These girls fought town hall and won: Manalapan

Sisters get green light for pet-sitting business

April 4, 2009*vnW4gAMg575h-qGcVm4lNjYhLkYp4XYw6Qvyg-Kj9uMogzJ-i0sdwSCSgcHWfqwbVWYyMyILLX2P0hVAaZ*/3girls2_web.jpg

By Linda Haase

When sisters Savanah, 11, Cassady, 8, and Amanda, 6, started ManalaPet Sitters, they anticipated being nipped by a zealous cat or beaked by a bird.

But the Manalapan residents never imagined their entrepreneurial venture would end before the dog days of summer began. However, as they and their mom, Gina Hyland, put flyers and business cards on residents doors in Manalapan and Hypoluxo Island Feb. 7, a police officer informed them they were violating a town ordinance.

Turns out they had to register and get a tax license before conducting business in the town. But, ah, the rub: Minors can't get the license.

Gina, who has lived in Point Manalapan for 15 years, wasn't about to let sleeping dogs lie and contacted nearly every town official. And, at a March 24 town meeting, officials voted to exempt minors from that provision of the ordinance. "We changed the ordinance. It was cool and it's a dream come true that I get to work with my sisters," says Cassady.

"It was amazing that everyone was so willing to help us out," said Savanah. "It'll give us something to tell our grandkids."

Gina and her husband, Paul, were relieved that city officials recognized the benefits of children getting business experience. It was also a good civics lesson for the three girls, who are home schooled. "They saw how changes are made. I told them it might not work out so easily and quickly next time, though," she said.

"When they first started, I thought it would be a good learning experience, they would to learn how to decide rates, how to advertise, market, design a Web site, T-shirts, hats and fliers, and run a business. But they learned a lot more."

The girls reveled in their 15 minutes of fame - and then resumed their business, which includes house and pet sitting and dog walking.

"Since we're just kids, we probably won't get a ton of business, but our rates are good, we love animals and we're responsible, so we think people should hire us," said Cassady. "And our Mom will be there to supervise."

The trio, who will be accompanied by their mom while they work, promises to take excellent care of clients' beloved pets and homes - taking in mail, turning on lights, watering plants and giving pets lots of TLC.

And where will the money go? "We'll give 10 percent to charity (Forgotten Soldiers and an animal shelter), pay for outside activities and put the rest in savings," said Savanah.

And now what?

"Hopefully we won't have to deal with a monkey or a rat," quipped Savanah.

"I'll feed the rat, I don't mind," Cassady said. "And I'll walk all the German shepherds," promises Amanda.

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