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Photo provided by K9s for Camo Inc.

Startup Corner: John Lopez, K9s For Camo Inc.

Springfield’s startup community is here. Take the pulse.

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Minimally viable product …
K9s For Camo offers service dogs to veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injuries, diabetes, seizures and mobility issues. All of our dogs go to their veterans at no cost to them.

Problem solving …
I personally select all of the rescue dogs that are used in the program. They come to my training center for about a month of behavioral and advanced training, then go to the Ozark Correctional Center in Fordland. I have trained the offenders in this program on how to properly train service dogs. From there, they go through public access training and go to their new vet. The vet will continue classes with us, and we help with the transitional process.

Seed money …
We started with $31,000 raised in one year by friends and local businesses.

Hurdles overcome …
We are now doing a lot of our training through the Ozark Correctional Center. Training the inmates on how to train service dogs properly gives them a life skill that can be utilized when they return to society and is constant work for the future service dogs.

Next phase …
We would like to build a facility where we can train dogs and have veterans come for classes and training.

Biggest mistake …
I started the program by myself and ran all aspects. If I could start over, I would have put together my board much quicker and used their advice, help and tools from the beginning.

Advice received …
I’ve learned to take the advice of people who have been in a nonprofit startup position. It is very different than starting a business, and advice from those who do not know the process should be taken with a grain of salt.

Greatest need …
Like most nonprofits, our greatest need is more funding. All of our dogs go to their veterans fully trained and at no cost to them. We also take care of kennels, training supplies, vests, future training, vet costs and anything else the vet/dog team may need to make the relationship work.

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