Operation Delta Dog
Class: 2013 Winter Accelerator
Operation Delta Dog is a nonprofit organization with a mission to rescue shelter dogs and train them to work as service dogs for U.S. military veterans who suffer from PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) and TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury). The dogs get the homes they need, and the veterans get the help they deserve!
January 27, 2013
Holy smokes… I just completed the IRS Form 1023! It took an entire day, but I did it. This is the form that will give Operation Canine its federal nonprofit 501(c)3 status. I started reading about this process back in August, and now, just six months later, it’s come full circle. When I think of all the work and preparation that went into this, I can hardly believe it. I have to say I’m pretty proud of myself! (Insert pat-on-the-back here.)
I also feel much more confident about tackling OC’s fundraising duties after hearing all of Barrie’s tips during Thursday night’s session. This was definitely my favorite Accelerator session so far. It was great how she got us all involved and made it personal to each entrepreneur. Asking for money is never easy, but Barrie really put things into perspective and gave us lots of practical advice. She was also kind enough to answer a few additional questions for me via email, and she offered to come speak to us again during one of our Tuesday night work sessions. I’m looking forward to it.
Quite a busy week coming up with FIVE key networking meetings in just four days. Talk about a whirlwind! I’ll be speaking with representatives from the Lowell Humane Society, the VA Hospital at Bedford, NEADS assistance dogs, and two volunteers who can potentially help OC with its legal and IT/website needs. Needless to say, I’ll be taking lots of notes… and drinking lots of caffeine. :-)
January 18, 2013
Quite a night last night! After getting to know everyone over the past month-and-a-half, it was great to see everyone present their ideas in a more “official” way. And I learned quite a few things about each business that I didn’t know before. In hindsight, I should have stuffed the hat with more little pieces of paper with my name on them… Then I might not have been chosen last to present. :-) I’ll keep that strategy in mind for next time.
After Raj recommended “On Startups” by Dharmesh Shah, I downloaded it onto my Kindle and starting reading it today. It’s actually a compilation of blogs Shah had written. I’m not very far along, but I can already see that the book is full of useful tidbits. Subjects include “Startup Founder Compensation” and “Startup Hiring: Why You Should Date Before Getting Married.” In another, called “Startup Tribes,” he describes the key roles of Hunter, Skinner, Shaman, Chief, and Tribal Elder—figure out what you (and your team members) are, and you can all figure out how to work better together. You can buy the book here (only available on Kindle):
It was another busy week of meetings, and one conversation in particular left me rattled. I spoke with a veteran’s counselor at the Manchester VA Hospital who was very helpful, but very challenging, as well: There was a lot of, “Well, what about this?” and “Have you thought of that?” and “What will you do when X, Y, and Z happens?” (All worst-case scenarios, of course.) These are things I need to hear, and I’m glad he was skeptical and tough on me. Still… I think I had an ulcer by the time I hung up! I’m looking forward to some family time this weekend and a nice, long day of completely mindless skiing. Then I’ll be ready to steer the Operation Canine ship through another unchartered week, come Monday!
January 12, 2013
As some of you know, I’ve had some trouble making inroads with the military/veteran side of the Operation Canine equation. I’ve been trying to get an appointment with someone, anyone, at the VA Hospital since September, with no luck. Other attempts at making contacts have been just as unsuccessful.
Then, one day a couple of weeks ago, I found myself lost in downtown Lowell after making a wrong turn. As I was driving in circles, a small sign outside an office building caught my eye: “Lowell Vet Center.” I wondered if the sign referred to veterans or veterinarians… When I got home, I Googled the name and found out that it was, in fact, a counseling center for returning veterans.
A phone call got me in touch with Marilyn Yokum, Outreach Specialist for the center and herself a veteran. She invited me in for a chat a few days ago and was extremely helpful. For one, she told me that four of the center’s clients have service dogs for PTSD, and she offered to get me in touch with them. She also said that in her opinion, the positive effects of service dogs on these veterans’ lives has been profound. When I left, she handed me some contacts to follow up with… By that afternoon, I had lined up appointments at the VA Hospitals in Bedford AND Manchester! Marilyn also gave me several valuable contacts at other veteran-counseling centers in the area.
Turns out that wrong turn wasn’t so wrong after all! I guess sometimes it pays to get lost.
Thursday night’s discussion with Nathan Rothstein resonated with me, especially when he commented that “your original idea doesn’t matter—it matters what the market wants and what it needs.” His comment made me think of one interesting point that Marilyn made during our meeting. She told me that many female veterans are suffering from PTSD—not from battle, but from their experiences as the victims of sexual assault during their service. This was news to me and opened my eyes to an entirely new population of veterans that Operation Canine might be able to help. An unfortunate market demand, to be sure, but a demand just the same.
January 9, 2013
I spent the morning at the NBC Sports Radio Boston studios in Quincy for my interview with Francesca Bastarache on the “Talk with Francesca” radio show. We had a nice chat about Operation Canine and my upcoming goals – other than the giant microphones, it was pretty much like a normal conversation! The show will air at 7am on Saturday morning, but Francesca will post the file on her website sometime soon so you can listen to it anytime. The Sandbox was mentioned prominently, of course!
Here’s the link to her website: http://talkwithfrancesca.com/
Yesterday I went to Newton to meet with Alicia Posell, a graduate of All Dogs Training Academy and a Karen Pryor Academy Certified Training Partner. Alicia had lots of great advice from the dog-training side, and also gave me more leads to follow for potential Operation Canine partners. For example, she suggested that I might want to start by adopting dogs from rescues that have fostering situations, rather than those are strictly shelter/cage based. She said that sometimes you can get a better read on an animal’s temperament after they’ve been in a home-based situation, as fostered dogs usually are. She gave me the name of one such program that she trusts in Essex, so I’ll plan to give them a call.
It was great to go around the table at last night’s Accelerator session and hear what everyone has been working on. So often, when you throw a problem out to the group you get solutions that you hadn’t even considered. For example, when I expressed my frustration with creating a large and complicated website, Samir suggested that I slow down and just worry about creating a “one-pager” that can give people basic information, with a promise of a full website to come. Then Karen volunteered to help me make it. Just like that -- problem solved. Talk about a helpful group! :-)
January 4, 2013
Last night’s class with Desh and Ken made me think of an old proverb: “You can’t discover new lands without losing sight of the shore.” (Or something along those lines.) Entrepreneurship, I’m learning, is all about losing sight of the shore. Scary stuff, at times! Before Sandbox, I felt like I was bobbing around out there all alone in a leaking dinghy. But now that I have the support of the Sandbox staff, the mentors, and everyone in the Accelerator program, it’s like I’ve moved from a dinghy to a cruise ship… I still can’t see the shore, but the journey is a whole lot more comfortable and fun!
I did find a bit of land this week when I visited Baypath Humane Society in Hopkinton. It’s a small animal shelter with a dedicated staff and a supportive community—in the two hours I was there, I saw two dogs and one cat get adopted! Very nice. The shelter manager, Liz, gave me a tour and sat down with me to listen to my pitch about Operation Canine. She was very supportive of the idea and, most importantly, wholeheartedly agreed to partner with OC when it’s time to identify dogs for the program. She said she has seen several dogs come through in the past year that would have been great candidates for OC’s training program, which was great to hear. Liz also offered to let me take part in the shelter’s special events and outreach programs—for example, she said I might want to set up an information table at their next event to help spread the word. I was all smiles when I left… It was a fortuitous start to my outreach efforts in the animal-shelter world! I have my fingers crossed that the staff at other local shelters will be as supportive.
In the market for a new furry friend? Here’s a link to Baypath’s site: http://www.baypathhumane.org/