Startup Spotlight: PetsEmpower

Feb 19, 2017

Startup Spotlight: PetsEmpower

Feb 19, 2017

This week we spoke to Jordan Ross, Founder and Executive Director of PetsEmpower. PetsEmpower is a nonprofit that help domestic violence survivors through pet fostering.

GH: What is PetsEmpower.org?

“Fostering and Reuniting Pets. Empowering Domestic Violence Survivors. Saving Lives.”

“Up to 65 percent of domestic violence victims are unable to escape their abusers because they are concerned about what will happen to their pets when they leave.” (Carlisle-Frank, Frank and Nielsen, 2004)

PetsEmpower.org is a nonprofit umbrella organization increasing access to short-term fostering for domestic violence survivors.  We give courageous domestic violence survivors a positive alternative preserving pet relationships at risk, through no fault of owners.  We promote a seamless, smooth, and simple process allowing domestic violence survivors and pets to enter safe spaces as fast as possible to keep the pet bond intact. We leverage each short-term foster agency’s best capabilities.  We ensure peace of mind their loving pet is taken care of and provide reunification, positive health outcomes, transformative community service, and corporate social impact.  We spread love throughout the community via pet fostering.  We  also provide volunteers and funding for a stable source of income to short-term pet fostering organizations to increase capacity.

A world where 1 million American domestic violence survivors preserve healing pet relationships on their journey to safety.  Loving pets cease to serve as barrier to entry to domestic violence shelters.  Survivors and their pets escape quickly and develop the tools for lives of freedom and dignity.

GH: What is your name and role?

I am Jordan Ross, the Founder and Executive Director.  I developed our organization initially and networked to fill my boards. I’m grateful for my Board of Director team including Professor Mike Caslin from the Global Center for Social Entrepreneurship Network Foundation (GCSEN Foundation).  The GCSEN Toolkit has been vital to helping me focus on the PetsEmpower.org Theory of Change, Social Enterprise Business Model and Cash Flow Plan and the Go Forward Quarterly Action plan.

Jim Boudreau from the Ithaca SPCA has been instrumental in teaching me about fundraising and the pet welfare sector.  Bill Ferguson from MIT Sloan is developing our strategic direction. I’m tightening my business model at both the Social Enterprise Greenhouse Impact Accelerator and EpiCenter Community Accelerate Boston, and completing our pilot in Providence. We will also hold our first fundraiser in April, a pet fashion show, in Rhode Island.

GH: What was your Eureka moment: How did PetsEmpower get started?

PetsEmpower.org originated from my personal story of struggling to find short-term pet fostering for my black lab Jazz after escaping domestic violence.  I realized domestic violence shelters prohibit pets and was unwilling to give up my loving dog. I knew others needed help too and my research indicates 1 million domestic violence survivors need temporary pet fostering in order to find safety for themselves and their pet.

GH: How did you build your team?

I networked through Cornell, MIT, and attended an Entrepreneurship Bootcamp at GCSEN.  I’m appreciative of so many volunteers who generously donate their time and expertise, including college students and mentors at SCORE.

GH: Startup life is full of failures and “make it work” moments- can you identify how you bounced back from one of yours?

I’ve been working on PetsEmpower.org for over three years and originally wanted to create a group home in a Boston triple-decker, which wasn’t going to personally be a fit.  I then had ambitions to scale our foundation model across the country and am now focusing on the Rhode Island.

GH: What has the New England ecosystem provided you?

The Social Enterprise Greenhouse has provided me with a small close-knit community of advisors, coaches, and resources and a welcoming home. Competing in the GCSEN  Pitch Competition in Boston connected me with with my mentor Professor Mike Caslin, who through the GCSEN Toolkit and and coaching is setting PetsEmpower.org up to achieve the GCSEN tripe bottom line, “Impact people, planet, and profit.”
I am also participating in the Epicenter Community’s Accelerate Boston, a six-month educational program for entrepreneurs starting new ventures.  EpiCenter emphasizes a strengths based approach and is inspiring.

GH: What does the New England ecosystem lacks in your perspective?

I’d love to meet more administrators from Foundations at entrepreneurship events.

GH: What’s the best/worst piece of advice you were given along the way?

As an entrepreneur, I can follow my heart..

GH: What was the best thing that happened to you last year?

Accessing organizations to help us reach the next level, GCSEN, Social Enterprise Greenhouse, and EpiCenter Community Accelerate Boston have all been milestones.

GH: What does the future hold for PetsEmpower.org?

We are currently accepting short-term pet fosters in Rhode Island.  We’ll be focusing on building out our infrastructure in Rhode Island for the next year and fundraising for capacity building.  We are excited to hold our first pet fashion show in April in Rhode Island.  Eventually we intend to be a national organization providing grants to short-term fostering agencies across the country.  I’d love to connect with allies.  Feel free to reach out to me personally at jordan@petsempower.org and like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter and Instagram.

Learn more about PetsEmpower here.

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