Business Monday

Customers give this South Florida startup two paws up

Dr. Michael Sanwald, left, with business partners Bert Weidner, middle, and Barry Katz — the founders of Fetch My Vet — with Buddy and Gus, yellow Labrador retrievers, at a home in Fort Lauderdale.
Dr. Michael Sanwald, left, with business partners Bert Weidner, middle, and Barry Katz — the founders of Fetch My Vet — with Buddy and Gus, yellow Labrador retrievers, at a home in Fort Lauderdale. cmguerrero@miamiherald.com

Company name: Fetch My Vet

Headquarters: Fort Lauderdale

Concept: Fetch My Vet is a network of veterinary professionals offering on-demand, at-home care for pets.

Story: Barry Katz, 67, tried retirement — and failed miserably: “I was getting bored.”

So to explore taking on a new venture, the serial entrepreneur gathered an “A team” of healthcare managers and employees of his previous company, Envision RxOptions, a pharmacy-benefits management company that sold for $2.2 billion to Rite-Aid Corp. in 2015 and made about 50 employees instant millionaires.

Katz, one of three co-founders of Envision, was prevented from starting another company in human healthcare because of a noncompete agreement. But Katz and his eight handpicked partners, including former Miami Dolphins player Bert Weidner who played alongside Dan Marino, gravitated to concepts that fueled their passions, and they all loved their pets (Weidner has two Westies). More than half of U.S. households own a pet, and Katz and his team saw a huge opportunity for concierge medical care for the beloved four-legged family members. Thus, FetchMyVet.com was born (a sister company is FetchMyMeds.com, for veterinary medicines).

Now, Fetch My Vet is taking the hassle out of pet care by providing at-home veterinary services in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach before rolling out to markets nationwide. Patients have included dogs and cats, of course, but also a bearded dragon lizard, a hamster, a hedgehog and a pot-bellied pig.

While independent mobile vets aren’t new, a network that brings them together to offer pet parents choice and convenience is. Fetch My Vet allows pet parents to select an appointment, service package and veterinarian online — and after treatment, pet parents can access their pet’s medical report card and lab results through a secure web-based client portal.

No longer do pet parents need to round up reluctant pets for a stressful visit to the vet’s office, Katz said. And while it’s a painful topic, an at-home appointment is more comforting to all involved when it’s time to say goodbye to a beloved pet.

Founded in late 2016 with service to the public starting less than a year later, Fetch My Vet is now able to service about 175 appointments per week in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach. Fetch My Vet is spreading the word through social media and participation in pet-related charitable events throughout the community. On Saturday, Fetch My Vet is the proud title sponsor for the South Beach Wine & Food Festival’s ‘Yappy Hour with Katie Lee.’

It’s not uncommon that many of Envision’s founders didn’t formally retire after the sale. According to the Kauffman Foundation, a national nonprofit that studies and supports entrepreneurship, the 55-64 age group represented more than a quarter of newly started ventures in 2016. The “over-50s” are the new business startup generation.

Katz, who also formerly owned and managed Sentry Drugs, a chain of pharmacies in Miami, can attest to that. He’s excited to be in the startup game, and why quit when you are part of an “A-team” of people capable of building billion-dollar companies without ever leaving sunny South Florida?

Launched: Company founded in September 2016. Advertising to the public began in August 2017.

Website and social media: www.fetchmyvet.com and https://www.facebook.com/fetchmyvet

Management team: CEO Barry Katz; Chief Veterinary Officer Dr. Michael Sanwald; Executive VP of Finance Ben Katz; Executive VP of sales Bert Weidner; Chief Operating Officer Amanda Peterson; Chief Human Resources Officer Kate Strautman; Chief Accounting Officer Kim Kirkbride; Chief Information Officer Bob Kintigh; Executive VP and General Counsel Mike DeMinico; and Managing Veterinarian for Southeast Florida Dr. Yolanda Ochoa.

No. of employees: 25, including partners and network veterinarians.

Financing: Fetch My Vet is currently financed by the partners.

Recent milestones: Fetch My Vet began with only one veterinarian servicing Broward, it now has seven vets in its network, with commitments from several more, and services Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties. It moved from friends and family sales to sales to the public in August. It has attracted new partners, which are all active managers of the company as well as investors.

Biggest startup challenge: The learning curve involved with moving from a business-to-business sales environment to a consumer model.

Next steps: To continue focusing on house calls, limited service clinics, apartment complexes and co-working spaces and getting the word out through billboards as well as social media and events. Later in 2018, Fetch My Vet plans to begin expanding into additional markets in Florida and Texas; other markets are in longer-range plans. “We will ensure that our growth allows us to maintain a focus on the quality of the care we deliver,” Katz said. “Growing pains are inevitable, but sacrificing quality is not an option.”

Follow @ndahlberg on Twitter; email her at ndahlbergbiz@gmail.com

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