Longtime friends, alumni blend talents in business venture
By Sarah Carey
Close friends in veterinary school, Drs. Dani McVety, ’09, and Mary Gardner,’08, both became standouts, even before graduation, for their acumen and understanding of business.
“We hit it off right away and knew there was more to success than grades,” McVety said.
Gardner, whose resume prior to veterinary school included considerable time performing marketing, business and software design in the corporate world, had started a company called PCFlashcards and parlayed it into considerable success.
McVety, a former professional dancer and an entrepreneur from an early age, had served as president of the student chapter of the Veterinary Business Management Association. She and her husband, Chris, cofounded an ATM machine business when she was in veterinary school, and McVety was featured on the cover of a student-oriented DVM Magazine publication for a survey she developed that tested the knowledge of business concepts among veterinary students nationwide.
Now the two friends, who remained in touch and engaged in each others’ lives, have joined forces as partners in a company McVety formed soon after finishing veterinary school. The company, called Lap of Love, specializes in at-home Hospice and Euthanasia. Gardner and McVety visit the homes of clients with critically ill or injured pets, helping to care for animals during their last day, then finally administering in-home euthanasia.
“It all started in the summer of 2009, when Dani called me to talk about starting Lap of Love in Tampa,” Gardner recalled. “By then, I had been in general practice for a year, and I knew how many clients had asked me for such services in my area, so I knew it was going to be a great opportunity for her.”
Gardner said that although she was a bit restless in general practice, it wasn’t until a year later that she and McVety conversed again at length about the business.
“We spoke for about two hours on the subject,” Gardner said. “The next month, Dani invited me to Tampa to spend the weekend with her, learn what she does and brainstorm some ideas. During that weekend, we formed our partnership.”
Added McVety, “That was a great weekend.”
“ I don’t think either of us slept, we just brainstormed and mapped out the next three to five years,” she said.
She said she and Gardner have always been “on the same page” and that Gardner’s software expertise had taken the company to the next level of success.
“For example, I always thought a Lap of Love Facebook page might be a bit inappropriate for our company, but Mary has taken it so far,” McVety said. “It’s now almost a counseling center for people to go and share their stories, photos, and even videos of their pets they’ve lost. Mary also made a folder for ‘New Loves’ and clients will post pictures of pets they’ve recently adopted after losing one. It’s truly amazing.”
Gardner, who is based in Lighthouse Point, covers the Southeast part of Florida. McVety covers the state’s northwest region. Both McVety, who is still in Tampa and has two young children, and Gardner work out of their homes…and cars.
“However, we are a team when it comes to marketing ideas, initiatives, and procedure development,” Gardner said. “We’ve developed all new brochures and a booklet we give to each client that has a wealth of information on grieving, ways to honor their pet, etc.”
Gardner and McVety do presentations at local veterinary hospitals on developing hospice programs and euthanasia, and McVety will soon be speaking at the VBMA at Mississippi State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine.
“At the end of March, they want me to repeat a presentation I did for the UF VBMA in October about balancing life and work,” McVety said.
She said the business was rewarding for both her and Gardner because neither of them feel that they “fit in” in general practice. In addition, both love entrepreneurial ventures and public speaking.
“This has become a perfect fit for both of us and the collaboration is the best example of a synergistic relationship I can think of,” McVety said. “Mary has the technical computing skills and thinks outside the box, I have the background and a firm understanding about what our clients are truly looking for.”
“It is really beneficial to have each other as a sounding board,” Gardner said. “What we do is extremely unique and we are always in situations that may be unfamiliar, so it is nice to see what the other person did in a similar situation.”
McVety agreed and said there is no model for what the two are doing, but they enjoy exploring new horizons.
“The company has moved twice as fast with Mary on board,” McVety said.