With his hospitality degree in hand, Kevin Mahoney ’97 moved to Kansas City to begin the first steps in his dream career of becoming the chief executive officer of a major hotel.
Kevin married his best friend, Jennifer Galletti ’97 (applied arts and sciences), after declaring his love in a three-page handwritten letter, and accepted a job managing food and beverage for the Wyndham hotel.
But a year into the job, Kevin was miserable. He spotted a newspaper ad that described a position working outside with dogs.
“It was picking up dog poop for a company,” he says. “I was so exhausted. I didn’t want to see people. I didn’t want to hire. I didn’t want to fire. I didn’t want to have a meeting. So I went and I tried to do the job.”
Jennifer was more than a little surprised.
“I’m like, what? You are leaving your big, serious, fancy job that you got your degree for and you’re going to do what? Then he tells me we’re using my car.”
After a few months, the couple decided to move to Northern New Jersey to be closer to family and open their own business. They started Happy Tails in 1999 with a bucket, a bag and a scoop, recruiting customers by going door-to-door in their beat-up Volvo station wagon and handing out fliers. Jennifer was 8 months pregnant.
By 2001, the business had grown so much that they needed to hire some help. In 2008, they bought a franchise of DoodyCalls. Now they own three trucks to haul pet waste, employ six people and have hundreds of customers. Kevin spends most of his time managing the routes and working with the customers. Jennifer handles the books. They both feel fortunate that they created a career they can do together that allows time for their family.
“I knew that this company was going to work and I was going to make it work because it fit into my lifestyle,” Kevin says about being able to chaperone school field trips and spend time with his three girls: Judy, 6; Abigail, 10; and Corinne, 13.
The girls, by the way, have varying thoughts about the pet-waste removal business. The oldest doesn’t enjoy being dropped off at school in the bright green poop truck. The other two think the poop mobile is first class and look forward to Take Your Daughter to Work Day.
The Mahoneys tell some funny stories, such as the largest pile of poop they have come across. “I swear it looked like Big Bird’s nest,” Kevin says. Jennifer reminds him of the family with five Great Danes. The yard took seven hours to clean up. Along with dog poop, the company removes geese poop and deer waste and cleans cat litter boxes.
Kevin and Jennifer are used to
getting a lot of questions about the business and realize a mere mention of the company can bring about the giggles. They don’t mind.
“I usually say, ‘Hi, this is Kevin from DoodyCalls, your professional pooper scooper.’ People usually hesitate. I go, ‘It’s OK, you can laugh.’ And they do, they laugh. Then I usually say poop again one more time and the people just laugh. Everyone laughs at poop.”