By Andrew R. Koch
Ocean City, Maryland and “The Nation’s Summer Capital,” Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, are two of the most popular beach resorts in the entire Mid-Atlantic. Every year, more than eight million people visit the two resorts. The majority of those visitors come to have fun in the sun, sand and surf between Memorial Day weekend and Labor Day weekend. However, one of those visitors has encountered problems when trying to travel with his pets.
Joseph Napoli is a Business Administration major in the Merrick School of Business. He’ll be a senior in the fall. He explained that while he and his family have a timeshare condominium in Ocean City, they have a hard time finding someplace where their dog and cat can stay while they spend a week at their condo.
“Every year, it’s sort of a rush to try to find the right sort of kennel that’ll treat the pets well, aren’t going to shove them in like a shoebox in the back room,” Napoli said. He explained that most of the condos in Ocean City don’t allow pets to stay with their owners.
“So I was thinking how nice it would be to have a kennel really close by so that people could check their pets in and out while they’re staying there,” Napoli said. “They don’t have any pets in the city, and I know from experience and from talking to people that it’s a service that people are looking for.” That’s when he got the idea of opening up kennels near Ocean City and Rehoboth for pet owners who come to vacation in those areas.
Napoli presented his idea to the Professional Development Institute in the Career and Professional Development Center. One of the institute’s mentors told him that his idea had a lot of potential, and encouraged him to enter the annual “Rise to the Challenge” competition, where students pitch their ideas for both new and existing businesses to a panel of business school professors. Contestants were coached by bank officers and entrepreneurs. The competition was held in the University of Baltimore’s Learning Commons Town Hall on April 16 in front of an audience of nearly 200 people. Napoli’s idea, “Unleash the Beach,” was announced as the winner in the “Undergraduate Student – New Business Idea” category on April 22. He was one of seven winners in the competition, and will receive $500 in cash and $1,200 in in-kind services to help him get “Unleash the Beach” up and running. Napoli says he’s looking to open for the summer of 2016.
“The Small Business Center’s been supporting me,” Napoli said. “I’m in contact with SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives), who are helping me secure capital and asking around.” Napoli says he’s still looking for capital as well as a suitable location near Rehoboth. Meanwhile, he’s been in contact with a realtor from the Ocean City area, and later this month, when he goes to vacation at his family’s condo, he’ll meet with the realtor to scout out possible locations. He says he’s looking for a location just off the Ocean City Expressway (Maryland Route 90) in the Ocean Pines area.
“Unleash the Beach” will offer pet grooming, one-on-one play sessions, and on-call veterinarian services. Each pet will get its own room, and owners will be able to check in on them via webcams that will be connected to the “Unleash the Beach” website. Pictures of the animals will be posted on the business’ social media sites. Napoli says this will allow pet owners to feel assured that their pets are happy and safe while they’re vacationing, and if they can always come in to check up on their pets, and even spend a day with them.