MVP 29 | Pet Care Business

Loving and caring for animals is just the beginning of a pet care business. Shannon Rigby takes it to a whole new level with technology, excellent staffing, and a passion for truly making her customers feel like they are taken care of and have nothing to worry about when they are away. Shannon is the owner of Puppy Love Pet Sitting, a pet care business based out of Wimberley, Texas. Her story is a textbook example on the process of figuring out the ins and outs of running a small business. But most importantly, her story is full of examples of the mindset shifts that business owners have to go through in order to be successful. And what a feeling it must have been to start a business out of something you truly love! Tune in and get inspired by Shannon’s success story!

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Turning A Love Of Animals Into A Strategic Pet Care Business With Shannon Rigby

This episode is part of a local series focused on Wimberley Valley Organizations in partnership with Wimberley Valley Radio and brought to you by Ozona Bank. Our guest is Shannon Rigby, Owner of Puppy Love Pet Sitting. Welcome to the show, Shannon.

Thank you for having me.

You’re welcome. It’s funny, I was telling you that my friend and I spent the day out in Wimberley Square on a perfectly beautiful day. We went to The Let Go, owned by the folks from Community Pizza. There were eight dogs out there, and I wanted to love all of them.

I’ve seen them as I drove by. I want to stop, love on them, and hand out my business card to everyone there.

That would be a great place for you to hang out. There’s your networking.

 

MVP 29 | Pet Care Business

 

I could get behind that idea. We should go.

Shannon, tell us a little bit about yourself before you start Puppy Love Pet Sitting.

I came to Wimberley for high school. My mom dated somebody from Wimberley off and on as I was growing up. We spent time coming here for fun like everybody does. We were tourists. I remember it made a big impression on me because we were here for some parade. I don’t know if it was the 4th of July parade or a holiday parade, but Jim J. Bullock was in the parade.

For those who are younger than me, he was on the show, Too Close for Comfort. Later, he had a talk show with Tammy Faye Bakker called Jim J and Tammy Faye. He was in the parade. I thought that was the coolest thing ever. His grandmother apparently lived here. When it came time my mom went through a divorce at the end of my eighth-grade year, she said, “We have two places where we could move. We could move to Wimberley or Germany.”

She’s a speech pathologist and had an offer for a job on a military base. All I knew is Wimberley was someplace that I enjoyed coming to. It was only an hour away from where we lived, so my friends were nearby. We moved to Wimberley and I started ninth grade here. It was by far the smallest school and town I had lived in but everybody was very welcoming.

My principal at the time was Tucker Blythe. He was so kind. He encouraged me to get involved in extracurricular activities. I got involved in the theater program here and had the opportunity to be a big fish in a small pond. I had opportunities here that I wouldn’t have had like the student council president, theater, homecoming court, and things that would not have happened in another district.

After I finished school here, I moved away and went to the University of North Texas for college and got my degree in Psychology. After that was over, I wasn’t sure if I was passionate about psychology and wanted to go further into debt. My mom wanted to open a gift store in Wimberley. I had worked in retail throughout college, so I moved back and helped her open the store.

What kind of store was it?

It was called A Simpler Life. There’s a company called Melissa & Doug. They make wooden puzzles and toys. Back then, they were starting. It was called Lights Camera Interaction. We sold their products at the very beginning. We sold Burt’s Bees’ products. We were trying to find items that would simplify life. We ended up buying another store called Two Sisters and merged the two stores. It’s across from El Dorado Trading Post. We had that for a number of years and I got reacclimated to Wimberley after that.

At what point did you decide to move on from that?

While we had the store, we had a lot of feral cats outside of the store. I fell in love with them. I was the one to take care of them in our plaza. It started becoming a dumping ground for people to dump cats that were unhealthy. I didn’t make and have a lot of money but what I had I used to get the vets spayed and neutered and to get them to vet care. It brought me happiness.

When there were kittens that we found, I would bring them into the store and try to get them adopted out into good homes. My mom was not thrilled with that. We should have been focusing a little more on the sales aspect of the business but I’ve always loved animals. After the store closed, I got married shortly after that. For a number of years, I was a hobby pet sitter. I did it on the side while we were having children and trying to build our family. Only in recent years did I form my LLC and focus on seeing if I could build this as a sustainable business.

What does that mean to focus on building it as a sustainable business?

It has been a real learning curve. A lot of people think that pet sitting is just going into people’s homes, giving the dogs a little food, a walk, and a little love, and moving on. It can be that. If that’s what you’re looking for, there are people on Facebook and neighbor kids who are happy to do that but building it as a sustainable business is a lot of education. I joined Pet Sitters International, which is the largest education-based professional organization for pet sitters. I have taken webinars with them. I’ve joined several Facebook groups for professional pet sitters where you’re able to bounce ideas off one another. There’s so much more to running a business than most people would ever realize.

Building a sustainable business is a real learning curve. It takes a lot of education. Click To Tweet

What are some of the big things that you’ve learned that set you apart from that hobbyist pet sitter?

I learned that I couldn’t do it all by myself and I had trouble asking for help. I was comfortable being a one-woman show and relying only on myself. You can’t do that in the long run. It leads to burnout and compassion fatigue. There’s only a certain number of hours in the day. I was pouring myself into my business and resenting it. I was losing the joy of it. With pet sitting, you’re working holidays, weekends, nights, and early mornings. I had to say no to any social thing. If something came up with my children, it was hard for me to be able to arrange to be there. This year, 2021, I started hiring employees. It was a game-changer for the business.

MVP 29 | Pet Care Business

Pet Care Business: You can’t solely rely on yourself in the long run. It leads to burnout. It leads to compassion fatigue.

 

What do you do differently for Pet Sitting now that you’re a certified pet sitter?

I took the exam to become a certified professional pet sitter through Pet Sitters International. It’s the only knowledge-based exam for professional pet sitters. It came with a six-month period of studying but a lot of it is using information that you’ve learned in the field as well. I don’t do things differently as far as the service of my clients. That is innate and natural. That is loving the animals, valuing the animals, and tuning in to what their needs are, but it looks different to me. There are more policies and procedures put into place to set healthy boundaries and achieve a work-life balance that I didn’t have before.

You have communication with the owners while they’re gone and out of town. You have an app.

We use the software called Time to Pet. That also has been a game-changer. We do all of our scheduling through that. When our clients reach out to us, we send them an invitation to activate an account with us. They fill out all their information. We get the pets’ care information but also if there’s an emergency, we get a neighbor who can step in if we’re unable to come because of a freeze, a fire, or something like that. They are able to make their schedule request 24 hours a day. They put it right in. We’re able to approve them and it goes right onto the schedule.

After each visit, the client gets a message, cute pictures, and a little report card with things like where they walked, was the mail picked up, and was the trash can rolled in the house so they can know what we are doing each time we come. It’s also GPS-tracked for our dog-walking clients so they can see where we walked and when it began and ended. A lot of people have anxiety about leaving their pets. These are their family members. We want to ease that anxiety and the software has made a big difference in allowing us to do that.

I imagine that most of the pets that you sit for our dogs and kitty cats. What other kinds of animals do you love?

We have a daily goat ranch that we go to. That has been since June 2022. We have learned a lot about interacting with the goats and checking their health. If we notice anything unusual, we can let the client know. Chickens are very common, particularly in Wimberley. We have rabbits, horses, donkeys, miniature horses, and a few snakes. None of us are comfortable with snakes. I almost welcome having more snake clients so that we can get more used to them. There are birds. You name it and we had it.

That’s so much fun. How many people do you have on your team now?

There’s me and three team members.

How did you find or meet them?

One of them was somebody that I knew who was also a hobby pet sitter on Facebook. She was my first hire. She had an injury and had to step back from that. I put a message out on Facebook in the group of people that I knew and found a teacher who, during the summer, was bored and wanted something to do. After that first employee, he was my next employee. When he went back to school, we needed to grow a little more. I used Indeed. I had a little bit of luck through Indeed but the people I hired ended up being word of mouth. There’s also a Wimberley Employment Opportunities Facebook page that I believe my most recent employee found. His grandmother found me through there.

What has been your biggest challenge or moment of learning in this process so far?

It’s letting go and realizing that I’m not a solo show and we are a team. I had my first employee. It was just the two of us and I wasn’t using him effectively. I was still working 12 to 15 hours a day when he would have been happy to step up and take more hours, or I should have hired more people. At that time, I was overworking. Pet sitting, in particular, when you’re doing that, you’re prone to careless errors and accidents. That can be dangerous.

Business is not a solo show. Step back a little and allow other people to help. Click To Tweet

I got bit by a dog. It was my mistake. I was holding a treat in my hand and getting him back to his crate. He was a big goof who wanted the treat. He jumped up and bit my hand. I feel like if I had been better rested, I would have been better prepared and that wouldn’t have happened. It might have. Things happened but that helped me realize that I needed to step back a little more and allow other people to help. They want to help. They want the hours.

That story is a good metaphor for all businesses because you got bit but all businesses and business owners have that moment in time when they start something. For some businesses, it’s part of their business model where they immediately have to have employees and a piece of their control has to be let go. I went to a mastermind for real estate agents. Some will hold on to their little thing and have a hard time letting go and finding an assistant to make their followup calls.

This particular mastermind was talking about building a team. I’m not in real estate but I went to this mastermind with a friend. It got me thinking about all of the people that I know in marketing that started their thing. They have to let go of design, copywriting, or their expertise but also build and expand. At some point, we all get bit. We have to learn the lesson. That happens continually in business but knowing when and how to let go and learning the lesson and learning to grow from it is a great metaphor for all businesses. You got bit but it was a turning point. It was a lesson learned.

Change is always scary in every aspect of life. In particular, I did not like change. I had a lot of anxiety about hiring and changing my business model. I was worried. I’ve been the name and face of the business for so long that I was worried that clients would have difficulty dealing with that. Some have had difficulty dealing with that but I only hire people that I trust fully with my business. Once they take a leap of faith, they’re able to see that the people that I’ve hired are wonderful people.

It has also been so fantastic to have a team to lean on. It’s a very lonely and isolating business. It’s just me and the pets, and now I have my team. We go to meet-and-greets and training together. I love it. I love being able to process the visits and new information with them. It feels so much healthier. I have so much more hope and excitement about it.

Are your teammates contracts or employees?

They’re employees. That’s a big topic that comes up a lot on the pet-sitting forums. Having independent contractors can be beneficial for the business but the government is not a big fan of it. In reality, there are services like Gusto that help you do payroll. For an IC, you can’t legally train them or schedule them. The person with the pet needs to schedule them. There are a lot of things that people aren’t aware of that make hiring ICs a bad idea, particularly for the pet-sitting business.

A lot of people who have independent contractors skirt around or ignore those rules but that can bite you in the long run.

I was reading on one of the forums about a woman who has been audited three times by the government. She’s using her ICs correctly but the government loses money when somebody has an independent contractor versus an employee. They’re trying to make an example of small businesses. I would rather avoid that. I like the employee model and we have an employee handbook. There’s extensive training that we’re able to do that works better for this business.

In some ways, it’s a lot more comfortable because you know you have people to depend on. Was that scary leap for you to say, “I have full-time employees.”

They’re not full-time. They’re part-time but they’re on board for any amount. For example, we did payroll. They worked part-time but we’ve got the holiday break coming up. They are going to be working like crazy. They worked a lot over Thanksgiving. I was able to step back and visit my family for the holidays. It’s terrifying. Until you know your employees, it’s scary to know if they can handle things. I try to account for anything that can happen. You can’t do that.

Two of my employees are men. Sometimes dogs don’t do as well with men. They think they’re threatening. We always go together to meet any dogs that might have a problem with that. They have been great. They’re the kindest and best men I know. Until you know your team, it’s scary. I want to keep them happy. I want them to stay with us long-term. That’s my fear now. I love them and depend on them. At some point, they may want to move on, so I’m trying to breathe through that and know that there are good people out there that will come forward when it’s needed.

When one door closes, another one opens. How big do you see yourself growing? Do you know, or are you going to go with the flow?

I’m going to go with the flow. As the business grows, that’s when you know if you need more people. There are a handful of professional pet sitters in town. Some of us have gotten to know and support each other. There is so much business in this town because there are so many animal lovers in this town. A lot of us have different ideas of what we want the future of our business to look like.

MVP 29 | Pet Care Business

Pet Care Business: Just go with the flow. As the business grows, that’s when you know if you need more people.

 

One of them wants to move into building a facility at her home and doing boarding. We all try to work together, lift each other, warn each other, and support each other but as far as my personal business, I want to go with it. Eventually, I would like to be able to step back a little more from the field, try to focus on education and grow the business in a sustainable way.

What does it mean to be a certified professional pet sitter?

That’s a knowledge assessment for pet sitters. When you sign up to take this test, you pay a fee for it and they give you training material that you can read over. That has been fantastic. I printed it all out. It’s in a handbook form. It goes over everything from the basic care of dogs, cats, and other animals to CPR, first aid, preparing for disasters, office policies and procedures, social media, and interviews like this. There’s so much to it as a holistic business.

It was interesting to learn more in this one fell swoop through the study guide but so much of it was also an assessment of what I’ve learned out in the field and by diving into having employees and that sort of thing. To stay current, you have continuing education credit. I’m going to the Texas Pet Sitters Conference. I’m excited. I’m nerding out about it because it’s a three-day conference. You get to meet a lot of these people who have been doing this for a long time.

Pet Sitters International has a publication they put out quarterly. They have somebody from an insurance company who always does an article on liability claims for pet sitters and what was accepted, what was denied, how much was paid out, and things that you don’t think of in a pet-sitting business. He will be there. I’m excited to talk to him face-to-face.

I was wondering about that. Do you have liability insurance for all of your employees?

Everybody is background checked before I hire them. They’re all on our liability policy and all bonded. Liability would protect our clients if something were to break while we were pet sitting or if an animal was injured while under our direct care and that sort of thing. It even covers things like if the pet gets locked out of the house and we need to call somebody to get us in. The bonding is to assure the client that if something was taken from their home while a team member was there, then it’s covered. We haven’t ever had any claims on either of them. We’re thankful for that.

It’s so nice to have. Do you have any funny or wonderful stories about your pet-sitting experience?

I feel like I could write a book. I have a lot of interesting stories. My favorite pets are ones that are nervous, shy, and have anxiety, and then we’re able to win them over. There’s a client that I visited who has a dog. She told me that the dog lived in a car with a homeless woman for a long time before they adopted him. He was very nervous and protective of the home. He’s a little guy but for the first couple of times that I went over there, he would bark at me from the bed and run to the end of the bed growling at me. I couldn’t even get him outside to have a potty break.

A little later, I would have treats and try to lure him and sweet-talk him. He would jump off the bed but he wanted to bite my ankles. I learned that I had to go down the staircase backward so that he couldn’t reach my ankles. I saw him after a long break. We went through the same process but in fast-forward motion. Within 5 to 10 minutes, he was outside cuddling with me. That’s the best part. It’s getting to connect with the animals and get to know them.

In the goat ranch that I’m at, I would try to make the client laugh and give her reports on each of the goats. I awarded the naughtiest goat award to this one big girl who would only let her daughter eat with her in the trough. There are two troughs. If any other goat came, she would headbutt it. She had fur on the end of her horns, even from headbutting the others. She’s the absolute naughtiest. She told me, “She’s naughty but she will let me cuddle her. She’s an awesome mom.” Over the months, I’ve gotten to know her. I love her so much. I understand that fierce mama and the attitude that she has.

What was your original vision for this business? How has it lived up to your vision?

Originally, I wanted to do something that I enjoyed doing. I watched my mom work and come home stressed every day. She would need quiet time when she got home and go to her room. I thought, “I don’t want that. I want to come home and feel fulfilled. I want to feel content. I don’t want to dread going to work every day as a lot of people do.” I knew that I loved animals and I was good at it. That was my original vision. I wanted to do something I enjoyed. It grew into, “I want to do something that can contribute to my family, which is a successful business.”

A lot of people don’t take pet sitting seriously. I will meet people and tell them, “I’m a pet sitter.” It’s almost like a pat on the head and a brush-off, “That’s cute,” but it can be a successful business and something that can support your family. I’m only beginning to understand that. That’s my model now. I want to continue learning the business aspects of this particular business and continue to grow in a way that feels not too big and doesn’t lose the personal touch.

MVP 29 | Pet Care Business

Pet Care Business: A lot of people don’t take pet sitting seriously. But it can be a successful business. It can be something that can support your family.

 

Eventually, you age out of being able to do physical work. That’s a real concern. Ideally, at some point, far down the road, I would like to be able to sell my business. Somebody approached me about buying it. It sent me into a panic because it was nowhere near where it should be to be sold. I wasn’t interested in selling it but that was the kick in the pants that I needed to realize I needed to do this in a better and smarter way.

I was using a paper planner. When clients called, I was writing down their visit requests in my paper planner. That leads to a lot of human error. It leads to forgetting a visit. A lot of things can happen. When we switch to the Time to Pet software, it was a huge game-changer. The client makes the request, and it goes directly onto the calendar. I was thinking of the phrase, “Work smarter, not harder.” If you are a small business owner, you have to do both. You’re always going to be working hard but there are better ways to do it.

People say, “Work smarter, not harder.” But when you’re a small business owner, you have to do both. You're always going to be working hard, but there are better ways to do it. Click To Tweet

If you can network with other people in your field, you can learn from them. I’ve had so many people who were willing to help me realize the best way to schedule employees, help me understand software that I didn’t know, and point me toward professionals like CPAs who could help me. We owe that to each other. I want to help other people who are curious about starting as pet sitters and help them avoid some of the pitfalls that I experienced.

That’s a good lesson, no matter how small, medium or large a business is. There are always opportunities to systematize and make things easier or even document. You mentioned networking within your field. It’s also fun and interesting to network outside of your field and see how other people are doing things. For me, it’s having this show, talking to other people with different types of businesses, and seeing what has been automated and systematized, how that changes their business, or what has been documented.

If you do lose a valued employee, the whole system and knowledge base aren’t lost. It has all been written down so that training and onboarding for the next one is no problem, “Read this thing. We will talk about it. We will train you.” Sometimes people will rely on their leaving employees to do the training because they’re the knowledge base. You can’t trust that anything is transferred in the way that you want it to be transferred.

There’s a pet sitter named Doug Keeling. He started with a small pet-sitting business in two different counties in Florida. He’s able to step away completely from his business and do other things. He’s a pet sitter who also travels overseas for international pet sitting. It’s very interesting. He will be speaking at the conference. I’m excited. He’s in Florida. He stresses, “Write everything down. You need to have your policies and procedures written down. If you go to a job, take a video camera, talk through it, walk through it, go home, and write it all down.”

For example, if I end up in the hospital or in a car accident, what happens to my clients’ pets who are relying on me? It’s all there. We put it in the software and transcribed it. Somebody else could step in easily. We also do lock boxes now, which I didn’t do before, which meant I had a lot of keys in my office. It’s a lot of responsibility. Keys get lost or they fall between car seats.

Every new client at a meet-and-greet is issued a lock box. We help them set it up. They put two copies of the key in it now so that if I’m unavailable, then one of my team members can do the job. It’s all right there on the software. The key is there. If there’s a freeze, and none of us can get there, then the neighbor can go over with the lock box code and take care of the animals. I’m still in the process of writing everything down but that’s part of, eventually, if the business were to sell, and being able to hand that off to a new owner so they can continue seamlessly.

How do you get your business? Is it mostly word of mouth?

It’s mostly word of mouth. Facebook is a great place. You will see the community forum where people are looking for pet sitters. People are looking for different things. We are a professional pet-sitting business. It looks different than somebody who wants to pay $10 to a neighborhood kid to come over. That’s not us. We always do the meet-and-greets to see if we’re the right fit for the client and if they’re the right fit for us. Word of mouth and Facebook are probably our number one resources.

How do you use Facebook? The reason that I ask this is there is a multitude of different types of businesses all looking to get their name out there and use social media. What has been most effective?

For a long time, I used it for posting pictures of people’s pets. That was fine. That doesn’t bring a lot of interaction. I took a webinar through Pet Sitters International about better use of social media. We try to share more clients’ pets because they’re adorable but we do information. We posted something at Thanksgiving about foods that were toxic to animals. I don’t know if it has gone up yet. I do our posts through Buffer. We did something about plants that are poisonous to cats.

We try to give our clients information. I reached out to all of the local vet clinics asking for some feedback about what temperature is too hot to walk dogs and how you would know that wasn’t safe and some alternatives. I got some feedback from veterinary clinics. We posted that information there. Through the community forum, I posted a cute post. It’s like, “If your pet was on a dating app, what would its picture be?” There was so much interaction there. It was so fun to see people’s responses. The pictures are hilarious.

I saw somebody’s post, “If my dog was on a dating app.” It was the first time that I had seen it. They put it to music. It was the best thing. I was like, “This is therapy right here.” It had these great pictures but then it ended with the dog walking away. It had this nice little butt shake set to the music.

I love it. I thought, “Is this going to cross weird lines?” Everybody was here for it. They were great sports.

It was fun. That’s awesome. I talk to my kids. They’re watching YouTube and different things here and there. I‘ll either say, “People are so weird,” or, “People are amazing.” The weird is even amazing. How did you come up with that idea and the fact that the whole world gets to see it now? All these people were out there. We just didn’t know it.

People are so creative.

We learned during lockdown that we are social beings. We want to share our weirdness with the world.

I love it. During the lockdown was when TikTok became big.

There were all the dances.

My sons desperately wanted us to start a TikTok account together. We had big plans of performing Hamilton together. We’re big musical theater nerds in the family. I finally started a TikTok account for Puppy Love. I don’t know if it achieves anything more than making me and my few followers laugh. It’s fun to capture those moments on the job where the animals are being themselves and having fun.

I’m sure you will take off because so many people have TikTok or Instagram for their pets. It’s total therapy. I was going through your Facebook. I was like, “This is all I need. Now I‘m happy.”

That’s how I feel about the job. I can be overwhelmed and crabby at home with all my obligations. Even if we are booked solid and I’m working a ten-hour day, seeing those animals brings me peace and calm. I’m so thankful for that.

I love that you’re on the show because you have successfully made a business out of something that you love. You started with caring for the animals that came to you. They’re like, “This lady is going to help us.” You did and followed your passion. It’s a good lesson for people that you don’t have to be a software engineer and a brilliant scientist or whatever it is with a big changetheworld plan to create a business that is going to fulfill your heart and your needs but also your bank account. It’s possible.

It’s not easy but pinpointing the things that light your fire is important. I got my degree in Psychology. I love it. I love people and learning about people but it would have been draining in the area that I wanted to go into, which was child psychology. It’s only draining when I’m overworked but it continues to be something that brings me joy.

My son is an artist who loves drawing, but if you find something that you love like writing, it’s important to look at the different fields out there and then ask for help. Ask a lot of questions and get to know people because people are happy to help and lift others. You can do it in a way that you’re not hustling for minimum return. There are people who have learned these lessons before you and are willing to help you learn quicker.

MVP 29 | Pet Care Business

Pet Care Business: It’s important to look at the different fields out there and then ask for help. Get to know people and ask a lot of questions. People are happy to help. They’re happy to lift others up.

 

I was surprised. I was working with a local photographer and we were chatting. He asked me if I knew the owner of T3 in Austin because I worked in an agency in Austin for fourteen years. I said no. He said, “She started the agency by herself when she was young and divorced at that time with two young kids.” I‘m like, “What a rockstar.” This is an agency that has its name on a building, has 2 or 3 floors, and has been around for many years.

He said, “Do you want me to introduce you to her?” I said, “I don’t know if she would want to spend the time to talk with me.” Here I am like a fan girl. He said, “I can send an email.” We had lunch. She shared everything with me and was like, “If you ever need anything, this is hard work.” She said that the advice that she had was to hire, trust and not let yourself get burned out. Also, go down ten years later looking back and realize that you didn’t have time or didn’t spend the time to do the things that you love as well.

Don’t let yourself get burned out and then go down 10 years later looking back, realizing that you didn't spend time on the things that you love. Click To Tweet

The reason she started an agency is she was a designer. At some point, she began to hate design because she was doing it so much. It took the joy out of the art. She had to find other ways of fulfilling the art bug but it took a long time and a lot of work and effort. I got a lot of lessons from that. One of them is when you look and see the name on the building, know that it didn’t happen overnight. Somebody put a lot of time and effort into that. A lot of people put a lot of time and effort into it, not just one. Also, knowing as you’re going through that path what your goals are. If you want to enjoy life along the way, you have to build that in. It doesn’t happen.

Setting healthy boundaries is not always accepted by people. We had to shrink our service area so we weren’t spending all of our time thriving. It upset some clients. It made me sad because we lost some dogs that we loved visiting but we realized that we had to do that for our sanity.

I have another person that I’ve known for a long time that I interviewed here. She does a great job of finding balance and moving forward. It’s Maria Orozova if you want to go back. She talks a lot about not being afraid or pushing through and into the fear and doing that one next step. I feel like when you’re in that place of being confident, and you’re doing what you love and finding the balance, then the next steps come more easily. They come more clearly.

The other thing that she talked about came to my mind when you were talking about reducing your footprint. Everybody is always asking, “What’s next? How are you going to grow? What are you going to do to overtake your competition?” That’s not always the goal. Everybody’s goals are different. Especially in America, we think that if you’re not growing, you’re dying. I don’t ascribe to that. Its what’s necessary for you, your business, and your family. Sometimes pulling back is the best answer or looking at, “Should we slightly increase our prices to accommodate the economy or our needs versus taking on more clients, more employees, or whatever the more is?”

We had a price increase. The cost of gas was a real hit to us. Taking on employees is an additional cost as well. Using the software is an additional cost. I was nervous about letting my clients know that there was going to be a cost of doing business increase. Somebody said, “If you lose a couple of clients, then you’re working less but you are getting paid what is justified.” Another thing that I was thinking about earlier that I blanked on was somebody also said along the way, “If you weren’t available as a pet sitter or if you died tomorrow, they’re going to find somebody else. They will be okay.”

For so long, I said yes to everybody. If they were out of our service area by a couple of miles, I said, “That’s fine. I’ll do that.” What was happening was I was pouring all of my energy and all of the good hours of the day into my business and tolerating the needs and desires of my family. We only have a limited number of years with our kids before they grow up and they’re independent. I want to cherish that time with them.

That being said, I don’t want my business to suffer. The way to do that is to figure out healthy boundaries, ask for help, and trust that help once you bring them on. That has been so healthy for me. It has changed so much for me. During COVID too, when everything shut down, I homeschooled my children at that time. The time spent with them was incredible. I wasn’t watching the clock to rush off somewhere. I was getting to be creative, laid back, and fun with them. We hadn’t had a lot of that in recent years. That was a lesson for me about what I wanted going forward.

MVP 29 | Pet Care Business

Pet Care Business: Figure out healthy boundaries, ask for help, and trust that help once you bring them onboard.

 

We should all take some time to reflect on the beautiful lessons of the slowdown and shutdown of COVID. Not everybody got to slow down. There were nurses and essential workers who had to step up or had to be separated from their families to keep everyone healthy. Nobody knew what to do. It was scary and all of that but there were some beautiful lessons in there as well. I remember thinking, “How in the heck does everyone have time to bingewatch stuff? I feel like I’m busier now,” but it was good busy because I read, did yoga, and gardened but I also took the time. It was butterfly season. We got butterflies from EmilyAnn.

We did too. That was so special. I loved that.

It was so cool. We watched the larvae turn into a butterfly. The kids were like, “This one is mine.” One of our butterflies flew away. The other one didn’t want to leave. He’s like, “You raised me.” We watched the bugs, the sunset, and the sunrise. We climbed trees. We had Science lessons in the yard because I didn’t know what else to do.

We got to know our neighbors by walking around the neighborhood every day for our PE.

I loved seeing everyone walking all the time and riding bikes.

We had wonderful outdoor nights with friends where we would set up in the Baptist Church parking lot with our chairs, sit six feet apart from each other, and catch up. It made you cherish everything so much more.

I had Zoom happy hours with my friends whom I hadn’t seen in ten years. You have an opportunity with people all over the country and all over the world. Now, I’m having a happy hour with them more than I wouldn’t have before.

We aren’t now. I imagine it’s easy to go right back to what was normal but it’s important that we take the lessons that we learned along the way and implement them in our future planning.

I started my business a couple of years. I was still in that highanxiety and fast-paced agency mindset before the lockdown. At first, I was like, “I have to stay and be here for my clients.” I then thought, “I need to be present for my kids. What a great opportunity.” It completely changed my mindset. I also started meditating more regularly because I had the time to do that. That changed my life. I highly recommend meditation to everyone.

I also highly recommend journaling. It helps me untangle the knots in my head. I turn it into a prayer to release it and stop carrying that inside me.

Sometimes journaling is like a conversation with a friend but you can say whatever you want to say. There are no secrets. It like flows through you. Sometimes you learn things.

I tend to make a list. I’m very type-A. I love my list but I’ll even list in the journal things that are coming up and causing me to feel overwhelmed. I’m able to check them off. I saw a quote in one of your episode captions, “The universe is supporting you.” It’s amazing how strong we are. We get through things that feel mildly overwhelming to completely stress-inducing. We are strong. The universe is here for us. People are here for us if we will open ourselves up to that.

We are strong and the universe is here for us. People are here for us if we will open just ourselves up to them. Click To Tweet

We’re recording before Christmas of 2022. That’s a hard time for a lot of people for a lot of reasons.

Particularly women. It’s a lot of labor for women.

It’s a lot of stress. There’s money, stress, and kidsstress. If you are a seasonal worker, you know what to do with your children and your pets while you’re gone. There’s the whole concept of lost family, divorce, or all those types of things. If we settle into the concept of, “The universe, your friends, and your family have your back,” you’re never alone.

My oldest son struggled with depression in sixth grade and it was a difficult time for us. We’re in a place of privilege in that. The lockdown didn’t hurt us much financially. My husband was able to work from home. That didn’t change at all. Being able to wrap him in this love bubble at home was a blessing for us. We did a lot of mindfulness work together. One of the things I think about is they say, “Think of your thoughts or your feelings as clouds in the sky or as leaves floating by you. It’s okay to feel anything.”

I didn’t have much anxiety before 2020. It’s a new reality for me, and it’s okay. It’s not going to have permanent harm to me. It’s something that I can observe. For me, it’s journaling. For my son, it’s drawing. Let it pass. Seeing what you have lived through and what you’ve endured is so empowering. More empowering is using that wisdom to help other people who are in struggle at that moment.

One of the things I was thinking about is, “What if we looked at every emotion as a great gift?” We have been told before, “You wouldn’t know what joy felt like if you didn’t have sadness.” When we’re in a puddle of tears or have no idea what to do with our business, we’re ashamed that it didn’t do what we wanted it to do or whatever it is. What if we looked at that as a great gift and opportunity?

Melinda Garvey with Austin Woman Magazine said that business is like a roller coaster. You have extreme ups and extreme downs. You have to hope that the next curve is going to take you back up again. That made me think when I was thinking about emotions. What if every time we thought we were at the depths of the low, we said, “Something great must be coming around the corner or my way because this can’t stay here? We can’t stay here, so there must be something great. How can I prepare myself for that next climb?”

That’s a great perspective to have. I also suffered from depression for many years. They say it is anger turned inward. I was so critical and judgmental of myself. I had kindness for everyone else. When I learned to give myself grace, I grew so much as a person. I’m more capable of giving other people grace. Having children was the turning point there. I would never want their inner thoughts to be replicating what my inner thoughts were. They deserve better than that. I try to do better so that I can teach them to do better and hopefully not take as long in the process of getting to love themselves and be proud of themselves.

That’s part of being a business owner too. There are lots of hurdles. There are lots of times when you’re going to do the wrong thing. It’s okay. You are trying and doing your best. You will figure it out with help. Take a minute to be proud. Be proud that your name is on that building, you have a client base, and you have people who recommend you on Facebook. Be proud of those wins because they came about with your vision, passion, and hard work. It’s important to give yourself credit and love for those actions.

MVP 29 | Pet Care Business

Pet Care Business: Be proud that your name is on that building. It came about with your vision, it came about with your passion, and it came about with your hard work.

 

What advice would you have for someone who hasn’t started their business yet but there’s something that they are passionate and excited about and is thinking about taking that next leap?

Do research. Look at job opportunities in that area. See what makes them feel excited. Meet with people in that field and try to spend time with them. See what an average day looks like. Spend some time learning. In high school, the kids pick tracks that they want to study. My son is in ninth grade. In eighth grade, he had to pick his track. I was in a dead panic about that and a little bit angry because I thought, “What thirteen-year-old knows what he wants to do for a living?”

Now, he’s doing AV technology. He wants to do animation. It’s super cool because he gets to learn about career paths that he could take and potential income in those career paths and have a realistic idea of what he would need to have the life that he sees himself having. There are always opportunities to learn and people who are willing to give you advice. As you said, talking to the woman at lunch, she was happy to share. Most people are less competitive and less ornery about maintaining their privacy than we think they are.

I felt the same way when I was in high school. I heard that Germany has their kids pick a track when they start high school. I thought, “There’s no way I could pick a track even when I started college,but the great lesson there as well is that if you pick something and start learning, you then know if you like it or not. It doesn’t necessarily mean that’s your life path and you’re stuck.

I got my degree in Psychology. My husband got his degree in Music Composition, and he works for the VA. You never know. Education is never a bad thing because it leads to education about yourself, your likes, your passions, what you can live with, and what you can’t live without. As long as you’re flexible, being rigid is the biggest mistake. You have to be able to try to roll with changes and allow yourself to make mistakes. It’s important.

I don’t think our society gives grace when mistakes happen but we’re all human. We all make loads of mistakes. I want my children to know that and to know that whatever they’re interested in, those interests are going to change. You have a very limited view of the world at the age of 13 and 14. You probably want to be a famous YouTuber because that’s what the bulk of your time is spent doing but you learn and your world expands.

We are in a place of a lot of privilege in Wimberley. It’s a beautiful and wonderful place that is not always reflective of the bigger world. It’s an incredible blessing to live here. When they go to college, meet different people, and have different class opportunities and life experiences, it’s going to change what they want to do and who they are.

Thank you so much, Shannon, for joining us, telling your story, and chatting with me. It has been wonderful.

Thank you for having me. It has been a great conversation.

It certainly has. We will see you at the dog park.

Let’s go to The Let Go one day, meet some dogs, and have a beer.

This episode was not brought to you by The Let Go. Actually, I sponsored them.

I want to go.

It’s good. Thank you all for reading. If you liked it, tell your friends and follow us on Instagram and LinkedIn. The mission of the show is to dig deep into the lives of true leaders so that others can follow, knowing that the path isn’t always easy but the journey is worth it. Enjoy the day and live with passion.

 

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Meet Shannon Rigby


MVP 29 | Pet Care Business

Shannon Rigby began her business, Puppy Love Pet Sitting, as a leap of faith.  Despite earning her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology, Shannon’s love of animals, and hobby of fostering cats, led her to take a chance by following her heart in hopes that she could earn a living doing what she loved.  The risk paid off!  Puppy Love Pet Sitting won the award for Best Pet Sitter of Wimberley for 2020, 2021, and 2022, and the business continues to grow and thrive.  Insured and bonded, Shannon offers a professional level of quality pet care for Wimberley residents so they can relax while they are away, knowing their animal loved ones are happy and safe at home.  Shannon is excited to continue growing her business, and looks forward to expanding staff and services to meet the needs of all of Wimberley.   Currently, she offers in-home pet sitting visits and daytime dog walks.

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