Four pet entrepreneurs take a leap of faith to follow their passion
By Carol Bryant
Leaving a successful career is never easy, especially in these rocky economic times. Yet many talented entrepreneurs have given up the security of their old jobs to start new pet-related businesses. Luckily, the industry is thriving. An estimated $53 billion will be spent in the U.S. pet industry this year—reaching an all-time high, according to the American Pet Products Association (APPA). From doggie daycares to canine spa treatments, the business is booming, and these inspiring entrepreneurs are in the thick of it.
TAILS interviewed four talented business owners who took a leap and followed their love of animals.
Writing for a cause
After 25 years working as a copywriter and project manager in marketing communications, Pam Foster switched gears and created PetCopyWriter.com. Her site offers marketing services to companies looking to reach the pet industry. “I realized I was working with all these different industries, but my heart was in the pet industry. I knew that was where I belonged.”
Foster did not allow herself to be held back by fears that her career move would not be profitable. “I get up every day and write about people who are making a living celebrating pets. The pet community is so warm, fun, and caring; it really makes a big difference,” she says. Today, Foster wakes up excited to go to work, fueled by the energy and joy she shares with her clients. “This is a growing industry. I always feel that not only do I love working [in the pet industry], but I can survive financially. It is not even work, it is a joy.”
Inspiration comes in all kinds of packages
One day, Kristin Elliott observed a woman struggling to push a baby stroller while walking her dog. With a crying baby on her hip, and a bag of pet waste repeatedly hitting the baby’s leg, the walk was clearly not going well. Elliott was inspired to create the Doodie Pack. This unique saddlebag allows your dog to carry not only his own waste bag, but also your keys, phone, and more.
A science teacher, wife, and mom to three daughters, Elliott already had her hands full when she got started. Her advice for other people who want to take the leap into starting a pet-oriented career is to be realistic about the commitment. “Building a new career or business takes many hours, sometimes even more than 40 a week,” she says. “Be prepared to be in conflict in terms of your time. Stay organized and communicate your needs—a new business needs to find balance in your life’s framework.”
The spirited entrepreneur reports that juggling her many roles has been tough, but worth it. She started her business, because she loves what she does, not just for profit. “There is a genuine spirit among pet people. Anyone doing business for the sole purpose of profiting will be sniffed out,” she says.
If you can’t find it, create it
Frustrated with how difficult it was to find high-quality pet products, Shaheed Khan left his career as an architect and started Oliver’s Pet Care—an online business that makes it easy for pet parents to learn about and purchase the best in pet supplies. “I always thought architecture was my passion until I started Oliver’s Pet Care,” Khan says. “I definitely had doubts, as there is always a risk to starting a new business. My new optimism completely outweighed my doubts, however, and I took the next step.”
The name comes from Khan’s dog Oliver, whom he and his wife adopted in 2009. When asked if he is happier now than he was in his previous profession, Khan responds with an emphatic, “Yes!”
“Having Oliver in our lives just showed us how amazing the human-animal bond is. Working every day to find quality items for pets is definitely what makes me happy.”
A piece of the pet industry pie
GiggyBites, located in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, was created to provide fresh-baked gourmet pet treats and unique gift items to pet lovers. After working in a variety of careers, owner Stephanie Rossino feels at home in the bakery. “We really enjoy helping people find the right food and treats for their dogs. One customer’s service dog was diagnosed with cancer, and our liver muffins were the only things she would eat,” Rossino says. “I went from food service to computers to dog treats, but all roads led to this.”
Rossino may be working harder than ever, but she is confident she has found her passion. “Knowing we can help people better their dogs’ lives is so rewarding,” she says.