Almost 70% of U.S. employees are actively disengaged at work, according to a 2018 Gallup organization poll of more than 30,000 adults. Until recently, Amanda Marshall was among them. Now the 33-year-old expects to bring in up to $500,000 in revenue this year as owner and founder of her own pet-care business.
Not long ago, the New Jersey native was earning $85,000 a year as a customer success manager for a database service creator in New York City. "There was a disillusionment setting in and I was taking my feelings of dissatisfaction home with me. I wanted my job to have more of an impact," she says.
A longtime animal rescue volunteer, Marshall considered making a business out of her passion: the welfare of animals. So in 2017, Marshall, then 31, left her 9-to-5 job to launch her own dog-care business, FurryTales.
The company provides dog walking, dog boarding, dog training, plus other options including photography sessions and guidance on animal rescue. The company also offers home care visits for cats.
Two years in, Marshall says, she has more than 100 clients and 11 employees. She expects that, when all is totaled, 2019 revenue will add up to about $225,000. That's nearly quadruple what the company brought in during its first year, she says, though she also added more employees and services over that time. And 2020 looks like it will be far more successful still.
At the time she made the leap, though, Marshall had just one regular client.
"You can imagine the smirks and eye rolls I received when I told people what I was leaving to pursue," she says, adding, "I don't regret it for a minute. If I could force myself to work hard in workplaces that I didn't feel passionate about, I knew I could be successful at something I was truly passionate about."
Here are three key moves Marshall made that she says could help anyone who wants to launch their own business.
Whether you're starting a side hustle or hoping to scale a business, take time to figure out how to make your product or service stand out.
Thanks to a great working relationship with her manager, Marshall was able to give three months notice before she left to launch FurryTales. She used this time to work out her business model. "What was I going to develop that would differentiate myself from the rest of the competitors out there, because it is a fairly saturated market?" she asked herself.
Marshall found that, since many other potential competitors only provided dog walking, she could stand out by offering additional services like training. Formalizing the business and earning her certification in dog training would also help.
"We want to blend the professionalism of an established company with the intimacy and trust that you receive by working with someone independently," she says.
Make sure your prices are in line with similar services or products in your area.
"I started at a lower price point to at least get a foothold in the market," Marshall says. "I think it's a good strategy to start, but that's why it's equally important for you to develop the strongest brand and reputation that you can, because you will need to raise pricing in order to profit," she explains.
Marshall says she raised her prices after about a year, and the turnover she anticipated didn't happen. "Absolutely no one left us, even though the jump was considerable," she says. "People had come to love and trust our service to the point that it was equal to the price we were now asking."
Video by David Fang
Be ready to take on a lot of unexpected responsibilities as an entrepreneur. "You need to embrace and love being a jack of all trades," Marshall says.
Her roles in the company include everything from marketing to accounting to human resources to IT. "The first time you do anything, it's the hardest," she says. "It's a learning process."
Even though it can be stressful being a boss, she's happy she made the move. "It's one thing to be stressed, but it's something else to be unfulfilled," she explains.
Fulfillment is exactly what she found with FurryTales. "I can remember sitting at my desk thinking, 'What I am going to be when I grow up?'" she recalls. "Now, I know what I'm doing. I'll do this for the rest of my life. I never thought I would be lucky enough."
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