Jamie Ruden of Dog Spotted: Five Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful Startup

Authority Magazine
Authority Magazine
Published in
16 min readDec 6, 2021


Talk to your customers constantly: Before executing on an idea that you think is amazing (which I’m sure it is!) talk to people that would be your customers. Now you may be thinking — how? Remember when I said LinkedIn was my best friend? Try and find people via your alma mater (they’re more likely to talk to you). Facebook groups, Instagram or attend events to network and find the right people. It’ll take time, but people love talking about themselves. Be sure to be ready with questions and track the answers you get from your key customers as this data will be priceless down the line.

Startups have such a glamorous reputation. Companies like Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, Uber, and Airbnb once started as scrappy startups with huge dreams and huge obstacles.

Yet we of course know that most startups don’t end up as success stories. What does a founder or a founding team need to know to create a highly successful startup?

In this series, called “Five Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful Startup” we are talking to experienced and successful founders and business leaders who can share stories from their experience about what it takes to create a highly successful startup.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Jamie Ruden.

Jamie Ruden is the founder of Dog Spotted. Dog Spotted was created to help NYC dog parents navigate parenthood and create a community for dog parents to help one another, gain access to expert advice and find local dog businesses to support (with discount codes). The next phase of Dog Spotted will be connecting these dog parents to dog friendly places and Veterinarians in NYC via their hyper localized search engine. Jamie is a dog mom to Lucy, a rescue dog that Embark (the 23 and Me for dogs) deemed a Super Mutt!

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

I’ve always been a dog fan. With their adorable puppy eyes, furry tails, unconditional love…what’s not to like?! It all began with my first dog, Cappuccino (a Yorkie). When we first met, it was love at first sight. Holding this 1lb fur-ball, I was overcome with emotion. I had been dreaming about this moment, since my earliest memories. I knew in that moment, I would help dogs thrive, flourish and prosper.

Just before COVID, I had been volunteering at Muddy Paws Rescue in NYC. From that experience of learning the processes of adoption to seeing the faces of new dog parents, it was the highlight of my week. Once COVID hit, these events became virtual or non-existent. It felt as if there had been a gap created in my week and I still had a passion to help dog parents and dogs. I began brainstorming ways to help dog parents be the best they can be. Upon reflection, I thought it wouldn’t make sense to start a dog website about dog parenting without having a dog myself. Plus, I really wanted a dog of my own.

That’s why August 22, 2020 became the best day! My boyfriend and I were able to adopt our dog, Lucy, from Ruff House Rescue. She has been my muse for the whole process of building Dog Spotted and our growing community of over 10,000 dog parents.

What was the “Aha Moment” that led to the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?

I had two Aha Moments…

The first was back in May 2020, my boyfriend and I fostered a mix pup named Buck. We were immediately smitten! Two things that happened that changed my perspective of dog parenting in NYC.

  1. Not all rescues allow foster parents to have first dibs.
  2. When we brought Buck home, we realized he was covered in fleas and no one told us or prepared us.

Even though we both grew up with dogs — we had never dealt with fleas. After googling for hours, we were frustrated and overwhelmed with the amount of conflicting information that was out there, from too medical and hard to understand to dog moms crafting their own concoctions that weren’t validated by science. I said to my boyfriend, “I wish there was a site for dog parents with easy-to-understand expert advice.” And that was my first Aha Moment.

The second Aha moment was when we adopted Lucy from Ruff House Rescue. Before we were allowed to take her home, they had a 15 minute mandatory orientation. At first, I thought “we don’t need to attend, we dealt with flea-gate”. But after attending this mini orientation, I learned so much. For example, there are certain toys that are on the market that are actually dangerous for dogs. Another shocking piece of information was that not all food brands are created equal and require due diligence to suss out the unhealthy dog food options. My mind was BLOWN! As we were driving home, with Lucy in a safe car bag, I began conducting some research. I discovered so many amazing small businesses who took the time and care to fill the gap in providing safe products for dogs.

With that, I knew there would be a community of dog parents, like me, seeking this information. That’s why I decided to launch virtual (and later in-person) events with the theme of edu-tainment. Learning while having fun!

Was there somebody in your life who inspired or helped you to start your journey with your business? Can you share a story with us?

My family is filled with entrepreneurs. My grandfather (the baker), my aunt (the t-shirt manufacturer), my dad (the doctor), and my mom (the divorce lawyer). Ever since I was a kid, I was surrounded and inspired by those around me.

Being an employee has it’s perks. More time off, less pressure, and fewer responsibilities. But I would much rather have less free time, more pressure and additional responsibilities knowing I’m creating something from scratch that I truly believe will help dogs, dog parents, and small businesses.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Anyone can have an idea. Some have ideas that are great and others may copy an idea. But what truly differentiates Dog Spotted is our community.

When I started Dog Spotted, I knew I wanted to have ambassadors that were leaders in the dog space. One ambassador, Jolanta Smulski, demonstrated how valuable a committed community can be to the success of a business.

Jolanta had a great idea of doing a week-long challenge to educate dog parents by inviting experts to teach a dog a new trick or behavior (i.e. walking without your dog pulling, brushing your dog’s teeth). We rewarded those that completed the week-long challenge by mailing Dog Spotted merch and issuing them a ‘graduation’ certificate. The event was a total success and resulted in both ambassadors and community members actively contributing to the growing community.

Watching Jolanta execute and lead this event was not only a source of pride, but something amazing to see! I hope every company can have a similar experience.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

One of the key elements to our in-person events has been supporting rescues. As mentioned, we’re a community in NYC, but our first in-person event expanded outside of the five boroughs. For this first event, a week-long walk-a-thon, we had walkers across the country coming together to raise money for seven rescue organizations in NYC. This showed how impactful our growing community can be, not just in NYC, but around the country!

Additionally, during the time I was looking to adopt — I found it incredibly difficult to navigate the adoption process. There is basically no central resource out there to help people navigate what can be a really competitive and complicated system. So, I created a comprehensive search engine to help potential dog parents find the right rescue for them. The search engine enables dog parents to understand what rescues look for in prospective adopters to finding breed-specific rescues! To access it, you can click here.

You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?

Time Management: As an entrepreneur you will wear multiple hats. Prioritizing tasks and understanding all items on your list won’t be checked off in one day is something you need to learn quickly. By planning ahead and allotting time for certain tasks you’ll be able to accomplish more. For example, I use Later.com to schedule my Instagram content a month in advance which allows me time to dedicate to other time-sensitive responsibilities.

Networking: Talk to anyone and everyone. Making connections in business is what will separate you from the rest. By building your network you’ll meet, learn and grow quicker.

Ability to think fast on your feet: You’ll be asked questions by those that may be skeptical of your idea. Be confident and provide an answer that illustrates that you know your stuff. While the advice of “fake it till you make it” is good, it’s also ok to not have all the answers. Better to follow-up with a correct answer than provide false information. Trust is key, especially when building relationships!

Often leaders are asked to share the best advice they received. But let’s reverse the question. Can you share a story about advice you’ve received that you now wish you never followed?

I think what’s difficult is you’ll be getting advice from people of varying backgrounds of levels of expertise — whether they’re friends, experienced entrepreneurs or family members. Only YOU know the business inside and out, so it’s important to take each piece of advice with a grain of salt. I’ve been told to go in a different direction with my business before it even started, but being confident in my research and customer interviews — I stuck with my gut and it’s paid off.

Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?

I was working full-time at my day job. Juggling both a full-time job and creating a company is very difficult. I would say a hard time with that was the anxiety and guilt that came with balancing both. I felt guilty when I was thinking about my own company while working at my day job, and when I was working on my company — I had anxiety that it wasn’t going to work. It was a lot of emotions. I have to say, leaving my job to pursue this dream has been the best decision, because no matter what, this experience has taught me so much about myself and the skills I can offer.

Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard? What strategies or techniques did you use to help overcome those challenges?

Oh, that’s a tricky one. I think everyone has to find their own way of relaxing and being able to separate yourself from your mind always spinning. For me it was usually two things (depending on the weather). My favorite way to relax and find calm would be going to the dog park with my dog. Watching her play with no fears or inhibitions makes me feel so much better.

If I didn’t have the time or it was too cold to go out to the dog park, watching an episode of a trashy tv show would let my mind reset.

The journey of an entrepreneur is never easy, and is filled with challenges, failures, setbacks, as well as joys, thrills and celebrations. Can you share a few ideas or stories from your experience about how to successfully ride the emotional highs & lows of being a founder”?

I think each day brings something new as every day is a step toward your goals. On the days something positive happens, I celebrate and move on to the next task. When something negative happens, I let it sink in — learn from it and move on to make the next move better.

Being an entrepreneur requires patience. That’s something I’ve always struggled with, but building relationships in a new industry takes time and as mentioned it will lead to success. Having a community that supports you through ups and downs also helps!

Let’s imagine that a young founder comes to you and asks for your advice about whether venture capital or bootstrapping is best for them? What would you advise them? Can you kindly share a few things a founder should look at to determine if fundraising or bootstrapping is the right choice?

I may not be the best person to answer this question as I am still in that position. I’ve bootstrapped my startup from start to present day. However, I will say it would be nice to have more capital to bring in more people to help my dream come to fruition more quickly. I have this conversation with myself often about the day when I start giving away equity. How much am I willing to distribute? Will it be worth it in the long-term for the business’ success?

The best advice I can give from what I’ve been told over and over is this: don’t just take money because it’s there, be sure there is an alignment both in financial and value driven goals. Venture Capital firms are not there just to give you money, but support you through your journey and connect you with individuals that will help your company advance. Picking the right partners is critical and not just about dollars and cents.

Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. Many startups are not successful, and some are very successful. From your experience or perspective, what are the main factors that distinguish successful startups from unsuccessful ones? What are your “Five Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful Startup”? If you can, please share a story or an example for each.

When I first started out, I kind of was unsure where to start. So, I turned to books. I find reading about other people’s entrepreneurial experiences — the ups and downs helps one feel less lonely when trying to figure out where to start. Additionally, books that outline and help you navigate creating a business plan, how to best execute your goals to create an MVP and more. I think a lot of people skip the basic steps and end up wasting money and time on something that may not be profitable.

Books I recommend:

Networking/Listening: LinkedIn is my best friend when it comes to starting a business, connecting with others and building a team. By conducting cold outreach, I’ve not only found a great friend but a partner to help me bring Dog Spotted to life. Additionally, by meeting people, I’ve been connected to people in the VC space and fellow dog entrepreneurs — all of whom have provided great insight, resources and connections.

Attending Events: By attending events that aligned perfectly or even just a little with my goals has helped me immensely. One of my favorite stories of how I got a feature and interview for an online magazine was completely random. Nine Months ago, I had reached out to a woman in PR and at the time she was way out of my budget (and still is). Recently, I attended an online workshop hosted by my alma mater, Northeastern University, and she happened to be speaking. I messaged her privately during the zoom presentation to say hi and we chatted privately a bit. That evening she invited me to one of her events that typically requires payment for free. I decided to attend and shared a little bit about my company with fellow attendees. An attendee from that event reached out to me via Instagram and said she had a friend that was in the dog space creating dog harnesses in NYC. That woman and I connected, met and she introduced me to the online publication who then later featured me on their online TV channel. So, you truly NEVER KNOW who you’ll meet!

Talk to your customers constantly: Before executing on an idea that you think is amazing (which I’m sure it is!) talk to people that would be your customers. Now you may be thinking — how? Remember when I said LinkedIn was my best friend? Try and find people via your alma mater (they’re more likely to talk to you). Facebook groups, Instagram or attend events to network and find the right people. It’ll take time, but people love talking about themselves. Be sure to be ready with questions and track the answers you get from your key customers as this data will be priceless down the line.

Take Notes: Keep notes of your daily tasks, meetings and thoughts in a notebook or Google Docs (I do both). These notes can include your to-do list, conversations you’ve had or ideas you want to execute. That way at the end of the day you can see what you’ve accomplished and review conversations to ensure you keep up with old and new relationships. Additionally, you should journal your monthly goals. Share them with your team, it’ll provide a framework to track and force accountability.

With that, find a notebook that you love. I know that’s an odd statement, but do you like your notebooks small or big? Does your notebook have a spiral or is it bound? Do the pages have lines or no lines? Finding the right notebook for you will help you stay organized. Do remember, you’re allowed to have more than one!

What are the most common mistakes you have seen CEOs & founders make when they start a business? What can be done to avoid those errors?

The most common mistakes I’ve see is lack of outlining responsibilities, understanding a customer’s journey, and viewing the customer more like a number than a person. Below are some ways to mitigate these issues.

Outlining Responsibilities: If you have freelancers or other part-time/full-time team members, it’s important to outline everyone’s responsibilities. If you don’t, people will be unclear of their goals and may feel lost in what they’re meant to accomplish.

Not understanding your customer’s journey and decision-making process: Before launching a website, business or service. TALK TO YOUR CUSTOMER’S. You may be surprised by what they have to say and you may want to pivot your business in a different way and discover a more profitable direction.

Seeing your customer as a number and not as a person: Especially in the beginning it’s important to view all clients or customers as a person with a problem that you’re solving for them, not just someone you signed up and you forget about. The first customers are the hardest to get as they’re taking a risk with you. You owe them your time and support. They’re your initial advocates and ambassadors, so never neglect them!

Startup founders often work extremely long hours and it’s easy to burn the candle at both ends. What would you recommend to founders about how to best take care of their physical and mental wellness when starting a company?

If you need to take a break, do it. I struggled with that in the beginning. I will say having a dog that needs to be taken out several times a day definitely helps. It forces you outside the apartment. I have definitely scaled back on my social life and doing things for myself, but you should treat yourself one to two times a week. Otherwise, you’ll burn out. Also, if you can afford it, try and find someone that you can delegate tasks to; like a virtual assistant. That way not EVERYTHING falls on your shoulders.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

I would love to create a program that educates dog parents on training and certifies their dog as a therapy dog. Oftentimes when I walk my dog, people seem to be scared of her. I believe it could be a myriad of things… but most likely the person had a negative experience with a dog in the past. If we’re able to train dogs to be more calm, cool and collected, not only would it help those people, but likely make that stranger’s day.

Unfortunately, many dogs may not be the right fit to be a therapy dog as there are strict guidelines and requirements. However, even training a dog to do certain actions that re-direct their attention can put people at ease that would normally be fearful of dogs. If we’re able to help these people become less fearful, this could lead to more adoptions and fewer dogs being euthanized.

We are blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.

I would love to meet Ryan Cohen, the founder of Chewy.com. He took an idea that was already successful, Amazon’s shopping experience for pets and made it EVEN better. His idea to go niche in the pet space instead of serving everyone (Amazon) is such a unique approach and I believe Dog Spotted is doing something similar. I’d love to learn from his experience, his pain points, and the early days of his journey of creating Chewy.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

They can follow us on Instagram at @dogspotted. Check us out at dogspotted.com and if they really want to stay on top of all things dog, they can sign up for our email here.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success and good health!



Authority Magazine
Authority Magazine

In-depth interviews with authorities in Business, Pop Culture, Wellness, Social Impact, and Tech

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