Hitting the streets
As a 13-year-old printing photos of his Labrador Retrievers Ruby and Isolde in his family’s darkroom, Elias Weiss Friedman never realized that this hobby would one day become his life’s calling.
But in 2013, after being laid off from his “conventional, real job,” he dusted off his camera, strapped on some knee pads, and searched the streets of New York for interesting dogs. Inspired by documentary street photographers, he wondered: Why is no one telling the story of dogs?
“I thought dogs were amazing subjects,” Elias said. “They’re so expressive. They have all these different varieties of colors, shapes and sizes.”
Armed with a squeaky ball and dog treats, Elias began taking dog portraits—on sidewalks, in dog runs, around parks—then published them on Instagram with a blurb about the pet and its owner. His goal was “to make people happy, add some levity to the world, to be an antidote to the rest of the news you see on the Internet.”
Building a canine-loving community
This simple premise—a dog photo and a story—was an instant success. Within months, Elias’s account was gaining thousands of followers a day; after a year, his followers reached one million.
“I think from day one, I knew what it would become. I knew it was an amazing formula,” he said.
“When we walk around, we wonder who all these dogs are. I’m going to photograph all the amazing dogs and tell their story and show you who they are. So, I was fixing a problem that everyone had.”
Soon, Elias was making multiple TV appearances, a dozen publishers were competing for his book rights, and feedback was pouring in from admiring fans around the world.
People like Vermont-based Kate Speer, a Dogist fan whose mental illness struggles were lightened by these daily doggy updates: “In those really, really hard days it was like, ‘well, what are the dogs going to be today?’” she said. “It was a reason to take my medication, to maybe bravely step outside.”
Kate not only understood the power of dogs—she credits her service dog Waffle with “saving her life”—she was also a marketing guru who saw The Dogist’s untapped potential to become a multi-platform brand, galvanized around this blossoming community.
She and Elias met in 2018, and Kate was brought on as Dogist’s CEO, joining other new hires Isabel Klee (Director of Content) and, later, Jacquelyn Sawyer (Director of Partnerships). Kate’s goal was to “grow the community and the brand to touch more people, to brighten more days, and to do some good” with both profit-making and philanthropic ventures. Not easy, but possible—with help.
Finding a partner
A self-proclaimed “business newbie,” Kate wasn’t shy about asking Chase for Business to help set up the growing team for success. “I had been the director of sales and marketing for a coffee company and had scaled one incredible lifestyle brand. But I was a total new kid on the block when it came to running and setting up a business,” she said.
Frequent calls to Chase service specialists yielded tips on everything from how to partition revenue streams to the right way to reconcile credit cards. No question was too small, and it was the high-touch attention that kept Kate calling back.
“When we started, I was so nervous that I was going to fail this business,” she said. “And they talked me through it. They sorted everything. And there was just a kindness to it that I didn’t expect.
“I’d say, ‘Hi. I’m Kate. I’m a CEO. I need help.’ And they’d just laugh. And I’d laugh with them. And then we’d carry on.”
From barks to brand
Today, with a strong team and financial partners in place, The Dogist is in major growth mode. They’ve used their strong social media presence to earn multiple paid influencer marketing campaigns, still tell canine tales on their digital storytelling website TheDogist.com, and now sell branded clothing and doggie wares through e-commerce, too. They’ve even published two New York Times Best-Selling books, produce a podcast and have plans to make a documentary and TV series.
Add that to their four million social media followers and $1.5 million in annual revenue—a number that’s tripled since Kate joined as CEO—and they’ve got a lot to celebrate.
But the team is most proud of The Dogist Fund, their philanthropic initiative devoted to supporting non-profit work in rescue, rehabilitation and working dog arenas. Last year they donated $70,000 to dogs in need, and hope to surpass that in 2022.
The tech they needed
Kate said she loves that, with the Chase Business Complete Banking Account, she can separate new kinds of revenue streams as they come in, then reconcile them in QuickBooks “with a click of a button, which feels like magic.”
Even though they’re spread across the country, team members can do business from wherever they are with the Chase Mobile® app. Kate checks balances and wires throughout her day, and uses Chase QuickDeposit℠ to deposit checks “right on my phone. And that’s a gift. Because it lets me walk the dogs, or be on a shoot, or be out to lunch.”
And when Elias is out shooting dog portraits—he’s already captured over 50,000—he can stop into any Chase branch to get petty cash and a treat for his Husky-mix, Elsa. As he sees it, “a bank’s job is to empower businesses to use their money wherever they are. And that’s what Chase for Business does.”
At the park, on a mountain or in the water, if there are dogs, you’ll probably find Elias there, too. “I’ve been doing this for nine years, and there’s still so many more dogs to photograph. The goal is to get them all.”
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