Sheila Austin, Brittany Cole, Jill Davis and Bismarie Plasencia
Thomas S. Johnson Master of Science in Entrepreneurship students Sheila Austin, Brittany Cole and Bismarie Plasencia with their Emerging Enterprise Consulting course client Jill Davis (third from left).

Entrepreneurship students consult with local business owner to revamp marketing efforts and prepare for Guinness World Record attempt

Jill Davis (BSA ’09) has long been passionate about animals. You can see it across her business, non-profit organization and ideas for products that benefit our furry companions.

But in the time since the University of Florida alumna and Gainesville Entrepreneurship and Adversity Program participant first started her pet daycare Dogs Rule and her non-profit Animals Helping Humans and Humans Helping Animals (AHHHHA), a lot has changed. Shifting technology has outdated her website and social media platforms have altered the way she can interact with customers. 

While Davis’ love of animals remains strong, her marketing skills lag, making it harder for her to accomplish her goal of doubling her 2019 revenue in 2020.

Luckily for Davis, she has a team of consultants from the UF Warrington College of Business to help give her the tools she needs to succeed.

As members of Warrington’s Emerging Enterprise Consultant class, Shelia Austin (MSE ’20), Bismarie Plasencia (BS ’19, MSE ’20) and Brittany Cole (MSE ’20), are tasked with providing Davis three deliverables that address the challenges that hinder her ability to grow revenues.

After initial meetings with Davis, Austin, Plasencia and Cole decided their three deliverables would include help with marketing, sales and her online presence.

“The most challenging thing was to come up with a unified message in how to brand all of [Davis’] businesses in a cost-effective way,” Plasencia said. “Right now, her websites and social media channels aren’t cohesive and challenging for customers to use.”

Austin added, “Really what we have to help her do is focus.”

The team of Thomas S. Johnson Master of Science in Entrepreneurship (MSE) students are working on updating and rebranding Davis’ Dogs Rule and AHHHHA websites with the goal that they are more user-friendly and visually cohesive.

Jill Davis kneels down to pet a white pit bull dog with one eye

In order to make Davis’ websites more user friendly, the team plans to connect a PayPal account as an easy payment option and to place payment information in a more obvious location. As far as cohesive branding, the team plans to design the websites so that they stand alone but have similar colors and design elements that visually connects them, as well as using similar branding elements on her social media channels.

“Right now, if you look at Jill’s Facebook page, it just looks like a dog fan page,” Plasencia said. “We want to give her tools that will help her turn her social media into a marketing tool for her business.”

Specifically, the team plans to create a content calendar that will help Davis keep her social media channels current, as well as a toolkit that shows Davis how to access and make edits to her website.

Another fun way the MSE student team plans to help Davis is in promoting her upcoming Guinness World Record attempt for the most dogs walked at the same time. Davis will attempt to walk 50 dogs on March 15, tentatively, as a way to get the word out about Dogs Rule’s upcoming move to a larger facility in the same month.

Aside from the three deliverables, Austin, Plasencia and Cole wanted to help Davis with another goal – build and scale her idea for a sustainable pet bed, a concept that recycles used tires to benefit both pets and the environment. The team reached out to fellow MSE alumnus Mikey Lickstein (BSBA ’13, MSE ’14), who appeared and received a deal on Shark Tank for his product SiliDog, a silicone dog tag.

“Mikey was a great help, as he’s offered to bring Jill to a pet product trade show in Orlando later this month,” Austin said. “This will help her understand and be better educated on the market she’s trying to break in to.”

Austin, Plasencia and Cole said they would feel they were successful in their consulting if they could deliver Davis with a solid marketing plan, easier way to collect payments and updated online presence.

“We really want to make sure that we give her focus in her businesses and provide her with the first steps in how to get where she wants her businesses to go,” Austin said.

Cole added that she would be proud to have helped solve problems for a real business.

“I’ve always thought of myself as a problem solver, but this is the first time that I’ll have really made an impact in the real world,” Cole said.