Meet Fueled by Purpose Micro Grant Winner Kellie Stevens, Founder of Gonzo Dog

By Chris Olsen

In response to the global health crisis, My Founder Story partnered with BankCherokee to launch Fueled by Purpose micro grants. Every week through June, we awarded a grant to a female-founded small business in need.

Kellie Stevens dabbled in a few different jobs but none of them felt career worthy. It wasn’t until the longtime dog lover and advocate became a dogwalker in New York City that she finally found her calling. Her boss would assign her the challenging dogs and Kellie would work on correcting their behavioral issues while they walked. She quickly realized she had a gift for communicating with her new four-legged friends. After three years, she decided to start her own dog walking company closer to home in Brooklyn, only no one wanted to hire her for dog walking—they wanted her to train their dogs. That’s when Kellie decided to become a dog trainer and Gonzo Dog was born.

Gonzo Dog is dedicated to dog training, behavioral modification, education and rescue transition. Kellie’s training methods are rewards-based and force-free, which means lots of “good boys!” and ear scratches, with no prong, choke or shock collars. She works with all kinds of breeds and every issue imaginable. Kellie specializes in helping pups with anxiety issues, fear-based aggression and leash reactivity. She also works with special needs dogs, including those that are blind or deaf, senior dogs and rescue dogs that are transitioning to new homes.

Before COVID-19, Kellie primarily provided services to clients in their homes. That all changed when New Yorkers were ordered to shelter in place, so Kellie took the opportunity to launch teletraining. She now offers a number of remote services via Skype and FaceTime including breed counseling (choosing a dog whose personality fits you and your lifestyle), preparing to bring a new dog or puppy home, puppy training, plus specific tips and tricks for dealing with hyperactivity, excessive barking and impulse control. She also provides general “dogucation” on body language, socialization and learning theory.

The silver lining for Kellie is that she has figured out a way to deliver her services beyond her previous service area and can now serve clients nationwide. She plans to use the grant to purchase better recording equipment for teletraining sessions and a body camera to film live sessions for playback and education. “Many people are struggling with all the changes that have happened, but change isn’t always bad,” she says. “Give new things a chance!”

To learn more about Kellie’s business, visit GonzoDogNYC.com.

To learn more about and apply for a Fueled by Purpose micro grant, visit our grants page.

Photo: NYC Pet Photographer

About the author: Chris Olsen is an author and broadcast media maven turned communications consultant. Through her work as a consultant, Chris realized her WHY—to support women-owned businesses in confidently communicating their purpose, setting them up for entrepreneurial success. She created My Founder Story as a platform for doing so.

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