Toronto Local: Ingrid Castro of Toronto Dog Moms on creating community

Ingrid Castro is the owner of Toronto Dog Moms which is a lifestyle brand for pet parents in the city. Ingrid aims to bring together dog parents to connect and inspire and learn from one another. She offers a community on Facebook where Toronto dog parents can ask questions about pet care, post relevant content about things like events or fundraisers, and recommend things pet parents need. Aside from having an active Facebook community and Instagram where she features fabulous dog parents, Ingrid has hosted events like Puppy Love in Toronto (pre-pandemic).

Shopping local isn't just for people anymore - your furry bff can benefit from grabbing local goodies at pet stores across the city. Find out how Ingrid started her business and the pooch that inspired her entrepreneurial journey!

How did you decide to run a business around dogs and being a dog parent?

I have worked with dogs for over 10 years in the service industry and wanted to do something that was product-related. My dog, Chino, has always been the motivation behind everything that I do.

"I created Toronto Dog Moms to help other moms connect, show pride, and share our love of pets. In addition to selling modern dog mom clothing and swag, Toronto Dog Moms is home to valuable information on pet health, events, and a community where all moms can connect and feel supported. "

How did you come up with the idea of Toronto Dog Moms?

I wanted to create a community where dog moms in Toronto could go to for resources, discuss their pets, and collaborate with each other. The hope is to expand to other cities and be able to serve dog moms across the country. Our dog parent Facebook community has been a really great way to keep in touch during the lockdowns and keep updated.

Toronto Dog Moms is all about connect pet parents in the city

What has been the most exciting milestone you’ve achieved in your business so far?

Our first ever event was definitely such an exciting moment. I stressed putting it together and worried no one would show up. Not only did over 250 people attend but we were featured on the news and more. It was so great to meet everyone and their dogs in person. I cannot wait until we can have in-person events again, after the pandemic.

Why is it important to build a local community in your city and connect dog parents to one another?

With the growing number of people bringing dogs into their families I think it’s great to have a community in which you can share experiences, ask questions, and get recommendations for local services and products. I have built friendships with many of the dog moms in my community and I hope that others are able to do the same. When it’s time to hang out again, it’s pretty much a given everyone is bringing their dog! 

Toronto is a very dog-friendly city and many shops offer discounts to the Toronto Dog Mom community.

I’ve heard this is the impossible question but quick: tell me your favourite piece Toronto Dog Moms has on your website!

It’s definitely The Real Dog Moms of Toronto hoodie. I obviously watch way too much reality TV and was inspired to put our Toronto Dog Moms spin on it. The sweater combines the love of my reality TV shows, our city of Toronto, and dogs all into one product.

Real Dog Moms of Toronto hoodie from local shop Toronto Dog Moms

How has the pandemic reshaped a community-driven business like yours?

It’s definitely been difficult not being able to take part in events or host our own. We have had to up our online presence and continuously find ways to engage with our community online. We have featured dog parents on our Instagram and continued to build our Facebook community out.

Why did you choose to build your website on Shopify?

I am not tech-savvy by any means and Shopify was a simple platform to work with to build the Toronto Dog Moms website and e-commerce section. Shopify is also super easy to continuously update and revamp when needed.

What's unique about your shop and what you offer?

We will donate a portion of all sales to local rescues, humane societies and support GoFundMe pages. We've done donations to Toronto Humane Society, Helpaws, and a few others. We also support dog-friendly events and places, so make sure to share updates so we can share with our dog mom community. We want to provide you fun and cute ways to celebrate your dog.

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I've been really grateful to and impressed with the pet store and veterinary community during the pandemic. Vets have stepped up to offer virtual appointments for pet owners and stores have enabled curb-side pickups for all your pet needs. Operating a Toronto vet practice in the pandemic has come with its own set of challenges and as Ingrid highlights, shops and communities have had to make the switch to virtual, too. I loved learning about Ingrid's shop and her adorable dog, Chino who inspired her entrepreneurial journey!

Samantha Lloyd

Samantha Lloyd is the co-founder and CEO of Metaranx, the place to shop local in Toronto.