Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in pet care but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Stephanie Surjan, founder of Chicago Urban Pets, located in Chicago, IL, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
Chicago Urban Pets, LLC is a professional dog walking and pet sitting company that services families in the Chicago area. We take care of pets when their humans are out of town or at work during the day. Our most common service is a daily dog walking and vacation care for cat families. We offer a variety of services to fit the needs of each individual family (feeding and litter for cats, high-energy dogs who need exercise, or overnight pet sitting for the anxious pet). We pride ourselves on providing exceptional service to our clients.
We understand that leaving your pet (and your home) in someone else's care can be stressful, so we go above and beyond to make sure our clients feel comfortable. This includes transparent communication, mapped dog walking routes as well as great reports and pictures after every visit.
We also pride ourselves on offering a healthy work environment for our team members, which is reflected in the high level of service that we provide. This includes above minimum wage pay, PTO, a great work interface to organize their schedule routines, and a positive and supportive management.
Tell us about yourself
I have always been an entrepreneur at heart, with a passion for animals and design. My formal education is in architecture, and I still teach at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago as well.
I started Chicago Urban Pets upon graduating from college as an alternative to working in an architecture firm. I had felt trapped in my former architecture internship and knew I needed something that would give me more freedom in my day. I had a background in horseback riding and worked in the barn since I was little, so going into animal care felt like a nice parallel in my life.
I have always been fascinated by the possibilities of forging our own paths in life. My work with Chicago Urban Pets has allowed me to explore that interest while also giving me the opportunity to teach and share my knowledge with others.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
I'm so proud of myself for reopening my pet sitting business after we had to close for several months due to the pandemic. It was tough navigating the new landscape and figuring out things like safety guidelines, business funding, and new expectations from both employees and clients. But I'm glad I pushed through and persevered.
It's been really rewarding to be back up and running again and see all of our loyal clients and team members who returned! We've even been able to adapt to new systems and are managing to survive despite working only 50% pre-pandemic. (hopefully, we will be back 100% by this time next year..)
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
As a business owner, you wear many hats. You are responsible for everything from following labor laws to advertising and client relations. It can be a lot to handle, and sometimes things will fall through the cracks. The hardest thing is to trust that things will work out. You can't control everything, and worrying about it will only make you sick. Instead, focus on what you can control and take things one step at a time. If you do that, you'll be able to handle anything that comes your way.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
Starting and growing a successful business takes hard work, dedication, and continual learning. However, there are some basic principles that all entrepreneurs should keep in mind. Here are three tips for anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today:
- Keep it simple: When you're first starting out, it's important to keep your business model simple and streamlined. Focus on offering a limited number of products or services that you can execute well. Don't try to do too much too soon.
- Stay focused: Once you've found a niche market, it's important to stay focused on serving that market well. Resist the temptation to chase after every new opportunity that comes along. Stick with what you're good at and continue to grow your business in that area.
- Be flexible: The world of business is constantly changing, so it's important to be flexible and adaptable. Things will never go exactly as planned, so you need to be prepared to pivot and make changes as needed. The businesses that succeed are the ones that are able to roll with the punches and adapt to the ever-changing landscape.
Is there anything else you'd like to share?
Starting your own business is a very rewarding experience. It can be challenging at times, but it's also a great way to learn about yourself and become a stronger, more resilient individual.
I've grown tenfold as a professional since starting Chicago Urban Pets in 2013, and I continue to focus on ways to evolve and improve. During the pandemic, I really got into blogging and online marketing. It is something I am interested in integrating with more consciousness in the next year. You can check out our current blog as well as a separate one I started for city dwellers called City Pet Questions.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solopreneur that you'd like to share, then email firstname.lastname@example.org; we'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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