FairyTail Pet Care of Hillsborough County
Kelly Nova and Ilana Karcinski have been best friends since they were 13. Having worked together in various jobs over the years, including the hospitality industry, and both having a love of dogs, they got a brilliant idea in 2015. “We saw this need that couples wanted to include their pet in their wedding day but then the logistics come into play…and so a lightbulb kind of went off and we realized that wedding pet care could actually be a service that couples are looking for,” Nova said.
And so, FairyTail Pet Care was born. “We always knew we wanted to do something with animals and something we were passionate about,” added co-owner, Karcinski. “So when this lightbulb went off and we realized we could work with animals and have that hospitality experience since we were both working at hotels before, it was just like a dream opportunity.”
The company provides full-service care for furry family members on a couple’s wedding day, to include round-trip transportation, care throughout the day, and even wedding outfits and walking the pet down the aisle. FairyTail Pet Care is essentially your pet’s plus one for your big day.
The company has been on a rising trajectory since inception, with the duo even creating a franchise system in 2021 and recently making their mark on Shark Tank. Along the way though, they utilized local resources to help keep them grounded. “The SBDC has been a great resource for our business,” Nova said. “We’ve used them to help us review our website. We’ve attended a couple of classes and workshops. Right before we were about to launch our franchise system, we were looking for kind of the right way to do it, the right way to finance it. It is very expensive and so it was a great help to have that as a resource for us.”
The team’s primary business consultant, Brad Owens, is a former banker and specializes in capital access. He’s based at the regional office on campus at USF CONNECT. Karcinski says the guidance from the Florida Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at University of South Florida (USF) has been invaluable as FairyTail Pet Care has grown over the years.
“When we started, we were the only wedding pet care company in the United States so the first couple of years were just so much education, not a whole lot of room to grow because we were just trying to be known and have people understand what it meant to be your dog’s plus one,” she said. “Seeing the growth that we’ve been able to accomplish beyond that has been beyond our wildest dreams. It’s what we’ve always wanted but we can’t believe it’s actually happening, so when we came to talk to a mentor to figure out the best way to finance to move forward, it was such a pivotal point for us.”
FairyTail Pet Care now has four locations across the country, and recently had the opportunity to pitch their business to the sharks on Shark Tank, and even landed a shark. The team spent months preparing for the pitch and went through a vetting process with the show, before finally getting the opportunity to pitch. “We already had eight years or so under our belt but when you’re about to go on Shark Tank and pitch your business to multi-millionaires, billionaires, business moguls, you really want to make sure that you’re in tiptop shape,” Nova said. The duo received offers from Barbara Corcoran and Kevin O’Leary before ultimately agreeing to Corcoran’s deal.
With the deal now finalized, the duo is looking forward to what comes next. “As we continue to grow our business we know there will be more challenges, more pain points where we are going to need that mentorship to understand the best way to move forward,” Karcinski said. “And while we do have Barbara on our team now, which is incredible, it’s so nice to know that we have the SBDC at USF as a resource whenever those challenges do come up.”
Nova added, “They have so many great resources that you can utilize to help you grow your business. You can’t do it all on your own and so it makes such a difference to have people in your corner that are looking out for you and just want to see you succeed.”