Nashville Lappy Hour gets wacky with dogs and drinks

People love their dogs. And people like to go out for a few drinks.

So why can’t the two go together?

That’s a question Jenny Clough asked herself before she founded Nashville Lappy Hour in that city in April 2007. The business name alone helps make Clough’s enterprise a natural fit in the 2007 StartupNation Home-Based 100  “Wackiest” category.

What’s wackier than 50 dogs cramped into the back patio of a restaurant, some of them dressed up with silly themes like “Barktoberfest?” One recent evening there was a “Dancing with the Stars” theme at Lappy Hour. And of course, all of this is mixed with alcohol. As a result, Nashville Lappy Hour was the paws, er, hands-down winner as the Home-Based 100’s Wackiest business.

“There is not enough for dog owners to do with their dogs,” Clough says. “You don’t want at work all day and at night turn around and leave your dog alone when you go out for dinner or entertainment.”

Clough was dining at the Eastside Café in Nashville one night and started feeling guilty about leaving her dogs home alone. She has three. There’s Stan, a Chesapeake Bay Retriever-Beagle mix (Clough calls him a “Chesabeagle”); Wyatt, a Labrador-Airedale combo (a “Labradale”); and Ted, a Black Chow-Sheppard (no cute nickname was provided).

She asked the owners of the café if it would be OK for dog owners to bring their canines to the establishment’s outdoor patio. After they agreed, Clough came up with a tail-wagging idea for a business.

A mortgage banker for Countrywide, she decided that a regular happy-hour event with dogs would be a good way to promote her mortgage business. With $2,000 in startup costs, she launched NashvilleLappyHour.com with the help of a tech-savvy friend and started letting acquaintances and colleagues know about the venture.

It was a more efficient way to promote the business than the typical customized pens or coffee mugs, she figured.

After getting permission from the restaurant to hold the events free of charge, Clough started Lappy Hour. After holding six events as of October 2007, on the first Thursday of each month (weather permitting), more and more people have attended to a peak of about 100 human guests. Companies such as a local Petco store have sponsored Lappy Hour, providing prizes for raffles and other giveaways. The outing garnered the attention of the daily Tennessean newspaper as well as the weekly Nashville Scene.

What Clough started as a wacky event will, she hopes, turn into a primary business venture. “Ideally, this is going to turn into a full-time gig for me,” she says. “I really want it to be fun and successful, but it needs to pay the bills.”

In 2008, Clough plans on charging admission to Lappy Hour and would like to get more sponsors. She is seeking additional venues to house the party in the winter months and has already gotten a local art gallery to agree to host it. Eventually, the plan is to get her own storefront where she can hold events whenever she wants without being constricted by another venue’s schedule. She’s looking for investors and seed money. Too bad about Leona Helmsley.

Clough is jazzed about her prospects. “It’s really going, and I’m really excited about it,” she says. “We’ve all got a little wacky in us.”

More featured 2007 StartupNation Home-based 100 articles:

View complete 2007 rankings

See 2008 Home-Based 100 competition

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