June 30, 2022

How Dog-Walking Became A Successful Lifestyle Business With Susan Beauregard

By: Gary Schoeniger

When you talk about business, dog-walking isn’t necessarily the first thing that comes to mind. It’s a profession that people don’t know too much about. Can you make a living walking dogs? The answer is yes, but you need to know how to market yourself. You need to know how to build relationships so that you can ask for referrals from your clients. And, you need to live within your means. Live a simple, yet happy life. These are the things today’s guest did when she made her small dog walking business. Join Gary Schoeniger in today’s episode of the Entrepreneurial Mindset Project, as he is joined by Susan Beauregard. Orphaned as a young adult, she developed a small dog-walking business to sustain herself in New York City. Now, by continuing to focus on her customers’ needs, she is not only sustaining but thriving. Listen in to learn more!

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Read the transcript below.

How Dog-Walking Became A Successful Lifestyle Business With Susan Beauregard

Entrepreneurship is not always about solving big problems, building huge businesses, or creating massive wealth. Sometimes it’s simply about carving out our own path. It’s about pursuing our own interests in ways that create value for others while also creating a lifestyle that works for us. That’s what this episode is all about.

Welcome to another episode of the show. I’m with my good friend, Susan Beauregard, who’s another great example of an unlikely everyday entrepreneur. Orphaned as a young adult, Susan was thrust out into the world and onto the streets of New York. Without a safety net or a college degree, she had to find a way, and she did it by walking dogs.

In this episode, Susan and I discuss the underlying attitudes and beliefs that enabled her to carve out a successful lifestyle business that now enables her to live life on her own terms. Her story offers another example of how a simple idea can be transformed into a sustainable success by simply paying attention to what other people need. Without any further ado, I hope you enjoy my conversation with Susan Beauregard.

Susan, welcome to the show.

Thank you, Gary. How are you?

I’m fabulous. I’m super excited to have this conversation with you. We met years ago on Phillips Lane in Milford, Pennsylvania, when Karen and I were on vacation. We struck up a friendship straight away. I’m so happy to have this conversation with you. We’ve gotten to know and love you and your husband. I want to know more about your entrepreneurial journey. You have an interesting entrepreneurial story to tell. You definitely fit the mold of the, I don’t want to offend, but the everyday underdog entrepreneur.

It’s not the Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk, “I came up with a great idea and got millions in venture capital.” You’re an ordinary person and making your way in this world. Susan, let me start with a basic question. How did you get on this entrepreneurial track? Did you have people in your life that influenced you? Did you figure it out yourself? Did you get pushed into the pool? Did you jump into the pool? Did you wait in the pool? How did that start?

Certainly, coming from my youth, I probably started walking the old ladies to church when I was about eight years old. My mother has always instilled in us, “If you want something, you’ve got to work for it.” Those things stuck with me. I was a hustler. I shoveled the sidewalks. We’d go out and help my mom’s friends in the garden. I was a horrible gardener, but I’m always wanting to make a few bucks and have a little bit of my own. Reverting back to that, as I came along in 1999, I came back from San Francisco. I have no formal education. I showed up at a state school in Plattsburgh, New York, but made no real effort at it. I had a gut feeling like this was not for me. I got to make my way.

How old were you when you came to that conclusion?

I was twenty, and not to make it more bitter or sad or anything, but I was pushed out into the world and said, “You got to sink or swim literally.”

Maybe you don’t fit here.

After my mom died in 1990, I was like, “I’m going to New York City.” I had friends in Plattsburgh that urged me to go. I said, “How am I going to live? I don’t have very much to start with.” They said, “Be a nanny.” I moved in. I had been a nanny for many years. That challenged me in ways. It made me look back now and say, “I’m so glad I didn’t have children.” That was something that after taking care of other people’s kids, I was like, “This isn’t for me. “ Financially, I never aspired to make a whole lot of money. I make enough to travel. That’s a real luxury.

Let’s talk about that for a second, Susan. It surprises me to this day, but there’s a casual contempt for entrepreneurship. People think entrepreneurs are people that are trying to make money. Some people are oriented that way. They want to do some passive income scheme or something. They want to make money. That’s a broad misunderstanding. You said yourself that you’re not trying to get rich. You want to find a way to support yourself and have some freedom.

That’s what I love about my job is that I say. At the end of the interview, the meet and greet, I don’t know if this is a good fit or if there’s a connection with the client. I’ve had clients since 2001, part-time clients and all that.

We’ll get to that. You have a cool dog walking business, and that’s what you’re doing now. I love that. We’ll talk about what it is you’re doing, but I want to come back to your origin story and something you said that your mom taught you. If you want something, you’ve got to earn it. I hear that a lot. That’s a common thread. I’ve interviewed Brian Bruno for the show, the owner of Apple Ridge Farms. He’s a great guy but says the same thing. His dad said, “If you want to go to Disneyland, we’ve got to sell some apple cider.” That’s a common theme in the story. I wanted to put a pin on that. You’re twenty years old. Your mom has passed away. You’re now left to your own to survive in the world on your own. Am I getting that right?

Literally, I hit the ground running. It wasn’t my mother. I turned into an orphan, not knowing my own father. My stepfather had passed away. My sister had died previously before my mother. These three people died and have no time to grieve. I had aunts and uncles who did not come to say, “Let’s help her.” My mother was the black sheep of the family. I don’t know at the time, but I don’t think I was the black sheep. I made my way. In fact, I’ve gotten in touch with some cousins now and they’re like, “You turned out okay.” I was like, “Damn right, I did and I did it all by myself. I didn’t have parents like you did that encouraged you or nurtured you in certain things.”

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Dog Walking: When you’re a yes person, you can fake it until you make it. It can be wonderful but it can also bite you in the butt sometimes because you’re constantly trying to please everyone.

Adjudication is one of them, and it wasn’t for me. I don’t think I have too many regrets about that. The origin story, I was coming from upstate New York and moved to the city with a few contacts. People were generous to me, Gary, and I’m sure that in some way, I learned how to be charismatic. Part of my personality was the answer was, “Yes, I can help. Yes. I want to jump in there.” “Susan, do you want to do this? Want to be a nanny?” “Sure. I’ll try it.” It wasn’t for me ever.

I had a few good families that understood me, and I understood them and it was a good connection. After that, I worked in Corporate America. Talk about square peg, round hole. I was defiant in the beginning. I had one of these two-way beepers that you’d had to call. You talk to an operator, and they would type it into my beeper. This is circa 1998. I loved it.

I was a Gal Friday, getting paid $45,000 a year, full benefits, all that. I was like, “This is cool, but it’s not me.” I had to be in this little cubicle and was allowed to roam around because I was doing meetings. I worked for an investment firm. I was working with those travel investors and getting the office space, meeting rooms, and things.

You don’t have a college education. You’re out there on your own and you work as a nanny. You don’t have a lot of options. You’re saying, “Yes,” and I love that. You’re saying yes to everything at the beginning. That’s what discovery is. You got to do it. You’re acknowledging that it’s me, but for right now, this is what I have. Without a college degree, how do you get a job as a Gal Friday in a financial firm? For some folks, that might be a big leap.

This is a fun story. I’m working for Tim Forbes and his wife, Ann, and I was nannying for them and doing personal assistant for her. That was a referral from another family who was leaving town. They’re like, “Susan’s great. She’s got a lot of energy. You can harness that, and we’ll get stuff done.” The kids were fine. It was a very short-lived job because a friend of mine went on an interview during her lunch break. She was unhappy being an executive assistant in Bear Stearns.

She’d go on interviews and this one particular job at 9 West 57th Nations Bank Montgomery at the time, which now is Bank of America. She went on this interview, and the HR is like, “We’re looking for someone outgoing, energetic, and personable, and who has no problem walking up to people all the time.” Denise was like, “That’s not me. However, Susan, my friend who’s also looking for work.” It’s so cheating, Gary, but she mocks up this resumé.

Nanny became more personal assistant work, which suited that particular what they wanted to read. Sure enough, I aced the interview and faked it until I made it. I was a yes person, and that has been wonderful, but it’s come to bite me in the ass sometimes. I’m constantly trying to please and make everyone happy.

When you’re looking for the right thing, you have to say yes to everything. Once you find the right thing, you guys are saying no to stuff.

It’s not easy.

Saying yes to everything is an important part of the journey of discovery, not only discovering what’s the right thing for me but who am I?

That took a long time. I have a lot of people pushing me along and saying, “Try this. Try it.” Let me say the caveat to that is I had no other option. I was thrust into this life. I took people up on these offers of trying and doing things. I must’ve had some wit and smarts about me, which I brought along into this career of caring for animals. There was no choice, so it was like going along. I said yes to these things and was like, “This sucks. How do I get out of this?”

I looked around me and looked at what other people do. I worked for these families, and in Corporate America, I saw the money flow, and these people didn’t look any happier. That money provided more comfort for them. I lived hand to mouth for a long time until I was about 25. First, credit cards, how to save more money. That was a turning point at 25 years old. I hope I have answered your question.

You leveraged being a nanny to becoming an executive assistant. You’re using strengths. You’re being hired for more about who you are. You’re saying, “It’s definitely not my thing, but I’m good at it.” That’s an important thing. You can be good at something, and it’s not your thing. Be careful with what you get good at is what a lot of people say.

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Dog Walking: When you work on big deal jobs with money on the line, you have to go above and beyond. Sometimes, you have to stay past work and overtime. You’re basically bolted to your desk.

It’s exhausting because I will walk up to anyone and strike up a conversation. I’m not too fearful. You meet people along the way, and it’s, “What are you doing?” There’s lots of information out there when you connect with people.

How did you get from being an executive assistant to a dog walker? I don’t know if that’s one step or that’s several steps or whatever.

No. In fact, I did a lot of sideline work. There was a gal at work that had five Pomeranians, and she was undergoing a cancer operation. She had a place in Queens. I was living in Queens and had a roommate. I jumped at the opportunity to be like, “Go hang out with five dogs? Yes, I’m available.” I spent a week with these five Pomeranians. I’ll never forget. I was like, “This is fun.” Other ladies in the office, people in the office were like, “You do a lot on the side.” Yes. Although dog sitting, I had to work it around my schedule with the 9:00 to 5:00 job. I didn’t do it that often.

I fell in love with a person. They moved out to San Francisco, unrelated to my job. I was doing well in my job as a Gal Friday. I asked my supervisor, “My boyfriend’s moving out there to San Fran. Are there other available jobs at the Transamerica Building?” That’s where they had offices. They helped me and moved me out there. Prior to that, I had gone above and beyond at some of these jobs. Big deal jobs with money on the line, I had no idea about it. I stayed past work at regular hours, making my overtime, which I was happy about. They closed like education and financial deals.

I had no idea, but the accolades that were pouring via the email, I printed out. I hung it up as wallpaper in my cubicle. I liked that. They moved me up there, and that sucked. I loved San Francisco. I lived there for a year and worked at the Transamerica Building, but I was bolted to a desk, basically working for three executives and making their travel plans, this and that. I was Gal Friday, but I was nailed to that desk. I didn’t have the freedom of getting up, schmoozing, and being around. I quickly left that.

It’s an important point. I don’t want this to get glossed over. The work ethic thing. You showed up early and stayed late. I don’t want people to miss that. That’s unbelievably important that people don’t get. You start to generate luck.

Yes. I was going to say luck was a part of it. Either you believe that or that.

That’s definitely a part of it. Random luck is different from hustle luck. I don’t know how to convey this to people, but you can take the shittiest job in the world and make it into something if you can wrap your head around that. I don’t know what was going on in your brain, but it seems to me that you’re operating on this assumption of which you’re probably not aware that the more useful I become, the better off I’m going to be. You’re not passive in your adherence to policies and procedures. I show up at 9:00. I go home at 5:00. I don’t want to make too much of it, but I want to make sure that point is not lost.

I was very green when I started that job and wanted to show that I was ready and willing. When they talk about yes, man, you’re like, “No, it wasn’t bad.” It was like, “I want to impress myself in these people. Who knows where this job will take me? I don’t know.” That was prior to leaving for San Fran, but that’s all.

In my fascination with the entrepreneurial mindset, Susan, it’s the tasks, assumptions, the taken-for-granted beliefs, and values where the money is. The entrepreneur herself is not aware of it very often. My job is to try to point out some of those things or at least try to tease them out. I think of myself as an entrepreneurial anthropologist. I’m like Margaret Mead over here trying to figure out what’s making you tick. You’re out in San Francisco. It’s not the same gig. You’re chained to a desk. You don’t have the freedom to move around. As you said, from the rip, freedom’s important to you.

Yes. I had all this freedom in my young youth and teens. My mother gave us somewhat of a long tether, but that job, I left. I took a little package and went back to being a personal assistant and a nanny in San Fran. It’s something I knew, had experienced, and had more freedom. Those hours worked well with my lifestyle. I worked from 1:00 to 7:00 PM and enjoyed this little girl, Lizzie. We had a lot of fun. I’d left Nation’s Bank. I was only there a couple of months before I was like, “I’m out.” I went to a nanny agency and they’re like, “Great, we’ll find you a good fit.”

They did. I stayed there for probably 8 or 9 months and decided San Fran wasn’t for me. I broke up with my boyfriend and said, “Hightailing it back to New York.” It’s a different culture out there to me altogether, the West Coast versus the East Coast. I had more connections back East, my friends, and my family. I wanted to go back and be near them and have that support and a soul-searching situation for quite a bit, but I was a great house guest until I could get on my feet.

Everything in your life up until that point prepares you for that. That sounds terrifying to a lot of people.

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Dog Walking: When you don’t have a leash in your hand, people don’t care. But when you’re walking a cute dog, it would attract men, women, kids, and all types of people. You meet so many new people when dog walking.

I wouldn’t have walked into that.

You’re in your twenties still. I’m trying to keep track of the timeline.

I was about 27.

You come back to New York. You’re couch surfing and trying to get back to integrating yourself and finding some work. What’s next?

I didn’t go and work at a store or any retail or anything like that. It was always like wanting to work housekeeping, nanny, or domestic work because those hours were good, depending on how old the kids were and stuff. I did that very temporarily. I met a woman whose son was at that science camp up at Columbia. I was taking care of a smart kid and learned some vocabulary words from him. He was brilliant.

What kind of a vocabulary was it?

At first, he was talking about The Adventures of Tintin. Evan was his name, and he was this nerdy little boy. He said something like plethora. I was so embarrassed. I was reading the New Yorker at the time, highlighting words and trying to look literally in the dictionary. What are these words? I looked up plethora, and I learned it, and I’ve used it in sentences to build my vocabulary. I go, “It’s Tintin. These are great books, the boy and his dog.” He goes, “It’s pronounced Tintin.” I was like, “Yeah, that’s French, but now we’re in America, so just say Tintin.”

I was being bitchy to him. I met a friend of his mom’s. Literally, we met at the school. We said hi and dropped the kids off. Sure enough, I go for a pedicure 48 hours later and she’s like, “Your voice sounds so familiar to me.” We’re sitting side by side at the nail salon. I said, “Yeah. Okay.” She’s like, “I know. You take care of Evan.” I said, “Yeah.” Her name’s Dina.

Her son is named Miles. It’s Miles and Evan. I’m sitting next to Dina at this pedicure, and we’re talking about stuff. I gave her my trajectory of what I’ve been doing. She’s a choreographer and makes music. She had lots of contacts and still does to this day, but she said, “My friend, Alyssa, who owns a pet store on West 57th Street is looking for help.” I said, “I don’t know about retail.” She’s like, “No, she’s looking for people to walk dogs for the customers.”

I like dogs. It was presented to me, and I said, “Okay, I’ll try it.” I did and worked with her for many months, not quite a year, and I’m out in the cold, the rain, and the dog bites. I’m going to say it’s bullshit of working for somebody else. She gave me the idea, but Alyssa says, “I had some cards made up to the store. Start handing these out when you are dog walking.” I was like, “The hell I will.” I made my own cards and went from there. I also had a very different style. I love A-line dresses and shirtwaists, a 1950s look, but I wore my sneakers. Often people didn’t know whether that dog was mine or not.

You built a brand and looked a little bit different.

That wasn’t my angle. That just happened.

It’s an interesting part of the story.

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Dog Walking: When you’re dog walking, let your first two or three clients refer you to other people. Let them show just how amazing you are with animals. Show that you are trustworthy and reliable.

It’s worked for me over the years, honestly, because people approach you with a dog. When you don’t have a leash in your hand, people don’t care. No one comes up to me. You’re walking a cute dog or an interesting big dog, which would attract the men to me. Little dogs would be kids, women, and old people. There was all this variety that I was meeting. I loved it, Gary. I did it even in the bad weather, but she wanted me to hand out her cards. I was like, “No.” Sure enough, these opportunities would come up. At the time, I’m like, “I’m going to work with a perfect stranger.” Now I won’t do that. I work with referrals occasionally.

People would come up, and they’d say, “I love your dog.” I’d say, “It’s not my dog. I’m a dog walker.” “You’re a dog walker. Can I get your card?” “Yes.” As the years progressed, sometimes people would want to know how much a dog walker makes. They were intrigued by this type of work, and can you make a living doing it? The answer is yes, but I also lived a very simple life. No aspirations to have a family or even get married at that time. I didn’t spend money I didn’t have. I lived within my means.

It’s a very important point.

I tell a lot of young people that.

That’s a super important point that is not to be overlooked. Susan, I want to go back to something you said that’s also interesting to me and that I identify with personally. I didn’t do well in school, and I’ve never been to college either, but you read the New Yorker as I do as a way to educate ourselves.

I was a nanny, and they had that subscription. They would say, “Put it in the recycling,” and I would take it home. I liked the cartoons.

The fact that you’re reading it. You’re countering words that you don’t understand. You’re looking them up in a dictionary. That’s another cool point.

I don’t want to seem like an idiot, Gary. I wanted to be able to comport myself and have a few vocabulary words under my belt.

I don’t want to put words in your mouth, but you understand that you got to function within a realm of people like your clients and customers. You can’t come off like a hick. There’s some understanding or some cultural awareness. That’s also important. People don’t get that. The cultural values that allow you to succeed in one domain will likely prevent you from getting into another domain. A lot of people miss that.

I did read a book called How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. I highlighted in that book that it was all about hearing their name when you speak to someone and say their name. Not on purpose. You’re having a conversation and making eye contact and using their name. The number one word that we love to hear is our name. It wasn’t like trying to be a liar. I don’t feel like it was. I’m a gabber.

I’ll talk to everybody about all sorts of things. When you shut up and listen, it’s interesting what people want to share with you. They need an ear, and that happens a lot on the streets of the city. I was a captive audience sometimes as well or excuse myself and say, “I’m on 30 minutes here in my office. Step aside. I got to get this dog back.”

You’re working for this pet store owner. She’s got you walking dogs. You’re not in love with the idea of working for somebody else. You need the freedom and the autonomy that we talked about. When she said makeup cards for the store, that was the idea where you’re able to see this easy transition. The startup cost is the cost of a business card.

It wasn’t a business card, Gary. It was so lame. I made pieces of paper. I bought some of the cardstock like in the stationery store that was in a sale bin.

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Dog Walking: Refer other people to dog walking. There are a lot of people who are looking for work and a lot who are looking for dog walkers. That’s important because people can really lift each other up.

That’s what makes the story so interesting. I interviewed this guy in my show, John Kendall, who became a good friend of mine. He lived in an apartment complex and saw people trying to move their furniture. A guy and his girlfriend are trying to schlep a couch out. He started helping them and realized that power was renting a U-Haul, but they need help and labor. He made some flyers at a copy store, went inside the apartment, and stuck them underneath people’s doors. He said before he got out of the first building, his pager was going off. This idea that you need money to start a business, it’s crazy.

That’s interesting about what he did, being trustworthy and reliable and being in and out of people’s homes. He helped them. He was the security there at the U-Haul or was moving boxes with them. They’re there when that’s happening. It’s not saying, “Go move my stuff,” and worry about maybe theft or something or who knows what, but I find that interesting.

We can talk about this later, but access to resources when you’re starting out is more of a hindrance than a help. If you have a lot of money available, you can adopt this build and enable come mentality that is more like gambling. The lack of money forces you to micro-experiment. You need feedback that comes in the form of currency. You we’re testing this with the job you had walking dogs. You were proving the concept essentially on someone else’s dime. If I’m understanding you, when she said like, “Go get business cards and hand them out,” or “Here’s some business card,” you’re like, “Now this is my chance. The door has opened up.”

It was very matter of fact. I was like, “I’m out here hauling my ass around. I’m exhausted four hours a day in the rain and the heat, all of it. I’m not handing out your shit. No.” I did that on the side and met a few people. It took off. One of her clients, one of the people that came in the store, who I worked for many months, you get to know people, whether they’re clients that worked at home or someone was sick. This client happened to have a husband that had brain surgery. They were so used to me coming in, and the dog was very therapeutic with him. The dog was part of their family and had no kids.

They said, “You’re going to leave Alyssa?” This was when I was breaking away. They’d said, “We don’t want to work with anyone else but you, Susan.” I said, “I’m very flattered, but I’m not going to poach. I do have morals. I have a way that I care.” I think you make more money working with people and doing the right thing. You make money as opposed to shutting that door. I waited a month. I said, “Let’s wait a month.” They could have gone directly to her and said, “We’re not going to use your services. Susan’s leaving. We’d like to take her on her own.” That probably would have been good, but to this day, she probably thinks that I snatched them, but it wasn’t that at all, and that was my first customer.

How did you make the transition? I’m assuming now you’ve got some overhead. How does this evolve into like a full-time thing, like this is going to be a real thing? To your earlier point, a lot of people think of dog-walking, and they think, “That’s something a teenager could do after school. It’s not something you could support yourself on.” Can you talk about that?

I get a lot of that. I had only had this one client, so I started giving my business cards out to the doorman and chit chat with them. I’m flirty for sure. They’re bored out of their mind. We’re chitchatting. I’ll talk to anybody. I probably had that going for me all my life so far. I lived with roommates and rented rooms. I lived in an SRO, Single Room Occupancy, which was $500 a month. As long as I was making my rent, I had a little bit of food money. I didn’t make a lot at the beginning, which was stressful too. I was like still doing babysitting on the side.

The cards would go out. I would start to meet people. Those first 2 or 3 clients would refer me. That’s the word, referral, “We want you to use our person. She’s amazing,” or whatever. I don’t think I’m amazing because I don’t like that word. I find it annoying. It’s overused. “We trust her with our animals, in our home,” which I take for granted, Gary. I don’t think about how important that is because I don’t have hired help in my home. I’m such a control freak.

I can’t imagine having someone, but you also have to let go and say, “This person has some integrity. She takes care of our furbabies.” Being trustworthy and reliable is huge. I never missed a dog walk. I definitely fell asleep on a park bench. It was late. I’m not going to say I was always truthful. There were times that I had to cover my ass. I’ve become more transparent throughout the years as I got older and more responsible about my business. It was a dog-walking gig. It was not necessarily my mindset at the time.

There was something going on in your brain that you intuitively understood, maybe consciously understood that being reliable is everything. That’s the simplest lesson. It’s the hardest for people to learn. I’ve probably told you this. I started gutter cleaning in 1987. I borrowed a ladder, strapped it on my car and went into a wealthier neighborhood where I’m not from. Where I come from, no one’s paying anybody to walk their dogs or clean their gutters. You figure out like, “I’ve got to learn to make these people feel comfortable with me. I got to have a brand of being reliable. I got to demonstrate that I’m culturally a fit in some way. I don’t know if that makes any sense.

It does. Let me add to that. I’ve had a few wealthy clients say, “You’re a representation of us when you’re out there with our dog.” I don’t like that. I am my own. I thought if some people come up into my space while I’m on a 30-minute dog walk, you’re eating time. I need to be moving. The dog needs to be eliminating. I was casual too.

Eliminating means pooping and peeing. That’s dog walker lingo.

I didn’t like that. I’m not representing shit because you’re not out there when the weirdos come up to me. I was waiting to cross the street and had the dog in a sitting position. The owners were training their dog. I took on that and said, “You show me. We’ll continue. We’re all part of the pack.” Some guy is standing there next to me. I see him in my peripheral vision. He’s giving the dog chicken. Who’s carrying chicken around in his pocket?

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Dog Walking: Clients do not like to hear no. It’s really all about them. But you could still set your own price. Depending on your client’s apartment or home, you could charge them more.

Being like, “I represent you in a way,” no, I don’t. I think people hired me because I maybe possibly was white, looked a certain way, and was funny and energetic. That was part of my mental health. I was a manic unmedicated person with lots of energy and channeled that there. I didn’t agree with that. That’s all that rubbed me the wrong way.

That’s an extreme example, but you’ve got to learn to fit in.

Yes. It wasn’t easy because I felt like I was fending for myself. I never bothered people unless you were bothering me. Someone would come out of the blue, constrained. They’re walking past you on the street, “That’s the wrong harness for your dog.” I would quickly say, “It’s not my dog. I’m a dog walker.” “You don’t look like a dog walker.” That whole conversation was odd.

Susan, how did you know that this was going to be a thing? Some clients you’re scraping. You’re paying the $500 rent. It’s basically the hand-to-mouth existence that you’re describing. How long did it take to get to where it was going?

It’s a good year easily. Not that I was starving, but you’d get business and didn’t get business. People would move, or they’d go with someone cheaper. I’m trying to think. I said yes a lot. The first time was when I took a dog sitting job with a celebrity. His wife had been walking the dogs for a couple of years. They finally invited me into their home to dog sit for them while they were away. That was very telling because I was like, “This is serious.” I’m spending the night in their home. I’m responsible for things. That was a turning point within a year of walking dogs. I started to dog sit dogs. Sitting the dogs for money, if you will. Nothing kinky. Belly rubs are extra.

How did you figure out the pricing? Many at first struggle with that stuff.

I had a few dog-walking buddies. They were already a little more seasoned. They’re like, “If you’re going to survive out here, you need to spend some money on your gear like a warmer jacket. You’ve got to step up your game.” They helped me by referring me to and I liked that because that was something that showed me I can also do that for other people who are looking for work. That’s important because we can lift each other up. That’s huge. I get emotional when I think about that.

They taught me so much and said, “Don’t let these people walk all over you. You can’t be available all the time. They get spoiled, this and that.” They taught me a lot, and a few of them are still doing it. I occasionally go back into the city to pick up work. I see them and go, “Wow.” They’re a good ten years ahead of me on it. They’d refer me to the work they didn’t want to do. That was undesirable, but you take it and suck it up.

It’s an important point that you’re raising, Susan. That’s very common. I don’t want this to be lost. To use an anthropological term like immersing yourself in a community of practice. Other entrepreneurial people in your domain will help you. They’ll not only transfer to you explicit knowledge but be around them and see what they’re doing. They’re also transferring to you the possibility of what this could be. You’re learning more than tactical things. That’s how you help figure out the pricing thing. Can you talk a little bit about that?

I was part-time in ‘99. I went full-time in 2001, 2 weeks after 9/11. The clients started asking me to dog walk full-time. I was still doing a little bit of nanny and the dog walking. Occasionally, I bring those kids to these walks. Their parents were like, “You took the kid to where?” Redirect me back to your question.

The pricing thing?

I’d say, “How should I charge for this?” They said, “We charge this $50 a night. You can charge what you want, but this is what people are paying.” Since I came on the job in ‘99, it was $10 for around the block, in and out. It was $15 for a half-hour walk. It went from $10 for a brief walk, a pee break, and $15 for a half-hour, which I thought was still great. That’s huge. You look at the minimum wage now in the cities, it’s $15 an hour. It comes with benefits and some of those things I didn’t have. I didn’t have healthcare for a long time. We’re all talking. The buzz is $20.

We’re lifting up prices. You’re going to lose some clients. You’re going to say, “No, I need to give myself a raise,” or clients gave me raises too. When I was working for this family for five years, they gave me a raise of another $5 on each walk. The gig became a $1,000 a month job. That paid my rent. Everything else was great. It was savings and travel money. That one particular thing was like, “I need to value myself. I am a valuable commodity to them.” It was when I found out too. It was my first time going to a new place. I went to Turkey for a week and realized my client was like, “I don’t know what we’re going to do.

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Dog Walking: The nice thing about dog-sitting is to have your own space for a while. You get to have your own space for a week or two.

I said, “Backup walker,” or something like that. It forced her to go out of her comfort zone, but she hired another dog walker she would see in the neighborhood that would suffice while I was gone for a week. That started my travel bug, but I realized that clients do not like to hear no. It’s all about them, but I could still set my prices. I’d walk into a joint and be like, “Duplex, penthouse. Your freaking terrace is as big as Walmart or something.” I’m joking, but I’d size it up and be like, “This is a Mercedes kind of house.” I would charge them more.

I’d say $75 a night, and I worked it all the way up to $150 a night as the years went by with them. For other clients, I’d get a little break too. You could see that they lived in a fifth-floor walkup. They were not working in class, but they were people who sat at desks and did stuff like that. I was a luxury but a necessity. We worked for people who didn’t do anything.

It’s an important part of the conversation, Susan. People struggle from going to an employee-minded thing where I make $15 or $20 or $25 an hour to charging $50, $75, or $100 an hour. It freaks people out. It’s a struggle for a lot of people. You’ve got to understand the value you’re bringing to the client. You can’t be trading time for money.

The trust thing is huge.

They’re paying for the fact that you’re a reliable, intelligent human being. Back in the day, when I was building houses, I had these conversations many times with people who would lament the lack of quality craftsmanship. They would, in the same breath, decry the cost of the house. I would try to explain to people in the nicest way possible, “If you want a craftsman, you can’t pay $1.25 a square foot to have the carpenter come in and trim your house.” You can’t shop at Walmart and expect quality. It’s one or the other. It’s interesting. The conversation, Susan is about teaching people how to treat us, isn’t it? It started to be able to say no.

It’s hard. My friend, Denise, who got me the corporate job back in the late ‘90s, she’s the one who used that word. She said, “You have to have your own business.” She used that sentence. I said, “I don’t look at it like that. I get up and show up.” I never called in sick. You just go. If I was having some mental health problems, I would cry it out and work through it. There weren’t days I would take off. If you didn’t go, you didn’t make money. Suck it up. Sorry. I was very hard on myself. It was like, “Just go.”

Susan, let’s talk about that for a minute. Brian Bruno, the Apple Rich Farms dude, said something similar like, “People don’t get this. They don’t go to the farmer’s market because it’s raining.” They don’t realize that some people, meaning the vendors or the farmers, don’t go to the market because it’s raining. They think there’s going to be lower attendance, which there will be, but they don’t realize that there are people that are going to be disappointed that you’re not there. You’re going to kill your brand. I had enough common sense. If somebody would say, “I think we need our gutters clean. Can you come back tomorrow at 8:00?” I’d be there at 7:45 to convey my actions. You can count on me.

Stick out to make yourself different. Make yourself indispensable, but there’s a claw in that too. When you do say, though, say, “I’m sorry, I’m unavailable.” Working with my clientele, which were super-wealthy than Joe Schmoe’s, but that’s another story because people would cut you off, they’d say, “We’re not used to hearing that.”

Let’s go back to the showing up thing. People don’t get it. What’s underneath that, Susan? I’m guessing conjecture. Is it this implicit assumption that I’ve got to make myself useful and reliable? It’s like part of that, “The more reliable I am, the more useful I am.” I’m stumbling on my words here a little bit, but I’m trying to get at this implicit assumption that it’s about the other, not about me.

I’m not implying that it’s like altruism, where you give of yourself endlessly. I’m saying that it’s backward. That’s what Who Owns the Ice House? was about. That’s what Uncle Cleve understood. If you can solve problems for other people, you can empower yourself. Let me take this a little bit further. The problem you’re solving for somebody isn’t this functional dimension of my dog needs to urinate. It’s that “I have to be reliable.” I need somebody that I can trust and that’s going to show up when they say they’re going to show up.

They’re going to do what they say they’re going to do. There’s not a lot of friction in the transaction. That’s where the opportunities grow from there once people understand that. If you look at it as transactional, “I’m taking your dog for a walk, and you’re going to pay me $20,” or whatever it is, you’re not going to go anywhere. If you can understand that implicit assumption, you can turn the shittiest little thing into something.

There are a lot of dog walkers I’ve known that have come and gone in all the years. It’s either that wasn’t for them or they’re on their way to something else.

It was you with like watching kids or being a nanny or being a personal assistant. What you’re saying, Susan, is if you don’t love it, you’re probably not going to get there.

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Dog Walking: When you’re at the height of your career and making money, you became more and more tired. Especially being a yes person, you need to start saying yes to yourself more.

Many years later, I’m baffled by it, but I’ve made it work, and it did. It’s more pros than cons.

Take me through this journey. Now, you realize you’re making $1,000 a month with one account. You’re thinking like, “This could be a thing.” Where did it go from there?

My goal was to make my bills, which were my rent, living with the roommate, or getting an SRO. Make the rent, food money, and savings. That was crucial to put a little bit away. You make $100 a week. That was a $400 account. As I started to build, I would probably have that one account paid for my rent, and the other account paid for travel. The other account was strictly savings. They all were very crucial. There were some of my top clients. I never lived in Manhattan until the very end and got my first lease, but it’s a little bit in the outer boroughs. I would often go home at 4:30, and they’d say, “We’re going out tonight. Will you come back and walk the dogs at 8:30?”

I’d be like, “Yes, I will,” because it became $75 a day. It was not $25, one walk a day. They would call me back. It was hustle, but I was like, “I’m doing stuff. My bills are paid. I’m living comfortably. I’m still living with roommates. That’s what I liked about dog-sitting. I started to dog sit more, and you got your own space for those ten days, a week, or two weeks, even long weekends. I worked every holiday. It was not about me. It’s about them and not exploiting them, but going, “You have money. I need to be able to support myself and have a little extra.” That’s how I looked at it. It’s more accounts.

At the top of my career, at the halfway point, I met Ed in ’04. I’ve been full-time since 2001. A week after 9/11, I went full-time. I met Ed, my husband, in 2004. At that point, my lease was up. I said, “Do you want to live together and save some money?” I pushed the issue, but we did. I moved to Midtown. My rent decreased by $500. It went to the bank. I was very methodical about saving money. You didn’t know when the other shoe was going to drop. You didn’t know when things were going to change. You’re on edge a lot. I look back now and go, “I don’t need to hustle as much because I’ve saved more.”

At the time, I was tense about stuff. Paychecks were different week to week, but at the height of my career, I would say in ’07, I moved in with Ed. I experimented with taking the month of August off. My body was tired. I gave them a month’s notice at the beginning of the summer. I’d say, “I’m going to take August off to rest my body.” I’m pretty tired of pounding the pavement. I paid my bills and paid rent and paid my phone. I was like, “I’m going to live on $30 a day,” entertainment and food, and I made the best of my month-long staycation.

It’s freedom. That’s what it’s about. People think making money is bad. It’s about freedom, whatever that is for you.

I took a whole summer off and asked one person to do it. She was working with me part-time. Everyone agreed to work with her. I had to rest and was so looking forward to going back after Labor Day and giving it my all. Rest physically and emotionally was huge. Other dog walkers were like, “How do you get off doing that? I can never take time off. I don’t know how you live. I don’t know what your bills are. I don’t know what your deal is. Some dog walkers had kids and families.” Taking time off and travel was important to me. I had about ten accounts a day.

Were you worried about taking the time off, and they would find something to replace you?

I was nervous, but I didn’t think about it. I was like, “They trust me.” I worried about it. I worried about other people taking my work. It happened a few times over the years. You see those people and go, “Bad karma, buddy. I’m still going to do the right thing.” I’ll cry and bitch about it. I was working 4 or 5 hours a day nonstop, walking, leash on this hand, holding the yogurt cup, and eating while I was working. If you sat down, it was the kiss of death. You worked, so I had ten clients a day, probably walking between anywhere from 5 to 10 miles a day. The job made you very fit as well.

You said that was the middle of your career. Where are you now? Are you doing more like dog sitting?

Yes. No more walking. I’ll do cat visits to people’s houses here in the neighborhood. I am dog sitting only. I have made a few clients up here. My crew is in the city of three different people I work with.

You’ve been living outside the city now. It is about an hour and a half away or something.

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Dog Walking: In improv, you can tell morbid stories that are funny. The audience will laugh because it’s uncomfortable. You’re loosely basing the story on yourself.

It’s 90 minutes away. At some point, I looked at Ed and was like, “I’m so tired.” It’s the fifteen-year mark. We’ve been together for several years. I was like, “I’m tired and miserable. I’m not giving the best service that I can.” I was struggling emotionally and not on the right personal meds to do that stuff, but that came later.

At the height of my career, making that money and I became more and more tired. After being a yes person constantly, I was like, “I’m going to say yes to me. I wasn’t getting the best service. I was having some mental and health issues where I would phone it in. I’d go in. I would walk the dog, make sure that the dog was eliminated. I’d cheat on time. I would say it to people on the note. I’d say, “Murphy made pee and poop. I only did a twenty-minute walk. I’ll make it up as the week goes on.”

People understood, but I kept my personal life under wraps. If I came where I looked puffy and emotional from the cry, people would say, “Are you okay?” “Yeah, I have a headache.” Certainly, mental health is much more understandable now. The work was always good for me emotionally. The dogs would keep me busy and redirect me out of my own head with the inner dialogue. I’m not giving what I can, which isn’t fair to them. It’s not fair to me. Can I leave my Upper West Side work? It dwindled a bit too. Things had changed.  Wag! came on the scene. Rover came into this scene. These are two big businesses that all individual walkers were up against.

What are those things?

Those are online dog service companies that will give you daycare and overnight care. They will take care of your dog on a pack walk out to the country. I was a part of Wags as one of the people that would work for them. They got me the work, vetted me financially and my background, and started feeding me work. They have these little lock boxes. I didn’t do this. I learned about this. I did my homework. I was always the private dog walker. The high-end clientele loves saying, “Susan does private walks. She doesn’t do a pack walk.” People paid for that. It was different and on a personal basis. I’m sure this happens to Rover and Wag!, these two dog walking companies. People bond, and you form a relationship with these people.

It’s more than transactional.

They’d circumvent the company and go around the side. They have volume and survive even by making horrible mistakes such as losing the dog or getting hit by a car. It’s happened. You read about these things and go, “I used to think I wanted to have more volume to do pack walk.” I was like, “I will keep working at it and get more clients, but I’m glad that I didn’t become a pack walker just because it’s easier.” I would never be able to take time off working with that many clients in your book. Ten or more clients is more exhausting than one-on-one. I didn’t have a buddy to help out.

Pre-COVID, I was on airplanes a lot. I have had a lot of interesting conversations with Uber drivers. I always ask them, Susan, “Do you have a business card?” Almost 100% will say no. What is the matter with you? It’s about relationships. They don’t get that. How do you know the guy you’re picking up isn’t an executive that wants you to come and pick them up every Monday and take him to the airport, pick them up on Friday in private?

You’re giving half of your dough to the application. These applications, like Door Dash and Uber, they’re electronic bosses. They give you the illusion of autonomy. It never dawned on me. They look at me like I’m a weirdo when I say, “Why don’t you have a business card?” “I don’t see the need for it,” because the app becomes their employer.

They get more volume.

You’re trapped in that whatever you can make as an Uber driver, I don’t know what percent is they take or whatever. I don’t know where the numbers are, but I don’t think it’s particularly lucrative. I think it was when it started, but people are running around like a chicken with their heads cut off for $15 an hour.

I wouldn’t want that work at all. They bust their asses. They work long hours. I can’t imagine a dog walking service working like that, but it does. That’s Rover and Wag! It’s like, “Do you want to go out tonight, honey? Let’s use the app and send over a dog-walker.” There are key lock boxes. It amazes me to have them on-call.

This is where so much opportunity lies. You have to look beyond the functional dimension of human needs. You’ve got to look at the social and the emotional dimension. As you were saying earlier, it’s about trust. It’s about, “I like you. I feel good about leaving you with my dog or my kid. I enjoy talking to you on my ride to the airport,” as opposed to like, I’ve gotten Uber rides where it was like a pickup truck that was falling apart. There’s so much opportunity. People don’t know how to find it because they don’t know how to look for it. It’s not like the opportunities are hard to find. It’s that they’re easy to overlook.

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Dog Walking: Exercise your mind. Take a pottery class or third-grade art class for a few weeks, and just enjoy it. Find out what you can be good at. Don’t be afraid to learn new things.

Our origin stories are a part of it too. That’s a big piece of the pie chart. It’s about having that assured feeling like, “I can do this.” A lot of it was subconscious. It’s only in my 40s and 50s did I look at it and go, “That’s right. I ran a company. I have a business. I’m the CEO of it.” This is very important. I want to mention this. It’s nothing horrible, but I screwed up with scheduling or overbooking.

I would always cop to it and say, “Great. I had a flight. I can change my flight.” The client would say, “You don’t have to.” “No. Work pays me. That’s my social life.” They were impressed by that, but I was like, “Business is business.” You take care of that. I wanted to mention that. You were saying about this person standing in front of me. My clients have a lot.

It’s not transactional, but consciously but intuitively also, you understand these deeper social and emotional dimensions of the human needs. There’s another important point to be made, which is that you have to be in the arena to find the opportunities, and people don’t get this. You can’t figure it out and then execute on it. You have to go out and try things. Only once you’re in the arena do you find the opportunity you’re looking for.

Most people won’t start because they can’t see the clear path to the outcome. Part of your story is the ability, the willingness. Maybe it’s the lack of options but the willingness to tolerate ambiguity. What I would like to do now is maybe we’ll shift gears. I know at one point you were doing standup comedy in New York City. Let’s talk about fearless.

I did improv too, and I liked that, but standup was scary.

Where did improv fit into your journey?

I was making money. One client paid for the rent. One client paid for savings. One client paid for travel. I found out that one client could pay $400 for six weeks of improv class, or I could take a private, $20 an hour class with a mediocre comedian who I liked very much and would sit with him and flush out funny stuff and material. He would say, “Tell me, did you go to summer camp or an afterschool program?” We’d flush out stories, and he’d be like, “That’s morbid, but it’s funny. The audience will laugh because it’s uncomfortable.” You loosely base it on yourself.

I did stand up because someone dared me, Gary. I totally missed this whole part of my year working with the mentally ill at a place called Fountain House, which still exists. I did work in one of the 24-hour residences as someone that helped out and worked with some of the members. It was a bet that I had with my supervisor. He said, “I’m off to the post office.” I said, “Gary, it’s a Sunday.” I was pairing lunch for the members at the residence. He’s like, “The post office is open on 34th Street.” I’m like, “No, it’s not. I don’t believe you.” I said, “I get to cut off one of your dreadlocks if I win.” He said that if he won, I’d have to do a night of standup comedy.

Sure enough, he comes back. He’s joking and was like, “Here’s my receipt.” I lost the bet, and I enrolled myself in a standup comedy course. My premiere was at with my other students in the class was Caroline’s on Broadway. That was exciting. Every time I did stand up, which was maybe six times, I had a few recordings and I would always make new material.

I didn’t realize the formula that they were doing, the stand-ups. Make a joke and then keep saying it, keep working, tweak it. They go all over the country and do that. I was so I would make a date and say, “I’m going to do Gotham Comedy Club, open mic,” and would light a fire ass to sit down. I talked about Corporate America. I talked about working with the mentally ill and that the counselors were also mentally ill. It was a dare.

You lost a bet about is it the post office open on Sunday, right?


You did it more than once. Why did you go back and do it again?

TEMP S2 2 | Dog Walking

Dog Walking: When you get older and more knowledgeable about the business, you don’t have to take every job that comes your way. Tell your clients to refer you only to the best people that they know.

To make people laugh. It’s fun.

You got laughs and you were like, “Okay.”

I wasn’t like, “I’m going to be a comedian.” It was hard work. I tried a lot of different things and not necessarily have stuck with it. The only one is to do it a few times and realized that this is a real craft that these people have. I have a real respect for it, but it was also wasn’t for me to go into that. It was just fun.

What I want to get at is your willingness to try things. I don’t want that to be lost. That’s an important part of the conversation. I don’t want to get into too much psychobabble here, but there’s a phenomenon that the psychologist called an affect heuristic. Affect is an emotional response, and a heuristic is a quick rule of thumb. If something sounds frightening to us, the answer is immediately no.

The no, which is the heuristic, prevents us from ever thinking further about the idea. “What’s the worst that can happen?” There’s so much learning from it. That’s how we get stuck. If it doesn’t sound immediately amazing or we don’t have the assurance of the outcome, we just don’t do it. One of the big takeaways from this conversation is you’ve got to try lots of things. They don’t all work.

I still do that to this day. I’m exercising my mind. I’m taking a pottery class right now, and I love it. I’m making third-grade art, and I’m doing it well. I’m enjoying it. It’s therapeutic and fun. I can bring dogs with me when I’m working. That’s a bonus. I’m in the class with real artists who make money at it. I’m a little intimidated, but I was like, “I’m not here for that. I’m not looking for that. I’m here for fun. I’m here to make silly stuff.”

You’re putting yourself in these situations where you’re learning. This is also a common thing I hear from underdog entrepreneurs. They’re not going to sit in a classroom per se and listen to a teacher drone on, but there’s this curiosity and unrelenting desire to learn.

I took sewing classes, all sorts of stuff. You find out what you can be good at. It’s a short visit. It’s for six weeks. I tried it. I’m looking now to try and do my own improv classes to teach. You don’t need a degree in that either. You just have to have the wherewithal to get something going.

It’s amazing to me how many people don’t learn? That’s what fascinates me.

It’s a challenge. I worked with these three women. One in their 20s, in their 30s, and in their 40s. I was frustrated that not one of them called back. They’re like, “I want to be a dog walker.” I’m like, “Great. You can walk into my business and be a backup. You will have a full book of people to work with.” I’m here saying, “You’re my backup and then you start to make your own clients,” but they didn’t want to leave their serving coffee job or whatever. Most of them had office jobs, but they didn’t want to do it.

I didn’t have a dime saved when I started, so I don’t want that to be an excuse for them. I don’t know how people live. If I could have their ear and say, “You can have this.” If I ever stop this, for sure, I’m going to refer people. I will always encourage people to work for themselves because it’s nice. If I do something wrong, I have to make that right. I have to approach the client and say, “What can I do to make that experience better for you? Even if we don’t work together again, what was your discrepancy? What issue did you have so that I can learn from it?” I did not always get responses. People were not always cool about that.

I was belligerent at times during my work on the streets. I’m walking in New York City. I’m meeting nice and lovely people, but I’m also meeting cuckoos, and you have to be like, “Back it up, pal.” I was definitely crude, but I’m not proud of that. I’ve learned to be less belligerent and curt. People would say, “How much do you make?” I’d say, “Why do you want to know? I’m not asking you what your income is.” I was always happy to share that, but it was the way they did it. Can everybody do their business, please?

Susan, if I understand you properly, you’re saying that you are not only willing but eager to help anybody that wants to start a dog walking business. You don’t have this scarcity mentality like, “They’re going to take my clients.”

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Who Owns The Ice House? Eight Life Lessons From An Unlikely Entrepreneur

People have tried to pull that shit. Now I preface it with, “I am the primary.” I have confidence now. I’m at the other end of my leash. That’ll be the name of my book that I write or the standup that I do. In my work now, I’m like, “You want to go with somebody else?” This is classic. I’m at the Hotel Fauchere here in town in Milford and the woman takes my card and she’s like, “What do you charge?” I said, “$125 for two. $75 per dog.” She goes, “Good luck getting that money around here.” This is important for entrepreneurs because you’re selling yourself in that sentence.

What I should have said was, “That’s okay. That’s your opinion,” or not saying anything at all and kept walking, but I had to go after her and say, “I understand if you can’t afford it.” It was totally inappropriate. In my mind, I was like, “Who do you think you are telling me what I should charge? It’s the weekenders that are coming up here from New York. Those are the people I work for. You don’t know. Do I go to the Pike County courier and tell you how to run your job?” I thought it was incredibly rude. My husband’s like, “You have to have more tact.” I was like, “Tact my ass.” He’s right. I could definitely take some of that with me. That’s wisdom and good information, but I’m also like, “Stick to your business, please.” I had to learn that along the way, and I’m still learning that with people.

Some people are not appropriate to be tactful. This is super interesting, Susan. You hit all the wickets that are in the Ice House book. It’s so interesting to me. I have the benefit of the aggregates. People read Ice House. They are exposed to our work, and they say, “I’m not crazy.” There’s a phenomenon. Other people are behaving this way. The idea of I’m not going to let my circumstances dictate. There’s some underlying idea that I’ve got to take control of my life. I can’t be passive about it. Bruce Lee said something like, “The successful warrior is nothing more than a common man with laser-focus.”

I took that. I said, “The successful entrepreneur is nothing more than an ordinary person with a compelling goal.” Think of a Venn diagram, Susan. What you seem to have done is found the intersection of what’s interesting to you, what you’re capable of becoming good at, and what other people need. You don’t have that framework. You stumbled into the trifecta.

Now I have the knowledge to say those are the four things.

Winding down, do you have a website? You don’t even have a website, do you?

I did for a while. I never put it on Google. I had to pay for that to be at like the top of the page. When you Google dog-walker Upper West Side, Susan Walks Dogs showed up, but I didn’t do that. I had it like a card. That’s how I put my information on it, but it was only with individuals. I wasn’t promoting my website at all, and it was with GoDaddy. It was basically a fun picture book of myself and the dogs. I think to myself, “How many dogs have I cared for in my career?” That’s all. You get me at my website, Susan Walks Dogs.

Can people find you at Susan Walks Dogs?

No. It’s my email now. I let it lapse. I’m on the other end of winding down and being particular. The meet and greets, I have to like the people and the dogs.

You put yourself in a great situation, though. You can be picky and choosy. It’s all word of mouth. It’s all based on your brand. It almost makes it exclusive. It’s like, “If you don’t know where to find me, I’m not going to work for you.”

I was out with these particular two dogs, and I come out of my pottery class, and they’re like, “Your dogs are so cute.” I was like, “No, they’re not mine. I’m a dog sitter.” She asked for my card, and I gave it to her. She’s a complete stranger. She did call. I said, “You have to email me any dates.” I’m thinking to myself, “I don’t know her.” I gave her my references, but it’s a one-way street. I’m like, “They might not want to pay me.”

I’ll know more after I meet her and be like, “This is my business. This is how it rolls. You pay upfront. These are the rules, cancellation fee, so on.” That’s vetting someone who I don’t know. My other clients who refer me, I’m like, “Great. Only put me with the best people that you know.” I’m tired. I get frustrated now where I’m like, “I don’t have to take every job that comes my way.” Thank goodness.

You’re in a different phase. You’re headed to the next step of your journey and going to figure it out. It’s exciting and an adventure.

TEMP S2 2 | Dog Walking

How To Win Friends & Influence People

I’m in a dilemma of pushing myself because I did all this for many years. What else can I do with myself? What else can I feel confident about? I lost some of that. I’m like, “I can end life with this now.” I need to meet more people. I met a couple, Kevin and Diana, you know them. They’re trying to get the grassroots of a food co-op going in Port Jervis. As soon as I saw it on Facebook, I was like, “Yes, I’m in.” I find out it’s Diana and Kevin that put this thing going. That is something.

You’re throwing yourself in the mix.

The pottery classes, that’s something, but this is something that I want to be an advocate for people. Everyone should deserve to go into a nice food co-op. They could be expensive, but I want to be on the end of supporting them, paying for their memberships, and making them learn about taking care of the co-op. It’s a cooperative. You’re going to have to clean the bathroom. You’re going to have to fix all the onions. You’re going to have to cash people out and any leftover food that’s about to go off, make sure that gets to the right people, whether you take it home with yourselves. That’s a bonus.

I answered my own thing, but we’ll see. Working around a lot of other like-minded people can be great, but it might not be, but I’m willing to go and listen and check it out because it’s a passion of mine to work with the homeless and work with people who are food insecure. That’s all. Food is love. Food is life. I’ve worked in pantries and volunteered. That’s one of my personal passions. We’ll see what happens.

Susan, thanks for doing this.

This is fun. When I saw the email, I was all over it. “Yes. I want to do this.” I have a story to share. I appreciate you picking me back and going, “She qualifies for this.”

It is such a great story. It’s not the mega-millionaire Elon Musk story. It’s about an ordinary person figuring out how to make your way in the world by making yourself useful to other people. It’s not that complicated. That’s what it’s about. I love to ask this question to people. What’s stopping you from making yourself more useful to more people? Self-worth. I thought I needed a degree.

I’ve had people say, “You’re just a dog walker.” I was like, “I’m the best just a dog walker.”

Good for you.

That’s putting me down, though. I worked with a dog walker who, for ten years, worked for herself, and she would say things like, “I have a college education.” I’m like, “You work for yourself. You have an undergraduate. Just work this.” She got out of it, and I was like, “Do you want to do something else?” She hasn’t found anything yet. It’s been 5 or 6 years since she let it go. To each their own, and people are going to go out and look. I thought that was her mindset was, like, “I have a college education. I shouldn’t be a dog worker.” I’m like, “Why the hell not?” That was confusing to me. It was more for the hired help, or you’re uneducated, so this is all you can do. That’s how I read it.

There’s a thing like there’s a socialized mindset where it’s important to shit in and follow the rules and do what everyone else is doing. Other people’s opinions matter to you. There’s a self-authoring mindset where you’re less vulnerable to the opinions of others and you set out and do your own thing. Thanks for doing this episode, Susan. I enjoyed the conversation.

Thanks for having me, Gary.

I can’t wait until our next conversation.

Me, too.

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About Susan Beauregard

Hi! I’m Susan, a dog-walker with years of experience, working on the Upper West Side.

I’ve been working for several of my clients for years now but am always looking for new work. I specialize in semi-private care with your dog (no more than 3 dogs at a time).

Please check out this website to see more about me, the kinds of services I offer, pictures of my clients, and comics! If you think your dog might enjoy my services, don’t hesitate to write me at susanwalksdogs [at] yahoo.com and I’ll be happy to talk with you about your pet.