Business: Emerald Street Kennels, a full-service dog and cat boarding, grooming, and recreational facility
Originally from: Bayside, Queens, New York
Current home: Boise, Idaho
Education: Bachelor of Science Degree in Computer Science, with a Minor in Mathematics, Queens College, NY
Austin: You’ve gone from programming computers to operating kennels. Where did this interesting journey begin?
Eufemia: After college I landed my first full-time computer programming job at New York Air, the regional airline, in 1985. They were bought-out by Continental Airlines less than two years later, and I chose not to relocate with Continental, so unfortunately my job ended, not long after it started.
Austin: Is that when you began working as an independent consultant, rather than working as an employee?
Eufemia: Yes. Shortly after leaving New York Air, I was introduced to a particular company that was looking for a programming consultant, rather than a “staff employee.” I took the opportunity to work as a freelancer, and really enjoyed the professional lifestyle that it afforded me. I’ve continued to work as a freelancer ever since, and generally speaking, it’s been great. Most of the clients for whom I’ve worked over the years haven’t cared much about the hours I kept, as long as I completed the work in a timely and professional fashion. I eventually set up my own S-corp with which to manage my consultancy clients, and I’ve been operating in this fashion for the past 26 years, often handling multiple clients at once.
Austin: But somewhere along the way you made a shift towards dogs. How did that happen?
Eufemia: My consultancy led to this! Over the years my work has required a lot of out-of-town travel, sometimes for extended stays. I eventually began taking my dog Cassady on the road with me, which meant that I was checking her in to “doggie daycare” centers in the cities where I was working. Each time I visited a new facility I would take the full tour, ask lots of questions, and observe how the owners conducted their businesses. Through this process I learned a lot about what works, and what doesn’t work, and it helped me formulate my own ideas on how I would eventually operate my own facility.
Austin: After the years of observing and planning, when did you begin putting together your company?
Eufemia: I started formulating the plan in 2007 and probably could have had things operational in 2008, but I got caught in the financial system meltdown. After Lehman Brothers collapsed, securing start-up capital of any sort became incredibly difficult, but I finally got adequate funding in 2011 and we opened our doors on April 9th of this year. We’ve been well-received, and we enjoyed a great Spring and Summer season. Now as we move in to our first Fall and Winter, we’re excited and optimistic about the possibilities.
Austin: What is it that you enjoy the most about owning and operating Emerald Street Kennels?
Eufemia: Interacting with my customers. I have common ground with all of them, in that we both love animals, and it is an honor that they entrust their pets to me and my staff. I also love the independence that comes with owning my company – I’m in charge of my destiny, and I can make choices that will benefit me and my family long-term.
Austin: What’s the greatest challenge you face as you operate Emerald Street Kennels?
Eufemia: Like everyone else, I suppose, it’s navigating the uncertainty of the economy. I believe this is especially challenging for my business. I suspect that in the minds of most consumers, the service we provide is a luxury and not really a necessity. That said, we try to price things competitively and deliver a lot of value to our customers, and it’s going good thus far. I am fortunate to do what I love, day by day.
Austin: Any words of wisdom for other Entrepreneurs, and would-be Entrepreneurs?
Eufemia: The best advice I can offer is to never, ever, ever – EVER- give up. In my situation, the years leading up to the opening of my business were tough. I started the building project but couldn’t get the funding to complete it, and I was putting my own savings into the construction every few months just to keep the $14,000.00 building permit current. My closest family and friends were telling me I was crazy for spending my savings on my big “hole in the ground,” and before I finally got a private investor to come on board everyone except me had given up. But I didn’t want to live the rest of my life wondering “what if I had tried a little longer or worked a little harder?” so I pressed-on, and I’m glad I did. If you’ve got a dream and you’re willing to sacrifice, then never give up.
Learn more about this Entrepreneur – visit his business HERE