2023 is a special anniversary in the history of Rain City Dogs, it’s their 10th birthday! This Vancouver-based dog walking company is an Indigenous (Métis), LGBTQ+ owned business that’s making waves across Canada. Not only are they one of the Lower Mainland’s leading dog walking companies, they’ve also expanded further afield, with a sister company on the Sunshine Coast, and Halifax, Nova Scotia.
Originally founded by Hunter, who has since relocated to the Sunshine Coast to found a sister company, the business was taken over by current owners Lucian and Nick in 2020. With their shared knowledge and passion for dogs, the duo are on a mission to cultivate a community of dog lovers and advocates, while providing a safe and reliable service for dog owners.
We chatted with Lucian to learn more about Rain City Dogs.
How did you and Nick get involved with Rain City Dogs?
It was a lucky break to be honest! I came to Vancouver from Edmonton in 2018. Like most other people in my position, I went on to Craigslist to look for accommodation. I saw an ad from Hunter (the founder of Rain City Dogs) and we became roommates. Quickly, we became really good friends.
I had been working with pets for years, at pet stores and places like that. Hunter had been pretty open about her dream to move to the Sunshine Coast, but she didn’t want to disband this business she had worked so hard to build. One day, she approached me and said “hey, do you want to take Rain City Dogs over?”
It was the perfect opportunity. My partner Nick was working at another business at the time, and he came on part-time to shadow Hunter and learn how the business worked. Over the pandemic, we gradually took over the business and pretty quickly we became slammed! Everyone was working from home and they needed to get their dogs out of the house. That was a couple of years ago now and we’ve been on this wild ride ever since!
How did you end up with a sister company all the way in Halifax?
Things were getting so busy for us during the pandemic that we needed to hire someone to help us. Not long ago, they came to us and told us they’d been accepted into school in Halifax to study art. They were worried about what they were going to do for work. Together, we came up with the idea of opening up a chapter of Rain City Dogs there, and we’ve just recently announced that it’s open and accepting clients.
With Hunter doing her thing on the coast we’ve really got this amazing thing going now.
How is the dog walking industry in Vancouver? Is it competitive?
It is and it isn’t at the same time. There’s a community aspect to it that’s quite nice. A lot of the local dog walkers have a group chat together and we all talk regularly. That being said, we’re all human and obviously some don’t like each other.
There’s not a nasty edge to the competitiveness, it’s more fun – especially in Vancouver. There’s so many dogs and animals in this city. I think all of us in this industry are united in wanting a more pet friendly city. We’re all working together to reach that goal and it’s pretty awesome.
Did you have a background in entrepreneurship before joining Rain City Dogs?
So, I’ve been told that I’m a serial entrepreneur. I love trying new things and putting myself out there. Ever since I was young I’ve had a passion for running my own business. I’ve always wanted my own pet store – which hasn’t happened yet! – but I’ve tried so many different things over the years.
I used to flip houses back when you could do that and make a living from it; I had a makeup company with my own makeup line. I love being able to express myself through my businesses. And, to be honest, it’s hard to go back to working under people after you’ve worked for yourself for so long!
Running these different types of businesses, what lessons have you learned along the way?
Trust me, I still make some very bad decisions and go with my gut feeling on things! As a business owner I think you’re always learning. You’re learning something new every day. Just thinking of recently when we made the decision to open in Halifax. I don’t know the business rules in Halifax. I mean I barely know them in Vancouver half the time.
You have to be comfortable with not knowing everything, and trust yourself to learn the rest. I spend so much time on Google finding the answers to things. My mom was an inspiration in this as well. Growing up she was always telling me to try new foods – don’t just assume you won’t like them. I’ve taken that approach into business. If I have something I’m interested in, I’m going to give it a shot. What’s the worst that could happen? If it doesn’t work out, at least I tried it.
I think everyone should try and go for their dreams. With everything going on in the world it can feel a little harder to go for it, but trust me, take the jump! At the end of the day, the worst thing you can lose is money, which sucks, believe me! But there are so many worse things you could be losing out on.
Vancouver Pride is on the horizon. I wanted to ask what Pride means to you as an LGBTQ+ entrepreneur?
I’ve been in the gay community for so long now. I’ve been out since I was 14 and I’m 36 now. Pride is so important today still because we’re looking at stuff happening south of the border that’s starting to come up here to Canada.
Like anyone else, I just want to be treated as a normal person. I want to be able to hold hands on the street and not have to think about it. For me, it runs a little deeper because I’m from Edmonton, which is not the nicest place when it comes to the LGBTQ community. In fact, it’s part of the reason I moved to Vancouver, just to feel that little bit safer.
Events like Pride show the world it’s ok to be out and proud of who you are. It’s important for the kids now too, I worry so much about them and all the reports in the media recently. We have to keep doing these things to show people that we’re not weird, we’re not different, and we’re just the same as anyone else.
What are some of your favourite local businesses you’d like to give a shout out to?
I have to start by giving a shout out to most of the dog walkers here in Vancouver because it’s hard working in this city! It’s the most pet friendly but also pet unfriendly place to work.