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Meet Christi Contois of Sierra Dog Ventures

Today we’d like to introduce you to Christi Contois.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
Growing up in LA/Orange County, it’s pretty standard that you spend many weekends in the winter vacationing in Mammoth Lakes, CA. But to me, Mammoth wasn’t just a weekend getaway; these were the most therapeutic and powerful days of my life.

I worked in the corporate, desk job world for almost 10 years. I’d had dogs through that entire time and always struggled with finding care for them. In 2013 I started sending my dog, Johnny, with a company in Newport Beach, Dog Republic, that took him on all day adventures with tons of other dogs. All day long I would get photos of Johnny out in the elements with the most giant of smiles on his face. After 3 years I couldn’t take it any longer; I needed to be the one out adventuring with him! So I quit the desk job and put together a pitch to the dog walking company to hire me. AND THEY DID!

Fast forward to learning more than I could ever hope to about the wildly incredible world of dogs. On the business end with marketing, scheduling, customer service, insurance, event planning, etc… On the dog end with leash walking, behavioral quirks, breed types and personalities, photo taking and much more.

During a trip to Mammoth in 2017, I attended a Chamber of Commerce event and spoke to as many people as I could about potential business opportunities in town and they all said the same thing, “this dog adventure company idea is a HUGE need.” And there it was. My open door. So I packed all of my things, Johnny riding shotgun, and headed to the mountains!

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
If you’d asked me 3 years ago, I’d have told you I would NEVER own and operate my own business. I watched my parents work tooth and nail for 30 years running a successful contracting company and I truly knew what it took, and I sure as hell didn’t think I had it. But there was something about the combined passion of my love for the mountains and my love for dogs that made me believe this was something I could do.

I’m learning everything brand new; accounting software, payroll systems, taxes and licensing, permitting processes, etc… But on top of that, I was also in a new town with new people and new dogs, no family and very few friends. It was an emotionally heavy beginning both positively and negatively. Starting and running a business is harder than I’d ever imagined, and I had imagined it would be the hardest thing in the world. I would say the single biggest challenge is getting out of bed and out of the door on the days when you’re losing hope.

But then each day I am greeted with a wagging tail, a floppy tongue and incessant kisses amidst the most beautiful landscape possible and I’m reminded of why I’m here, and why it will work.

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Sierra Dog Ventures – what should we know?
Sierra Dog Ventures is an adventure based day camp for dogs. We take dogs out hiking amongst the beautiful Eastern Sierra or the day and drop them off back home tired and as perfectly happy as possible.

Whether a tourist is out skiing all day or a local has an all-day business meeting… We hope we’re who they call when they’re dogs need to be cared for! We send pictures throughout the day of their dog’s adventure and keep them updated on social media with live videos and posts. We take literally any dog as long as they are dog-friendly and can handle our activity level; no breed, size or off leash requirements! My boyfriend/business partner, Duncan Constable, is the perfect addition both to my life and to this company.

My proudest achievement as a company is that we end each day knowing we operated fully from our hearts; with honesty, integrity, reliability and just the general desire to show dogs the best days of their lives. Not every day works the way you want, but knowing at the end you gave it all you could is the driving force to get up and do it all again the next. Special shoutout to our other “couldn’t be more perfect for our company” employee, Katie Smith and her 4-7 dogs (depending on the day). How lucky we are!

Any shoutouts? Who else deserves credit in this story – who has played a meaningful role?
Firstly, the people and dogs of Mammoth/Crowley/June Lake. We have been welcomed, supported and cheered on from the absolute beginning. Small town businesses tend to grow best and most effectively through word of mouth and we feel so impossibly fortunate to be making our way into their hearts.

My parents have given and shown me everything. I know how hard it is for them having me live 6 hours away and yet not a day goes by when I don’t get a message of love and encouragement. I grew up watching what hard work was and am so thankful to have an opportunity to show them what I’ve learned and hopefully make them really proud.

The best friends and extended family who have never, for one day, given up on my heart.

My dog, Johnny, is the absolute love of my life and the REAL boss of Sierra Dog Ventures. Our new home and a new way of living has made him, without question, the happiest dog to ever exist. It could all end tomorrow and this simple fact would be enough.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Duncan Constable

Getting in touch: VoyageLA is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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