Do you want more dog-friendly neighborhoods near you? So does, Beth Miller, the founder of Wagtown, a movement based in Dayton, Ohio to raise awareness, create pet-friendly legistlation, and more wagging tails throughout your communities. As a friend of mine and fellow female entrepreneur (aka womanpreneur), I convinced Beth she needed to grant me an interview here on Bridle & Bone. The timing is perfect as she was just the first recipient of the BlogPaws’s Founder’s Award. So with no further ado, please let me welcome Beth.
Beth Miller, Wagtown
1.Give us a brief introduction to you and your furry friend, Rocky.
Hello everyone! I am Beth Miller, founder of Wagtown. We create more humane communities that drive economic development and regional vibrancy. And, this is our fuzz butt, Rocky. He is a Great Pyrenees rescue who we believe to be around ten years old. And, despite all of the fur, drool, and barking, he teaches us with every woof, how to love unconditionally a dog. Rocky helped me expand what I think of as a good dog. That maybe their imperfection-laced love of us is an example for us all to love them, and each other, unconditionally, imperfections and all.
2. Where do you live?
Most of the time, we’re on the road, checking out dog-friendly best practices. Ohio is home for us with Rocky and our domesticated feral calico, Asia. In the future, we plan to live where the wag is needed…then, on to the next exciting transformation.
3.What is Wagtown and its mission?
Wagtown is the national leader in research, outreach, collaboration, and marketing of dog-friendly authenticity.
Wagtown sets responsible and genuine standards for the term, “dog friendly.” Our mission is to lead the movement to create a Wagtown® community for everyone. To do this, we advocate for dog-friendliness through research, consulting, leveraging big data, education, marketing, and empowerment.
WE BELIEVE :: A Wagtown community is healthier through physical activity, safer via increased foot traffic that polices the area while exercising their dogs, more economically vibrant by appealing to up and coming workforce candidates, more welcoming to residents, workforce, and visitors with ample space to exercise and gather with your dog, more humane because of strong animal cruelty legislation, the absence of breed profiling, and admirable support of rescue and adoption organizations, and an example of responsible pet owners who register, vaccinate, and train their dogs to be sociably appealing. Dogs bring people together. When every dog in a community is cared for as a part of the family, the community is enhanced. A Wagtown community is truly “where the wag happens.”
Wagtown will lead the movement to create a Wagtown community for everyone. As leaders, our commitment is to listen and learn, define standards, educate, and share best practices to engage diverse communities and build a powerful, unified voice for change and celebration.
Wagtown provides a blueprint, hands-on assistance, and recognition for towns that strive for or have achieved dog-friendly status. Wagtown offers legislative advocacy, awareness communication, programs, and services that facilitate an environment that promotes humane treatment of and friendliness toward dogs.
4.What was the inspiration for this movement?
Try an internet search for “dog friendly city America” and you’ll be blown away by the millions and millions of results. I was, too. Then, I dug into the results to see how they had achieved that classification of “Most Dog Friendly Community.”
I was very disappointed to find that a significant portion of the results were not a reflection of research and objective measurements, but a jumbled and confusing mixture of advertorials, fluff news articles, and click bait. In other words, our love of canines was driving brands to abuse the term “dog friendly” to increase their revenues, attract audiences, and further dilute the authenticity of the phrase.
At Wagtown, we believe that it’s time to hold those claims accountable. After all, how can your community be considered dog-friendly when the various rescue and advocates are at odds with one another, governing entities don’t recognize the economic value of the “dog dollar” (estimated at $74 billion for pet spending in 2018), puppy mills bloom with overbred and abused animals year round, and the regional leadership discriminates against dogs from birth based on their (overwhelmingly) callous treatment of misidentified and vilified breeds.
Dog friendly should be authentic, consistent, and nationwide. It’s time to deliver on that promise.
5. What was your career before non-profit?
Prior to taking the leap, I owned a successful advertising agency working with brand development for everything from mattresses and dog food, to water softeners and financial services. When I lost my three-year-old niece due to a congenital heart defect, I reached out to the Ronald McDonald House of our area and offered three years of design, strategic planning, and marketing initiative consulting to repay the debt of compassion that their organization had shown our family in a very difficult time. In short order, I developed an insatiable appetite for working with passionate nonprofits. Helping them reach their goals of a better world was far more rewarding than breaking sales records or launching award-winning marketing campaigns. In fact, it made me realize that I need to be “paid” in both gold AND good. I decided to sell my agency to my partner and try my hand in not for profit and see if I could blend big ideas with big hearts. To my delight, it worked. I led our regional land conservation agency to national acclaim in marketing and community engagement as we won the National Recreation and Park Association’s highest honor for Kudos in marketing communication.
Following that success, I decided to go back to grab my Master of Interdisciplinary Communications (MA, MBA, and MPA disciplines) from University in Dayton while teaching communications and working as the director of public relations for a large agency. It was insanely difficult to juggle all of that, but in the end, as my capstone project for my final MPA class, I wrote the business proposal for Wagtown.
After graduation, I couldn’t stop thinking about my ideas, my resources, and well…my dog. The love and support of animals has benefitted me during my life. I wanted to repay the favor and stop the dilution of our expectations. I QUIT my c-suite position and leapt into a sea of supportive people and an ocean of information as we conducted more than 400 interviews across the country to truly learn the landscape of dog friendliness in America. After that leap I continue to lunge forward toward a truly reliable definition of authentic and responsible dog friendliness in our country.
6. What prompted you to leave your career and begin Wagtown?
I had set up a series of alerts online to keep my thinking immersed in the ever-changing array of stories and indicators that this could truly work…if I worked my tail off. And, so I did. I leapt and trusted that the tipping point had arrived, that those who support animals can grow together and dog-friendly claims would be authentic.
7. Do you feel that your experiences and expertise in your prior career was an asset? Why?
I definitely would not be in this position with so much achieved to date were it not for outstanding mentorship, relationships that are win-wins, and decades of demanding the very best of myself. Wagtown is the last project that I’ll work on. There is simply that much work to be done and that much good to be cultivated. It was my good fortune to live in a household where empathy for those in need of a hand was witnessed every day as I saw my mom teach and empower young students with learning disabilities. My dad showed us all what it looks like to take a leap of faith with his wildly successful entrepreneurial ventures. Add in a little, well a lot, of love for animals and you have the perfect combination to take Wagtown and run with it.
Because I have worked in the for profit, governmental, higher education, and nonprofit arenas, I see where they need to be knitted together in order to make meaningful changes to our society’s treatment of animals and each other.
8. What are your short term goals for the organization? Long term goals?
In the short term, we are launching curriculum to national teaching standards to elevate humane treatment, inform kids about dog safety in fun and unique ways, and discuss breed discrimination and its effect on our population. Our PBS partnership includes professionals from the publishing and education world as well as veterinary, training, and user experience thinking. We will also launch our Wagtown Dog Obedience Scholarship Program this fall, continue our progress on the nation’s first Wagtown Dog Trail to increase walkability, create safer communities and engage underutilized spaces to supercharge community engagement.
9. What can each person do to make the wag happen in their community?
ASK the questions in YOUR town. Is it a felony to beat a dog to death? Does your community leadership discriminate against specific breeds categorically? Do you have opportunities to celebrate dogs in your town? Are there ample places designated for off-leash play? Are your restaurant patios dog-friendly? When you go out and about, ask, “Are you dog-friendly?” Spend your dollars where businesses value your entire family, no matter now fuzzy they may be.
Be an example of a responsible and considerate dog owner. One example is through our #PackADoggyBag program seen here.
10. How can we find out more information about Wagtown and help?
Information about several initiatives will be launched now that our research is robust. To help this movement gain more momentum, I am personally asking your readers to follow and share our journey on social media (Facebook.com/wagtown.org, Twitter @wagtown, Instagram @wagtown, YouTube @wagtown, Tumblr @ wagtown woofs, and Pinterest @wagtown. We can use all of the following and exposure we can get to increase our reach into communities that are looking for a path to truly dog-welcoming regions, businesses, universities, hospitals, and more. We will launch our website (www.wagtown.org) in mid-late summer this year. When that happens, there will be an array of options for dog-lovers to get involved and help move this journey forward.
If you would like to become one of our volunteers or learn more about our Wagtown AmbassaDOGS program, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.