Citizen Potawatomi Nation member Audrey Kiefer grew up in western Missouri participating in as many Tribal events as possible. Once she completed high school, Kiefer moved to Florida to attend aviation school at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. After graduating with her bachelor’s degree, she relocated to Houston, Texas, to begin a career in aviation sales.
As Kiefer developed professionally, it became more difficult for her to take care of her German Shepard named Vader. She set out to find a solution.
“My job in sales was demanding. I would often have last minute meeting requests that weren’t scheduled on my calendar, but that meant I needed someone to let my dog Vader out,” Kiefer said during a phone interview with the Hownikan. “I was calling on my neighbors a lot, and I would just try to pay them back eventually or buy them drinks.”
Remembering the culture of her rural, tight-knit hometown outside of Kansas City, Kiefer had an idea. She wanted to create an app that connects users when life gets busy, allowing four-legged family members, like Vader, to receive the care they need without creating a burden on others. She released Heroly, a mobile platform that pet owners can use to find reliable neighbors to assist, in 2018.
“We’re a team of intense canine lovers and advisers who are all inspired by the same mission: to help dogs and owners alike. We believe in integrity, community and charity,” she said.
While the app currently targets Texas markets with brand ambassadors in Houston and Austin, Heroly is available on smartphones across the country.
When last minute obligations arise that make it difficult to care for pets, selecting “Request Hero” in the app sends a notification to the owner’s pre-approved list of Heroly users.
“We encourage each user to cultivate their own trusted circle of neighbors and peers to become ‘heroes’ for one another,” she said. “We always say it’s important to only connect with those you know and trust. Strangers in your home is a terrible idea for all involved, including your pet.”
Once the user places a request, the “hero” that is available will respond. Each walk or feeding request starts at $10.
“Heroly is the cheapest option available to get your pet relieved. Also, the more you help your heroes in return, the cheaper the cost is for you,” she said.
The company only receives 8 percent of each transaction. Pet owners pay for services peer-to-peer, ensuring most of the funds go directly back to the “hero.”
“The app was initially developed as a means to cultivate community,” Kiefer said. “Yeah, it can serve as someone’s side hustle, but what it really is about is bringing people together.”
Because saving animals is the company’s No. 1 priority, it donates 20 percent of its proceeds every month to an animal shelter that’s voted on by its customers.
“Our target demographic is millennials, and millennials are very aware of corporate social responsibility,” she explained.
The company also strives to decrease the amount of pets placed in shelters through prevention efforts.
“The top two reasons that dogs are surrendered is time and behavior. Heroly helps with both,” Kiefer said. “You can get help with time when things get hectic, and our Herloy’s Canine Club podcast and our blog can help with behavior.”
The podcast’s host, Jonas Black, provides tips and training methods based upon years of experience and thousands of dogs saved.
“Jonas and I first met over coffee, and we instantly hit it off,” she said. “We believe in a lot of the same approaches and tools for training, and he’s really gaining attention as an expert across the country.”
Kiefer does warn potential listeners that the podcast sometimes features language that some may not find appropriate.
“That’s why we say he’s un-muzzled, but he is just really passionate and knowledgeable,” she added.
“For someone in their thirties, I thought I was good at technology, but I realized I’m not. Luckily, there is no shortage of dog lovers that are willing to help us out,” Kiefer said.
Creating the app took much more time to complete than she planned and required tremendous effort, but after 15 months of hard work, Heroly officially released fall 2018.
As a Bertrand descendant, Kiefer credits her Potawatomi heritage with part of her success.
“My family history includes strong people, and we’re very proud to be Potawatomi,” she said. “I would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for my ancestors and family, especially my mom. She has always encouraged me to reach beyond my comfort zone.”
Kiefer hopes the company grows, assisting pet owners and animal shelters alike across the United States.
“Heroly is a brand, not just an app,” she explained. “Our goal is for Heroly to become a household name that helps spread education and connects neighbors, supports shelters and makes heroes for canines.”
Find out more about Heroly, its blog and podcast at heroly.com.