But we found six families who are living the dream—they get to spend the day with their dogs and make money, to boot. For the love of their family Fidos, these ten people quit their corporate day jobs and began companies that centered around their passion—canines.
Owner: The Sensitive Dog and host of The Dog Talk Show
Inspiration: Chewy, a Lab/hound mix
After college, Julie contemplated entering grad school to be a clinical social worker. But she had such a connection with her dog Chewy, a Lab mix that stole her heart when she was volunteering at the local pound in Vermont, that she decided to combine her interest in dog behavior and human behavior into one career—dog training.
“It’s interesting because you have to work as much with the owners as you do with the dogs, and understand what people are bringing to the relationship and what challenges that might be presenting,” she says.
Julie, now a Seattle-resident, has been helping owners and dogs get along for eight years and has owned her own dog-training company since 2004. The Sensitive Dog offers obedience classes, private in-home training and nutrition courses for canines.
Her expertise was recently parlayed into a hosting gig for a radio show called the Dog Talk Show. “It’s a show for dog lovers,” she says. “It’s accessible to people. They can call in and ask their questions and get advice from an expert for free.”
And Julie couldn’t ask for a better gig. “What I do is similar to couples counseling because people come to me when they have a problem in their relationship with their dog,” she says. “They let me into that relationship and I get to help them improve their communication, which improves the quality of life for both people and dog. It doesn’t get much better than that.”
For more information visit sensitivedog.com
Mitch Frankenberg and Jen Fredreck
Owners: Paw House Inn
Inspiration: Mario D. Dogg, a black Lab, and Shakespeare, a yellow Lab
Shortly before the terrorist attacks in September 2001, Mitch and Jen were both living in New Jersey and working at the World Trade Center, when they decided they were tired of the corporate rat race and wanted to spend more time with each other—and their canine companions. “We started the Paw House Inn for our Labrador retrievers,” says Mitch. “They were our first children. We traveled with them to 23 states and wanted to create a vacation destination that would welcome humans like us, who consider their dogs as members of the family.”
Their vision became reality as the Paw House Inn, a bed & breakfast in Vermont that caters to dog owners and their dogs. Not only is every room in the Inn pet-friendly, but the grounds and surrounding area offer plenty of human-and-pet activities to enjoy.
And though Mitch and Jen’s Labs both passed away the summer of 2008, there are reminders of them everywhere. The playhouse is named after Mario, “who was as fun loving and clever as they come.” And the master suite is named “Shakespeare’s Retreat” for “our brilliant and charming ball-chasing friend.”
“We miss them every day,” says Mitch. “But are also blessed with a beautiful Golden Retriever named Brooklyn who keeps us laughing all the time.”
For more information, visit pawhouse.com
or call 866.PAW.HOUSE.
Pat and Lydia Lewsen
Owners: Everything and the Dog
Inspiration: Willabee, a Lab and Lilly, an English bulldog
Between traveling and commuting for their jobs as a recruiter and a consultant, Lydia and Pat didn’t have much time left to care for their dogs. “We wanted the best for them but couldn’t find any pet-care businesses that we liked,” says Pat. “One day we realized that we just needed to create one!”
Eight years ago, they started Everything and the Dog, a pet care and concierge service in northern Virginia, that takes care of pets for people while they are at work or on vacation.
The couple believe that if your dog is happy, everyone is happy—and their customers agree.
For more information, call 703-587-4410 or visit everythingandthedog.com
John and Erica Reh
Owners: Dogs Love Running!
Inspiration: Elsa, a Rhodesian ridgeback
As a headhunter and an investment banker, respectively, John and Erica were both bringing home six figures in jobs that were stressing them out. “So we both quit,” says John,” and decided to do what we enjoyed doing, and see if it would pay off.” What they both enjoyed were animals, the outdoors and exercise, so Dogs Love Running, a pet exercise company, was born.
“We just want to have an aura of fun surrounding everything we do,” says John, “because if you’re having fun, then you’re probably doing a good job at whatever you’re doing.”
They hope to educate people about the importance of exercise for both the health of humans and dogs. “We love running and are just trying to make our contribution to the pet world,” he says. “Hopefully pet exercise will grow more in popularity and people will be doing more on their own or join up with us in one way or another.”
For more information, visit dogsloverunning.com
or call 877-PETS-RUN.
Alana and Javier Marmanillo
Owners: Love & Luck Greetings
Inspiration: Brady, a Chihuahua/dachsund mix
Alana and Javier met in 1996 when they both worked at the Washington Post in the art department. Eight years later, they decided to merge their love of design, and their love of their dog Brady into a greeting card company, with art inspired by their pooch.
“We love experiencing the world through Brady’s eyes,” says Alana. “When we take him on walks, we’re inspired by the things he gravitates towards—animals, bugs, toys—and incorporate them in our designs. Brady also loves Sprinkles dog cupcakes (in L.A.), so they came up with the Liz card—a dog on a skateboard with a cupcake. But the best thing about their card company? They get to have Brady with them in the office—and that’s not something a lot of people can say about their job.
For more information, check out loveandluckgreetings.com
Tyler McKibben (pictured above)
Owner: Party Pooch
Inspiration: Missy, a teacup Chihuahua and Audrey, a dachshund
Tyler, a 14-year-old entrepreneur, didn’t exactly have a day job before starting his canine corporation, but he does have a love of all things pooch. One night, while he was planning his dog Missy’s birthday party, he decided he should start a professional dog party planning service.
“I take Missy and Audrey with me everywhere and I began to realize how much people gravitate towards not just them, but dogs in general,” he says. “I knew that a dog oriented business was definitely something that would be received by the public very well.” And it has. His infectious enthusiasm has made Party Pooch a success in his small town of Paso Robles
, Calif., and he offers services for all types of parties including birthday parties, howl-oween
costume parties, puppy showers, adoption anniversaries—even dog weddings!
“Dogs deserve parties because they cause so much happiness in our day-to-day lives, that just handing them a bone doesn’t really cut it,” he says. “Dogs bring unconditional love to us no matter what, so I say let’s celebrate them, and all that they do for us by having a party to show we love them just as much as they love us.”
For more information, visit partypooch.net
Want to quit your day job?
If you’re ready to follow your passion and start your own pooch business, make sure you do your research before you turn in your two-week notice. And heed the advice of these pet-repreneurs.
Proper training isn’t just for pets. “There are little-to-no regulations for many dog-related businesses. Anyone can be a dog walker, anyone can call themselves a dog trainer,” says Julie Forbes, owner of the Sensitive Dog. “Formal training, where it applies, either through apprenticeships or seminars are very important for a business that will be handling dogs.” And it could put you one step ahead of your competition.
“Many dog services are primarily passed through word of mouth marketing,” says Forbes. “Get to know all the local businesses that provide pet services: daycares, pet supply stores, humane societies. Once other professionals in your community know and trust you and your services, they will be happy to have you as a resource to refer their clients to.”
Your dog represents your business.
“For example, if you start a grooming shop, make sure your pooch is groomed to its finest,” says Tyler McKibben, owner of Party Pooch. When you take your dog out in public, the quality of your work can speak for itself and earn you new clients in a jiffy.
Create a business plan.
“We are big advocates for planning,” says Mitch Frankenberg, owner of the Paw House Inn. “Not only will it help you finalize details and stay on budget, but it can help you identify so many opportunities for creativity and self expression,” he says.
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