Last year, Joe Napoli, now a senior Business Entrepreneurship major in the Merrick School of Business, was named a winner in the “Rise to the Challenge” business pitch competition in the “Undergraduate Student – New Business Idea” category. Napoli’s idea was “Unleash the Beach,” a kennel for pet owners vacationing in resort areas like Ocean City and Rehoboth Beach on the Delmarva Peninsula, but are staying in condos that don’t allow pets. However, after Napoli found what he thought would be a good location just outside Ocean City, “Unleash the Beach” is still looking to get off the leash after Napoli went to visit the site and meet the property owner during his vacation at the beach this past summer.
“The property owner had some other business, so he didn’t show up at the scheduled time, so I inspected the property a little closer, and realized it was rather dilapidated on the inside, and I decided that I needed to take a look at another location,” Napoli said. He felt that the building just off U.S. Route 50 was going to need a lot of work to get it up to satisfactory condition, and decided it would be more worthwhile to find another property. Napoli thinks he may have found another possible location not too far away.
“Currently I’m taking a look around Bishopville, looking towards the upper Ocean City area. There are a lot of condos up there, and I feel that those people would really appreciate a good kennel business where they could bring their pets along,” Napoli said. He hasn’t found a suitable location in the Delaware resort area, but plans on opening one kennel in the Ocean City area, and then opening up another kennel either in the north end of Ocean City or near Rehoboth.
The famous saying in buying and selling real estate is “Location, Location, Location.” Napoli says he’s finding that to be very important as he tries to launch his startup.
“Location is everything when you’re setting up a business. Looking at a high-visibility area, as my previous property was around Route 50, I’m thinking that word of mouth and a good startup campaign, once we get started in a nice, visible area, will really bring people in,” Napoli said.
As part of his work on launching “Unleash the Beach,” Napoli has been surveying the Delmarva kennel market. This means looking into how much capacity kennels have for vacationers’ pets, and how much they charge on a nightly basis.
“I’ve been visiting other kennels in the area, and seeing their accommodations and how many pets they can hold,” Napoli said. “I’m thinking about expanding the number up from I proposed during the ‘Rise to the Challenge’ competition.” He’d initially proposed a kennel with space for 25 to 30 pets, but he’s found that many kennels at the Delmarva beaches have capacities of 50 to 60 pets, and are charging pet owners $50 a night. He also plans to offer a webcam service that will allow pet owners to check in on their pets.
For aspiring entrepreneurs who are looking to start new businesses, it’s important to make good use available resources, and taking advantage of available resources. Napoli says it’s critically important to learn your marketplace.
“If there isn’t a market for your business, you’re dead in the water before you get started,” Napoli said, adding that business owners and mentors with SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives) have been very willing to provide him with information and advice as he looks to start his own business.
“The kennel owners I’ve talked to and the other entrepreneurs with SCORE have really been helpful with getting my business off the ground,” Napoli said. “They’re very forthcoming with information.” He encourages aspiring student entrepreneurs at UB to just ask for help and use the resources that are available within the university.