance at his school and has taken first place in two Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) competitions, winning a total of $8,000 in seed money. He also presented his idea at eMERGE AMERICAS a few months back.
“In 10th grade, I took a dual enrollment entrepreneurship course and that’s what inspired Find or Found,” Oliver said. “Volunteering with Tia at Operation PAW I noticed most of these animals do have owners, but it’s just finding a way of linking them back to their owners, and that’s got me thinking this was a problem, and I wanted to find the solution, so I came up with an app.”
Oliver said that using the Find or Found website and app, people could easily find their lost pets. An identification tag would be etched with a unique QR Code that instantly identifies the pet and owner information upon scanning. The application also would build in a map using GPS to locate the lost animal in real time. Users could enter as much information they want about their pet and on their profile. There would even be space to enter the pet’s medical information, characteristic distinctions and the address where it was last seen.
“The biggest problem I have right now is money. I need to be funded. I won two competitions, but I need to take it to the next step. I need the website to be functional, and I need a manufacturer to create the tags and of course a developer for the smartphone application,” Oliver said. “I’m looking for about $20,000 to $30,000 for the application. I’m more than willing to accept someone who can help me financially but I need a mentor, I need someone who has expertise in the business field.”
The company plan includes free use of the site and the application download. Oliver is thinking to sell the tag for about $20, and users can continue their monthly payment, after the first free month, for about $10. He’s also considered developing a chip as an additional product.
The young entrepreneur has conducted market research on his own and has a list of clients willing to work with him as soon as he has the prototypes ready. He’s even had proposals from vets at pet stores who would like to carry the product at their facility and sell it as part of animal care packages.
“I want to put out my MVP which is Minimum Viable Product or the tag, and I want to get 100 of them out there to pet parks just to test it out and see what people want so I can get feedback and so forth,” Oliver said.
Anna Carranza, Oliver’s teacher and advisor, said she is incredibly proud of his progress and that she loved his idea from the moment he first presented it.
“He always had the idea, and this is something that has been in his background before he got here and so this was just an avenue for him, it was bound to happen. It’s been about developing him throughout the years,” Carranza said. “He’s improved so much I can’t even put into words. He was always a good student, but now he’s more than a student. It has broadened him to other things as well. It started with a class project, and he took off. He’s a student leader, and he’s ready.”
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