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"Your Pooper-Scooper Service"
Tired of doing the dog-doo two-step?
By Debra

Debra is a nice-looking, single parent, but she has trouble getting dates. She thinks her job is the problem. "A guy looks at me and he thinks, `She's 41, not married and she makes her living picking up. . . .' They don't know if I'm eccentric or crazy." Debbie runs "Yucko's: Your Pooper-Scooper Service." The job does not lend itself to thoughts of romance. Yucko's will come to your house and clean up after your dog. Scoop in hand, Yucko's has also been known to follow after pigs, geese, pigeons and an occasional horse.

If you went to the Mardi Gras parade in Soulard a couple of years ago, you saw her in action. She was the one following the Clydesdales with a shovel. Debra did not grow up intending to run such a service. She used to own a boutique. When that job fizzled, she began looking for a business she could start with no money. At a backyard barbecue one day, she began chatting about the problem with friend, Bob Kemmerling. Inspiration struck as she gazed out over the lawn. "I said, `Bob, everybody must have stepped in it once in their life. There has to be a need.' "The cost of entry was certainly low.

Debbie thought of the corporate name while looking at a baby diaper. With Kemmerling as her partner, Debra began her marketing campaign with an ad in the Jewish Light. She's also tried ads on cable TV, the Ladue News, direct mail and gift certificates. Since a press release is an important marketing tool starting out, she had that professionally done. She has used bits and pieces of it here and there for advertising. She mails or faxes her press release to all the TV and radio stations in her area. She also received a lot of free publicity with TV and radio interviews.

One customer bought Yucko's gift certificates, attached them to a framed picture of the family dog and gave it to her husband for Christmas. For the fashion conscious, there is now a line of Yucko's T-shirts and baseball caps. Advertising is a necessity because word-of-mouth doesn't work well for a pooper-scooper service. "People don't sit around at formal dinners talking about this stuff," she said.

The ads produce a bumper crop of crank calls. "They call at midnight and say, `I've got an elephant in my back yard,' " Debbie said. One prankster called everyone he knew with a beeper and left Yucko's telephone number. Debbie found herself explaining Yucko's to a flock of confused beeper-holders.

The ads also produce a lot of legitimate business. Debbie has developed a technique for dealing with first-time callers who often don't know what to say to a professional scooper. Says Debbie, "They go `uhhh, uhhhh,' you've got to get them laughing, then they'll talk up a storm. They'll ask, `How do you charge?' `By tonnage,' I'll say."

Actually, she charges by the size of the yard and the number of dogs. A typical yard costs about $15 per weekly visit. "They're too busy to do the job themselves," said Debra. But business is good enough that she has hired 2 full-time helpers and is considering bringing on another. The job works out great for single parents. They are able to get their children ready for school and off to work they go; and they are home before their kids get out of school. One of Debbie's workers has her hands full being a single parent with 3 children. Within one year she was able to buy a house on her own. She says if it wasn't for Yucko's, she has no idea what she would have done. Her life was a mess at the time and she says pickup was like therapy for her. The dogs were always happy to greet her, and that made her feel good and gave her the strength to go on.

"Your Pooper-Scooper Service"
(314) 770-1500
Tired of dooing the dog-doo two-step?

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