Mihaylo College grad Erin Foate '07, founder of Dachs 2 Danes, a pet care startup, kneels, holding dogs on either side.

“You need to be able to understand and relate to customers on an emotional level to succeed in the pet industry,” says Mihaylo Entrepreneurship Alumna Erin Foate ’07.

Erin Foate ’07 (entrepreneurship) provides a look at her pet-care startup, Dachs 2 Danes Inc., and gives advice on starting your own business, whether it focuses on two- or four-legged clientele.

Pets are big business in today’s economy. According to the American Pet Products Association, the U.S. was expected to spend more than $60 billion on pets in 2015, with $1,641 spent annually on basic expenses for the average dog. As more people view their pets as valuable members of the family, more businesses are being established to provide grooming, training, health care and pampering to pets.

Mihaylo Entrepreneurship Alumna Erin Foate ’07 started a dog day care business in 2014. Her Anaheim-based startup, Dachs 2 Danes Inc., offers dog day care, boarding, grooming and training. The business also offers in-home pet care for North Orange County owners of animals such as dogs, cats, rabbits, birds, reptiles and horses.

“I was inspired by my dog, Romeo, to start a doggy day care,” says Foate. “I hated leaving him home alone all day, and I thought there must be other people who felt the same way about their dogs. When I got involved with more dogs and their owners, I realized that pet owners had many needs. That eventually led me to provide care for a wide variety of pets in their own home, in addition to providing dog day care and boarding.”

How to Be Top Dog in Your Niche

In growing sectors of the economy, such as pet care, standing out from the competition is essential.  “We provide a unique service in our industry, since none of our competitors offer care at their facility and care in the client’s home,” says Foate. “Combined with our ‘mom-and-pop shop’ feel and our understanding of dog behavior and psychological needs, we hope to set a new standard where dogs are not seen as mere dollar signs.”

Foate says entrepreneurs in the pet market must recognize the bond people have with their animals. “You need to be able to understand and relate to customers on an emotional level to succeed in the pet industry,” she says. “You also need to recognize that working with animals is a dirty business, literally.”

A view from above of a playful German Shepard dog with non-paralleled eye colors.

With between 70 and 80 million pet dogs in the U.S. and $1,641 spent annually on the average canine’s basic expenses each year, the strength of the dog-care market is evident.

How to Make Your Business Shine

Foate says entrepreneurship in any field can have its surprises and mentoring is critical to get off the ground. “Even when you think you know exactly what to expect in your field, you don’t,” she says. “Everyone gets curve balls, which is why it is best to get an experienced adviser on your team.”

Since startups can be difficult, Foate says it is important to discover your passion and focus on it. “It helps to be passionate about your business, because it is going to take you on the craziest roller coaster ride of your life. You will need something to remind you why you got on this ride in the first place,” she says. “Be prepared to make sacrifices.  It takes a lot of work, blood, sweat and tears to get a business off the ground. You have to be willing to do what it takes to make it succeed.”

Mihaylo’s entrepreneurship program has been central to Foate’s business development. “While there are many things you can only learn through experience, I know my education has given me the upper hand,” she says. “It helped me secure my loan, prepare for my business in every respect, and navigate through our turbulent first years.  I would not be where I am today if I had not studied business and entrepreneurship.”

Mihaylo Entrepreneurship Programs

For more on Mihaylo’s entrepreneurship programs, visit the Center for Entrepreneurship online or at SGMH 3280. In addition to an 18-unit undergraduate concentration, the center hosts regular speakers and networking events to prepare the next generation of business leaders.

Advice, mentoring and expert guidance for startups created by Mihaylo students, alumni and others in the community are available through the CSUF Startup Incubator in Placentia. More information on how to apply for the incubator program is available online.

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