hit the streets
As a 13-year-old printing photos of his Labrador Retrievers Ruby and Isolde in his family’s darkroom, Elias Weiss Friedman had no idea that this hobby would one day become his life’s work.
But in 2013, after being laid off from his “regular, real job,” he dusted off his camera, strapped on a pair of knee pads, and scoured the streets of New York for interesting dogs. Inspired by documentary street photographers, he asked himself: why doesn’t anyone tell the story of dogs?
“I thought dogs would be great topics,” Elias said. “You are so expressive. They have all these different variations of colors, shapes and sizes.”
Armed with a squeaky ball and dog treats, Elias began taking dog portraits — on sidewalks, in dog pens, in parks — then posted them to Instagram with a blurb about the pet and its owner. Its goal was to “make people happy, to bring some lightness to the world, to be an antidote to the rest of the news you see on the internet.”
Building a dog loving community
That simple premise—a dog photo and a story—was an instant hit. Within a few months, Elias’ account was gaining thousands of followers every day; After a year, his followers reached a million.
“I think I knew what it was going to be like from day one. I knew it was an amazing formula,” he said.
“As we walk around, we wonder who all these dogs are. I will photograph all the amazing dogs and tell their story and show you who they are. So I fixed a problem everyone was having.”
Before long, Elias was making several television appearances, a dozen publishers were vying for his book rights, and feedback was pouring in from adoring fans around the world.
People like Vermont-based Kate Speer, a Dogist fan whose mental health issues were relieved by these daily pooch updates: “During those really, really rough days it was like, ‘Well, what are the dogs going to be today?'” she said. “It was a reason to take my meds to maybe be brave enough to go outside.”
Not only did Kate understand 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 cross-platform brand that evolved revolves around this thriving community.
She and Elias met in 2018, and Kate was hired as Dogist’s CEO, joining other new hires such as Isabel Klee (Director of Content) and later Jacquelyn Sawyer (Director of Partnerships). Kate’s The goal was to “grow the community and the brand to touch more people, brighten more days and do good” with both profitable and philanthropic ventures. Not easy, but possible – with help.
find a partner
A self-proclaimed “newbie in business,” Kate wasn’t shy about asking Chase for Business to help her set the growing team up for success. “I was Sales and Marketing Director for a coffee company and had scaled an incredible lifestyle brand. But I was a completely new kid on the block when it came to running and starting a business,” she said.
Frequent calls to Chase service specialists provided tips on everything from splitting revenue streams to properly matching credit cards. No question was too small, and it was the high level of attention that made Kate call back.
“When we started, I was so nervous that I was going to fail with this business,” she said. “And they explained that to me. You sorted everything. And there was just a kindness I didn’t expect.
“I would say, ‘Hello. i am kate I am CEO. I need help.’ And they would just laugh. And I would laugh with them. And then we would move on.”
From the rind to the brand
Today, with a strong team and financial partners, The Dogist is in great growth mode. They have used their strong social media presence to earn several paid influencer marketing campaigns, still tell dog stories on their digital storytelling website TheDogist.com, and now also sell branded clothing and dog goods via e-commerce. They’ve even published two New York Times bestsellers, produce a podcast, and have plans to do 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 plenty to celebrate.
However, the team is most proud of The Dogist Fund, their philanthropic initiative dedicated to supporting charitable work in rescue, rehabilitation and working dog arenas. Last year they donated $70,000 to help dogs in need and hope to surpass that number in 2022.
The technology they needed
Kate said she loves that the Chase Business Complete Banking Account allows her to separate new types of revenue streams as they come in, and then reconcile them in QuickBooks “with the click of a button, which feels like magic.”
Despite being spread across the country, team members can use the Chase Mobile to do business from anywhere® apartment Kate checks balances and transfers throughout the day and uses Chase QuickDeposit℠ to deposit checks “right to my phone.” And that’s a gift. Because it allows me to walk the dogs, be on a shoot, or go out to lunch.”
And when Elias is out shooting dog portraits – he’s captured over 50,000 already – he can stop by any Chase location for petty cash and a treat for his husky mix Elsa. He sees it this way: “The job of a bank is to enable companies to put their money anywhere. And that’s exactly what Chase for Business does.”
In the park, on a mountain or in the water, if there are dogs, you will probably find Elias there too. “I’ve been doing this for nine years and there are so many more dogs to photograph. The goal is to get them all.”
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