Longboat Key 12-year-old puts dog training, love of dogs together for dog-walking business | Longboat Key
Most kids don’t get an internship until they’re in college or maybe high school. But Lark Rippy is having real experiences right now at the age of 12 – and she is making her own money.
Rippy started her dog outing business in November 2020 after she and her family moved to the north end of Longboat Key. Now she has a base of loyal customers whose puppy propensity she learns well.
Lark, Steven, Heather and Bliss Rippy with Scout and Camper on July 4th. File photo.
“I just thought it would be fun to have a business and I like animals, especially dogs,” said Rippy. “I saw the need for a local dog walker and started telling our dogs friends about it.”
Rippy rode her bike around the neighborhood delivering letters to anyone with a dog.
After her marketing campaign, she now has a stable clientele, including two dogs named Lucy. Rippy mostly walks smaller dogs so she can keep them under control during her standard 30 minute walk.
“The dogs like it when I take them to the (Whitney Beach Plaza) center to say hello to people and they get a milk-bone from the (Longbeach) Cafe,” Rippy said.
This isn’t Rippy’s first attempt at being a business woman. She once had a cooking blog called All Kids Kitchen, but said it didn’t make enough to pay the website fees, so she closed it. She now heads a department in Mama Heather Rippy’s store, Driftwood Beach Home and Garden, which is entirely devoted to dogs.
Rippy has fashionable collars for dogs of all sizes.
“I just started helping mom and watching her and then I became more independent,” said Rippy. “All of my suppliers are small businesses, so it just feels good to support them.”
There are gourmet treats, fashionable leashes and collars, and even cozy dog beds. Rippy is responsible for all inventory and pricing, and earns 25% of what is sold. She thinks of a pet owner about what to have in store and has lots of treats, leashes and toys.
“I don’t really help her, but I do check her orders when she orders inventory just to make sure it’s not too much and her items make sense for the store,” said Heather. “She’s very level-headed and knows how to have a good balance and doesn’t want to spend too much money but keep it in store.”
When she’s not working on her dog walks, training, or shopping for inventory, Rippy is next to her mother’s shop in Salon Design 2000 with her young longboater colleague Sidda Kim, helping Irina LaRose with social media and graphic design. Rippy is more concerned with the latter.
With Rippy and her sister, 9-year-old Bliss, home schooled, her mother brings her daughters’ creative minds to their academics. Rippy takes a lot of initiative and drives her interests forward. Mom likes to let her do her thing.
“She pretty much always bounces her feet first and does it herself,” said Heather. “She has a lot of ideas and is very persistent.”
Since Rippy loves dogs so much and has worked to train her family’s two Goldendoodles Scout and Camper, she thought a dog walker would be a great new venture. She will even work on training the dogs she walks with. She trains scouts and campers to become therapy dogs and puts some of her work to the test in terms of patience and obedience to her customers.
“I really like having projects and working on things, and I just wanted to bring it all together,” said Rippy. “I have just read a lot of books about training and practiced with our dogs.”
For all of Rippy’s businesses, she has seen a slowdown over the summer like other Longboat Key businesses. A lot of her customers went north in the summer, so she’s taking a little break. She usually walks two dogs a day and takes the weekends off, but in the summer she also watches a neighbor’s koi fish and tends to some backyard squirrels through November.
“I save money because when I grow up I want to have a homestead with sheep and goats and alpacas and chickens and so on,” said Rippy.