Rippy is perhaps the island's youngest businesswoman at just 12 years old.
Most kids don’t get an internship until they’re in college, or maybe high school. But Lark Rippy is getting real-world experience right now, at age 12 — and she’s making her own money.
Rippy started her dog-walking business in November of 2020, after she and her family moved to the north end of Longboat Key. Now she’s got a stable of loyal clients whose puppy proclivities she’s learning well.
“I just thought it would be fun to have a business and I like animals, especially dogs,” Rippy said. “I saw a need for a local dog walker and started by telling our dogs’ friends about it.”
Rippy rode her bike around the neighborhood, delivering letters to everyone with a dog.
After her marketing campaign, she’s now got a stable coterie of clients, including two dogs named Lucy. Rippy walks smaller dogs mostly, so she can keep control of them during her standard walk of 30 minutes.
“The dogs like when I bring them to the (Whitney Beach Plaza) center to say hi to people, and they get a Milk-Bone from the (Longbeach) Cafe,” Rippy said.
This isn’t Rippy’s first stab at being a businesswoman. She once had a cooking blog called “All Kids Kitchen,” but said it wasn’t earning enough to pay the website fees, so she shuttered it. Now, she runs a section in mom Heather Rippy’s store, Driftwood Beach Home and Garden, that is dedicated to dogs.
“I just started by helping Mom and watching her, then I got more independent,” Rippy said. “All my suppliers are small businesses, so it just feels really good to support them.”
There are gourmet treats, fashionable leashes and collars and even cozy dog beds. Rippy is responsible for all of the inventory and pricing and earns 25% of what sells. She thinks in terms of a pet owner in terms of what to stock and has plenty of training treats, leashes and toys.
“I don’t really help her, but I review her orders when she orders inventory just to make sure it’s not too much and her items make sense for the shop,” Heather said. “She’s very level headed about it and knows how to have a good balance and doesn’t want to spend too much money, but wants to keep it stocked.”
When she’s not working on her dog-walking, training or inventory-buying, Rippy is next door to her mom’s shop at the salon Design 2000 with fellow young Longboater Sidda Kim, helping Irina LaRose with social media and graphic design. Rippy tackles more of the latter.
Because Rippy and her sister, 9-year-old Bliss, are homeschooled, their mom brings her daughters’ creative minds into their academics. Rippy takes a lot of the initiative on her own, charging forward with her interests. Mom’s happy to let her do her thing.
“She pretty much always jumps in feet first and does it herself,” Heather said. “She gets a lot of ideas and she is very persistent.”
Because Rippy loves dogs so much and has worked on training her family’s own two goldendoodles Scout and Camper, she figured a dog-walking business would be a great new project to tackle. She’ll even work on training the dogs she walks, too. She’s training Scout and Camper to be therapy dogs, and puts some of her work on patience and obedience to the test on her clients.
“I really like to have projects and work on things, and I just wanted to bring it all together,” Rippy said. “I just read a lot of books about training and practiced with our dogs.”
For all Rippy’s business, she’s noticed a summertime slowdown like other Longboat Key businesses. A lot of her clients have gone up north for the summer, so she’s taking a bit of a break. She normally walks two dogs a day and takes the weekends off, but during the summer she’s also watching a neighbor’s koi fish until November and taking care of some backyard squirrels.
“I’m saving up money because when I grow up I want to have a homestead with like sheep and goats and alpacas and chickens and stuff like that,” Rippy said.
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