Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Going to the Dogs: Meet Jenn Lyons of Josi's Paw

Jenn Lyons with Pete and Siggie photographed in Dogpatch near Espirit Park. 

With an ever present baseball hat or visor clapped firmly on her head and an equally firm grip on numerous dog leashes -- the sight of dog walker Jenn Lyons coming down the street with her canine charges can bring a smile to even the most stoic city dweller.

Even the tag line of Lyons' dog walking business sets the tone:  Josi's Paw -- for friendly pets and people.

Josi's Paw is more than just a dog walking and pet sitting service though -- Lyons offers peace of mind to dog owners (sorry, caretakers) -- a reassurance that their faithful companion will not only be well exercised and cared for by Lyons, but also that Lyons will treat their dog as one of her own.

Lyons granted us an interview during a rare break in her schedule.  With her two dogs Pete and Siggie (age 6) by her side, we got to know more about this Dogpatch dog walker.
Jenn takes her charges on a walk through Dogpatch. 

Why do you do what you do?

I guess it started with my love for a dog -- Josephine -- or as I called her, Josi.  She died in 2006.  She was my first dog as an adult and she was just the best dog.  She made non-dog lovers into dog people.  I made friends because she was so sweet and affectionate to everyone.  She was my role model on how to be with people and with animals.

I didn't really consider this as a profession until I moved from the Midwest to San Francisco in 2007.  I actually worked in a retail pet shop when I moved here.  I felt like I was searching for my next career after spending time in advertising and in the fashion industry.  I knew I wasn't a desk job type person -- I need to be moving to feel happy.  And I love being outside.

So I started Josi's Paw in honor of Josephine in 2008.  It was one way for me to honor and memorialize her

And I love what I do.  I treat each client's dog as if the dog were my dog.  Even if they are complicated dogs!  I'm their caretaker.  That is important to my clients but equally important is that I keep their dog safe.  All dogs are always on a leash.

I'm also deeply aware that a client trusts me to enter their home and to take care of their loved one.  So it is important to me that I'm the one actually taking care of the dog and being in their home.  I also leave notes for each client describing how their dog did.  I think it gives the client an extra bit of reassurance to hear about their dog's day!

I also love to bring my clients together with their pets several times each year for dog parties!  I actually have an event coming up Sunday, October 28 -- a Halloween dog party at Pawtrero Pet Shop.  These parties are a lot of fun and are a good way to meet new people -- many of my clients have become my personal friends. 

I grew up in the Midwest and my relatives still can't believe that dog walking is an actual profession!

Why Dogpatch?

Most of my clients are in Dogpatch or Potrero Hill.  I love how it is off the beaten path a bit and therefore not overly busy.  And because it isn't as busy as other SF neighborhoods, it is a safer place to walk dogs.

My husband and I love the neighborhood so much we actually just bought a condo here. And of course I love the name of the neighborhood!
Jenn gets a great view from 18th street toward the Bay. 

Who is another fascinating person you have met in Dogpatch?

It takes lots of keys.
I love walking by Ed McGary, he owns an auto detail business on Minnesota Street.  He always has jazz music playing and is so friendly to me and to the dogs.  He is charming and has a nice attitude about life.

What is an interesting story that has happened to you in Dogpatch?

I was talking to Ian, one of the owners of Mr. and Mrs. Miscellaneous ice cream shop, and I admired his tattoos.  He referred me to the tattoo artist that he had used.  For my birthday I had an image of a hummingbird together with the Mandarin symbol for dog tattooed on my wrist.

A hummingbird is my animal totem -- I'm inspired by their sweetness for life and how they live in the moment.  I love how I can see the tattoo on my wrist as I walk the dogs.

What would you be doing if you weren't doing this?

If I weren't doing this it would still have to involve dogs in some way!  Perhaps a dog friendly wine bar since I love wine and food!
Jenn's dogs are not shy for the camera. 

Linus says hello to start his walk. 

Jenn shows an imprint of Josie's paw and her hummingbird tattoo.

Article written by Patricia Kline
Photographs by Scott R. Kline

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Let's Make a Deal! Meet Craig Sakuma of Deal Décor!

Craig Sakuma and Gregory Lok at the headquarters of Deal Décor in Dogpatch, San Francisco, CA.

One of the many things we love about Dogpatch is the discoveries we find lurking behind the numerous nondescript warehouse doors that still dot the neighborhood.

One stifling hot October day we found ourselves dodging the Veritable Vegetable trucks at Tennessee and Cesar Chavez to locate a newcomer to Dogpatch -- Deal Décor.  We slipped in the door behind a young kid wearing both a San Francisco Giants hat and an Oakland Athletic jersey -- both teams had just won their divisions. 

The building directory was evidence that this particular warehouse was home to dozens of small businesses, including LightSource, Rebel8 and Acme Novelty Company but we were pretty confident that this diplomatic kid must be heading to the San Francisco Baseball Academy

Once inside we made our way to the offices of Deal Décor.  We were greeted by founders Craig Sakuma and Gregory Lok as well as by Billy, the resident office dog owned by a neighboring business.

The founders may have recently received $1.2 million in funding but their investors don't need to worry that it is being spent on posh office space -- their offices looked like someone had been bowling using furniture as the bowling pins -- sofas, chairs and other assorted furniture pieces were scattered throughout their office space.

Deal Décor is all about using group-buying power to offer consumers a 30-70% savings on furniture and other home goods.  The leverage of the group purchasing power allows them to cut out the expense of a middleman and ship directly to the buyer.  We wondered if perhaps the founders were fans of journalist, Thomas Friedman and his book, The World is Flat, because that is essentially at the heart of how they look at the world.  Deal Decor is using the Internet to flatten the traditional supply chain in buying furniture.  And a supply chain doesn't come much more old-school than a furniture one.

We took a few of those chairs to the less crowded and much cooler hallway to talk to Craig Sakuma about his new company.

Why do you do what you do?

Both Greg and I worked for many years in the traditional home furnishings industry.  As such we know the inner workings of the industry.  We both worked a lot in Asia and have a lot of connections there.  We saw the inefficiencies and we also knew that even though the consumer thought they were getting a unique piece of furniture, one factory in China actually makes the furniture for lots of brands.  There was really no reason to be paying such a huge mark up for the furniture.  I guess we saw an opportunity to create a whole new category in the furniture industry -- similar to how Frank & Oak is shaking up the menswear industry and how Warby Parker is offering an alternative way to buy prescription eyewear.  We are all using the power of the Internet to flatten the supply chains for traditional consumer products, which in turn creates amazing deals for consumers.

Once we have enough orders of our featured product to fill an ocean container, we have our factory build the product then we ship it direct to the consumer.  We typically have three new pieces each week and each deal last ten days.  We tested out our idea in California first.  The enthusiastic consumer response convinced us we were ready to launch nation-wide, which we just did in September.  Before we launched we actually had one consumer who lived out of state who so wanted to buy our featured product that they figured out a way to circumvent our ordering system!  Of course we had to let them know we couldn't yet sell to them but we did let them know that we are now nation-wide!

Why Dogpatch?

Until we found this space we had been working out of my apartment.  But we now have five local employees as well as three based in China.  We also needed a large space so we could photograph our samples.  So it was time to start looking for a real office.

We actually found this place on Craigslist!  It has the industrial elevators and the high ceilings we need and the location is so convenient.

Who is another fascinating person you have met in Dogpatch?

One of our neighbors here is Sam Hoffman.  He owns LightSource.  It is a large-scale digital printing studio. They do such beautiful work.  I'm so impressed with him and the work they do. 

What is an interesting story that has happened to you in Dogpatch?

I was working here late one Sunday night and all of a sudden I hear music.  I go out in the hallway and there are party streamers everywhere and kids dancing.  It looked like a middle school dance!  Turns out the SF Baseball Academy were hosting a teenager's birthday party.  Not something you see everyday in an office building!

What would you be doing if you weren't doing this?

I would be looking for another start-up to run!  I grew up on the East Coast and have lived and worked all over the U.S. and internationally.  But San Francisco is unique in how friendly and supportive they are to entrepreneurs.  I love the collaborative culture here.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Burning Man Decompression 2012

For the thirteenth year, Burning Man Decompression came to Dogpatch for its annual visit this past Sunday. The street fair closed down Indiana street between Mariposa and 22nd and took in Espirit Park as well. There was the usual food, fire dancers, rave music and art cars, but the best part in our opinion, is the people.

Burners come from all around to rekindle the magic for a day. It can all seem a bit manic, but the people-watching is undeniably fun. We took the camera out several times during the day and these are some of our favorites. If self-expression is a San Francisco trademark, then it has no better counterpart than Burning Man. 

Photos by Scott R. Kline.