"Empowerment through Puppies" by Rachel Leavy

Published on Topic: Bosses

We were delighted when Rachel Leavy emailed this guest blog post about her experience as an entrepreneur. Rachel owns a dog training company, and lives with her dog, Maria. She writes for various blogs and has recently started her own with a colleague called Rochester Night and Day, where they explore Rochester and talk about feminism. 

Ever since I was a child I’ve had a passion for animals. I grew up riding horses, and was constantly surrounded by dogs and cats. I even had a rabbit named Lettuce until my mother informed me he ‘ran away.’ I planned on being an Olympic level equestrian, but as you can imagine, that didn’t pan out. Once I realized that it wasn’t feasible – this heartbreaking revelation came at about 15 – I decided to switch my focus. Dogs are much more manageable and cause a lot less broken bones and bruises than horses.

I did the logical thing and got a job as a dog trainer after graduation. I worked for a major retail chain and at first it was wonderful. I was young, making decent money, and I got to play with puppies all day. For the first few years I absolutely loved it. I can’t tell you what the exact moment was that caused the switch to flip; but one day it just wasn’t enough. I was tired of the mundane predictability of it all. I had reached the top of the ladder in my position, with nowhere to go but corporate and I am not the type for a desk job. Also I was tired of being told what to do.

At 22 years old I up and quit, impulsively deciding to do it on my own. It was the best, most stupid decision I’ve ever made. I had no idea how involved being your own boss was! I suppose looking back, it’s a good thing I did it when I did, because now that I’m older and wiser, I would most likely be too scared. It’s a difficult jump to make, but the rewards are absolutely worth it.

I get to make my own schedule, wake up when I want and I don’t have to be nice to people. I’m incredibly independent and a little bit cranky sometimes. When I worked at the pet store I had to be polite and the customer was always right. Now I can actually tell my clients what I really think, and that has proven beneficial. My clients appreciate my honesty, and it’s saved dogs from being sent to shelters. I don’t have to worry about them calling my manager because I hurt their feelings. I build strong relationships with my clients and I honestly don’t mind that sometimes they call at 11pm with an issue.

As much as owning my own business makes me feel empowered and awesome, there are some downsides. First of all, the taxman takes a big chunk of my profits, and this means I actually have to do accounting. Sometimes people think I just get to work with dogs, but that’s only the beginning. It’s just me and a contractor every now and again, so I am in charge of marketing, scheduling, the legal aspects, insurance, social media, etc. The list is never-ending. I haven’t had a day off since I can remember, but it’s worth it because I am in charge.

 For the more troubling situations I have instilled a rule I’ve deemed the ‘five minute freak out.’ If something doesn’t go as planned (you can’t please everyone and there’s no manager to take the brunt), I have five minutes to do whatever I want. I can cry, I can punch my pillow, whatever. But after those five minutes I refuse to dwell on it. It’s pretty effective because you can’t afford negative stressors; the job itself is stressful enough.

Owning a business is not an easy job, but I’ve found for me it is the most rewarding way to live my life. If you’re thinking about it, I suggest planning better than I did, because I will admit I got lucky. Entrepreneurial adventures aren't something one should do on a whim. If you’re willing to eat ramen for a year, give up your social life and work 14 hour days, it’s the perfect gig. The relationships with my clients (two and four-legged) over the years has been incredible and only continues to grow. And the best part: I don’t have to answer to anyone but myself.