I’m not sure if I was a writer or an entrepreneur first. When I was four years old, I wrote tons of barely intelligible stories about my dog on printer paper. Around the same age, I also regularly asked to see the manager every time my mom took me to a Toys R’ Us. I always had a new invention to pitch to them, complete with crayon-drawn diagrams. Around eight years old, I was writing American Girl doll fanfiction. I was simultaneously writing letters to Pleasant Rowland, the owner of American Girl, asking why her company wasn’t publicly traded, because I wanted to buy stock. (Instead of offering me stock in the company, she sold it to Mattel immediately.) Either way, it’s been clear to me for as long as I can remember that the standard nine-to-five life was not for me.
I was 24, almost two years out of college, when I realized I could combine my passions for creative writing and entrepreneurship with my third greatest love: dogs. In 2017, I started The Furever Home Friends, a business that produces children’s books and stuffed animals all based on the stories of real rescue dogs. The business has a social impact, too: the books include discussion questions to get kids thinking about how the issues the dog faces in the story could apply to people as well, and my company donates a percentage of all profits to Chicago animal shelters.
Creating, running, and growing my business over the past two years has been amazing, but not without its share of difficulties. There are countless stories to tell, both heartwarming and heartbreaking: the time one of the dogs we were featuring sadly and unexpectedly passed away while his book was in illustration, the time I collaborated with an animal shelter to host a “happy pawlidays” book launch party and so many more.
As cliche as it may sound, owning a business is like riding a rollercoaster: there are a lot of ups and downs. Sometimes you’re terrified, sometimes you’re nauseous, and sometimes you have to wait in line for a ridiculously long amount of time before anything fun happens. Despite all of this, the thrill you get from the success, the creativity, and the passion is more than worth it.
Throughout my past two years as a business owner, I’ve learned that it is my stubborn, unrelenting passion for what I do that fuels me through it all. Even when I’ve had slow sales months when I barely broke even, when every promotional campaign I ran felt like I was screaming into a void, I found excitement to brainstorm new marketing strategies. Even when I encountered middle-aged men who would tell me my enthusiasm was cute—but of course, I’d need his help if I wanted to have a real business model—and men who would ask me out for drinks at networking events, I found amazing communities of fellow women in business, and we were all there to lift each other up and support one another.
It’s these positive experiences and these surges of creativity that remind me every day how passionate I am about this business. If tomorrow I suddenly won a billion dollars, and I knew I’d never have to go to work another day in my life, my first thought wouldn’t be, “Hooray! Early retirement!” My first thought would be, “Hooray! Now I have more money to grow my business and to make this into something really big!”
Now that it’s just about time to graduate from my Master’s program at DePaul, all my sights are set on making this business the best it can be. I’m grateful for all the other lady bosses who were there to support me through the good and the bad. If you decide to start a business, let me know, because I’ll be here for you too.