Alumnus Alexis won the Young Executive of the Year award and was listed in Forbes 30 under 30

If you are a pet owner, you probably know how stressful it can be to find a trustworthy and affordable sitter when you are away. To fill the ever growing need for local pet accommodation whilst still maintaining the care, love and attention our pets deserve, Alexis founded Mad Paws. Currently, the Sydney-based start-up has over 20,000 approved sitters/walkers and 500.000 pets across Australia on its books.

Alexis grew up in Antwerp and studied Business Economics. “I had a great time at the University of Antwerp, but I was also disciplined, focused and took my studies very seriously. I was part of the JUMP programme and did the Summer school in India. In those 4 weeks, you are part of a group of 22-year-olds working and travelling together, bonding over shared experiences (I distinctly remember for instance we all got food poisoning at one point).”

“That trip inspired me to study abroad and to ultimately start my own business in Australia. And one of the students who I travelled with during the Summer school, is now working with me. So never underestimate the power of your university network.”

“Then, during my Master’s year, I received a fund from the Koning Boudewijnfonds which enables students to continue their studies abroad. I am still very grateful for that, because it allowed me to study a Master in Management at the University of Sydney Business School.”

The origin of Mad Paws

“I got the idea for Mad Paws while I was looking after my friend’s dog, a Labrador named Honey. During my studies, I got the opportunity to discuss the innovative business models Airbnb and Uber use with several business leaders. That’s when the idea came up to do something similar for pets.

“We went to the dog park and started talking to people, to really get understand their needs and to see what would interest them in such a platform.”

Silver linings to the crisis

The corona crisis has been tough on Mad Paws, especially in the beginning. In April, when Australia went into lockdown, the company experienced a revenue drop of 95%. “I don’t have to tell you how scary that is. We knew people weren’t able to travel, were working from home,… the need for sitters dropped drastically. So we started making deals with suppliers, we put people on reduced time, we cut costs,…” 

“But we also decided to reinvent ourselves. We started a pet food subscription, which we launched in a matter of weeks. Thanks to that, we were able to turn things around. Now, Australia is handling the crisis well. Things are starting up again and for us, business is booming. Not just the newly-launched pet food service, but our other services as well.”

Alexis Soulopoulos Mad Paws

“There is one big silver lining to the whole crisis: people started adopting more and more dogs from shelters.” 

Young Executive of the Year

Given the way Alexis managed to turn his business around, it’s no surprise The CEO Magazine named him Young Executive of the Year. “I’ve been nominated for awards before but I’d never actually won. So when they announced my name, I was thrilled and honored. This year, the focus of the award was on businesses that did things right during Covid-19. For me, that confirms we really did make the best out of a bad situation.”

It doesn’t stop there. In 2019, Alexis was listed in Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia. “That has been an incredible experience. At one point, there was a conference in Hong Kong where all of the listed entrepreneurs got to meet each other. There are some amazing things happening, people my age disrupting the world with their innovative ideas. Safe to say I was very inspired.”

What’s next?

“We want to be a one-stop stop, a brand you can trust for all your pet needs. From getting a pet, to adopting, to connecting breeders, to supplying pet food,…” Sadly, Mad Paws will probably not come to Belgium any time soon. “I love Belgium but it’s a bit for from Australia, so logistically it may prove to be difficult. But you never know.”

Read more about Mad Paws and the Business Economics programme at the UAntwerp.

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