South Florida entrepreneurs launch app to build pet owner communities in Miami and beyond
By Krysten Brenlla
Becoming a new dog parent can be the most joyous time of your life. However, it can also feel daunting and stressful, especially if a new pet parent doesn’t know where to find the proper resources to care for their best friend. Even forming connections with others in your local community, whether it’s new friendships found at the dog park or down the street on walks, could prove a resource.
Luckily, two South Florida entrepreneurs may have the solution.
“Adopting my dog has filled my life with so much joy; I wanted to make sure I could give her the best life I could,” said Christine Pope, co-founder of Peanut Butter Park and managing director at Oaktree Capital Management. “When I was searching for resources online, I found tons of mommy boards and local groups – but nothing to connect local dog parents.”
Founded by Florida natives Pope and Brian Weigandt, the app serves as a digital dog park. Inspired by the dogs they adopted in 2020, Luke, a mini sheepadoodle, and Ella, an English lab, Peanut Butter Park, which derives from a dog’s favorite treat, serves to connect dog owners online, directly through the app.
After meeting at The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, and working in New York City and Chicago, Pope and Weigandt, a senior director at a biotech company, both made the move to Miami during the COVID-19 pandemic, where they saw the South Florida community bustling with startups and opportunities.
Their inspiration for launching the Peanut Butter Park app came from many conversations, observations, and the need to create a more interconnected community. “We’d walk down the street and see lost dog posters, and we’d say, ‘this can’t be the best way to find a dog,’ Weigandt said. “So, we started thinking through how to make this easier for dog parents.”
“Working in New York in finance, my life was all about work. I didn’t have a good work/life balance. I felt like my life was missing something – but that changed once I got Donatella, which means gift in Italian,” Pope said. “Once I moved to Miami with Ella, I found an even more fulfilling life balance for me, and it completely changed my life.”
To use the app, users can download the Peanut Butter Park app on their mobile devices from the Apple App Store. Once downloaded, it will prompt a user to set up their profile with their name, contact information, location/neighborhood, photo of their pet, and a short bio to help connect pet parents with other users in their community within a few miles’ radius. “When you first sign up, you can add information about you and your pet, similar to a dating profile,” Weigandt explained. “Users can refine their profiles, but their private information is never shared – the app is meant to be all about the dogs.”
Additionally, dog parents can use the app to ask for advice on their furry friends; inquire about local vets and animal hospitals; discuss any infectious disease outbreaks in their communities; or simply share updates, information, or pet selfies with other pet parents in their neighborhood, similar to other social media platforms like Twitter and Instagram.
“It’s your digital dog park. It’s all about the community that we want to create for dog parents –a thriving, digital community where people have a resource that they can go to,” Pope said.
In addition, using GPS technology, Peanut Butter Park can send alerts using the app’s Amber Alert functionality. Furthermore, using the user’s profile page, the GPS technology can search within a few miles’ radius of all dogs that may be the same breed and age as the user’s dog, serving as a way to connect pet parents with new friends.
“We all use social media, and we took the best of what each one offered and put them in this one app,” Weigandt added. “One feature is the ability to search for nearby dogs. For example, someone may have a toy schnauzer, and with the app/GPS technology, you can search within a 5-10 mile radius of all the toy schnauzers around Miami that are between 3-5 years old, so that pet owners with toy schnauzers between 3 -5 years old can connect and make new friends in their neighborhood.”
Since launching earlier this year, the Peanut Butter Park user base has grown to more than 200 across Miami, New York, and Chicago. In the short term, Weigandt and Pope’s main goals are to continue growing a safe, digital community, while also enabling the app in other cities across the United States. Additionally, they’re looking to partner with local shelters to help boost adoption rates, find lost dogs, and more.
When asked why they think the South Florida community was the best place to launch their app, they both mentioned one thing – Miami’s thriving network.
“The great thing about Miami is, pretty much year-round, you can be outside with your dog,” Weigandt and Pope said.
“Miami is a great place to get a community going – it’s the best place to be right now.”
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