HALIFAX— Ainsley Stapleton may only be a teenager, but she has already positioned herself to be an entrepreneurial leader in her community. Last year, the 17-year-old from East Hants, NS, set up Universal Canine, where Stapleton teaches canines, and their owners, different abilities and tricks. Many of Ainsley’s students go on to compete in agility competitions.
Prior to the pandemic, Stapleton estimated she has worked with more than 80 dogs, plus their owners. In March, because of the Coronavirus, Stapleton had to stop a course halfway through. She was worried about the health of her clients.
“The majority of people who take my classes are at a high risk, usually elderly people or children,” said Stapleton.
But the young businesswoman didn’t let Covid-19 stop her from her passion. Instead, she moved her classes online. Every week she would upload documents to a Facebook group. She also went through the trouble of filming herself with her own dogs, to show different training techniques.
“I was never afraid that my business was going to collapse because I knew there were other ways I could make it work,” said Stapleton.
The online courses turned out to be a smash hit. Over the span of three five-week classes, Universal Canine trained 129 clients through the internet and social media. Despite the success of the digital business, Stapleton still looks forward to the day she can see her clients, and their cute dogs, face-to-face.
“I do prefer in-person teaching for sure. I miss my students…because a lot of training is body language and communication,” said Stapleton. “So, it’s harder for me to communicate that online versus in person where I can physically show them what I’m trying to tell them.”
Then, in June, Stapleton came up with another innovative idea to expand her growing online business. She created a Facebook group called Universal Canine All Stars, where people can post videos of their dogs completing tricks and tasks. Stapleton reviews the dog’s accomplishments and, for a fee, will register the dog to be titled. The good doggos also receive ribbons in the mail for their good work.
Despite only being open a few weeks ago, Universal Canine All Stars already has more than 700 likes on Facebook, and Stapleton has handed out 200 ribbons.
Stapleton hopes to resume normal, face-to-face classes on September 13. She doesn’t plan on resuming online classes after that date, but she will keep the Universal Canine All Stars group going, so dogs can keep earning their ribbons.
“My Mom said ‘well, Ainsley, you can do everything online,’ said Stapleton. “But I enjoy being in person with my students and the dogs and working with them one-on-one.”
“I definitely plan to continue with the All Stars program. I think that’s a great addition to my business and it’s working really well, and it’s really taken off in popularity. But I don’t plan to continue with my online courses, so far.”