This article is part of a series profiling young Morehead-Cain Alumni entrepreneurs. For the rest of the series and more alumni stories, check out our Spotlights page.
Sebastian Williams ’10 and his wife, Meggie, first got to know each other as senior class officers at UNC.
“We campaigned together,” Sebastian says. “But at the time we were just friends.”
The two started dating after their terms ended, and they married in 2013.
Today, they’re not only life partners but also business partners. In early 2016, Meggie launched a dog-walking company in the couple’s home city, Charlotte. Sebastian offered support where he could, but he was working full-time at another startup. In May of 2018, Sebastian left that job to join Meggie’s company full-time. Meggie is the CEO, and Sebastian is the COO. The company is called Skipper.
“Skipper can be a dog’s name, but we also wanted the name to represent movement and happiness, as in skipping,” Sebastian explains. “There’s also the sentiment of being captain of your own adventure, being the leader of a ship on a journey.”
Skipper exists to reduce what Sebastian calls “dog guilt.”
“We got into this business because we are pet owners,” he says. “We had a lot of pain in our lives that revolved around finding reputable and modern pet care.”
Because Skipper does more than walk your dog. The company offers a user-friendly mobile app that enables customers to customize their experience. If you want, your dog-walker will send you photos of your pet. Walkers will bring in your mail, water your plants, and even scoop out your cat’s litter box for no extra charge.
Skipper (which was originally called The Waggle Company) already has fourteen full-time salaried employees, in addition to 40+ dog-walkers who work on W2 contracts—a system that allows for more standardized employee training, and makes it easier for dog-walkers to progress to salaried positions.
In early 2018, Skipper raised $900,000 in seed funding, helping the company expand beyond Charlotte by adding two new offices: in Austin, Texas, and more recently in Dallas. Skipper is planning to continue expanding into other markets and services.
“Being flexible and being able to make drastic changes to your business can be really scary, especially when you have something that’s working pretty well,” Sebastian says. “You don’t have the luxury of remaining status quo. We’re always looking for ways to improve.”
Constant improvement is one of Sebastian’s key motivators. He says one of his favorite elements of the entrepreneurship experience is the personal growth he sees in himself. That, and the impact of the work.
“Really being able to see the impact of your work and your vision has been really great. We are creating something that is going to have big impact for people all over the country and it’s really nice to be able to see that impact for our team and ourselves,” he says.
Sebastian is from Robbinsville, a rural town in Western North Carolina. Before receiving the Morehead-Cain, he had never been on a plane, had never been abroad. Very quickly he found himself in the North Cascades on an Outward Bound expedition, followed by a summer teaching in Thailand.
“I think that’s very similar to how the entrepreneurship path has been,” he reflects. “Bracing yourself for the unexpected. Being able to put together a plan, but understanding that plans change and you have to be resourceful. Living life on your own terms.
“That philosophy still drives me today as an entrepreneur. We can set our own course. We can be the champion of our own story.”