For Diana, dogs are so much more than little balls of love and fluff
Growing up in Mexico, Diana’s mother treated dogs like they were members of their own family. But when Diana moved to San Francisco at age 12, her family no longer had the space to accommodate a dog. She longed for the day she could bring a family dog back into her life, but it wasn’t until after college that she was able to make this dream happen.
After studying interior design at City College, Diana began her career working with a Home Stager. This was rewarding because she could make any house into a work of art. She could take an everyday kitchen and make it look like it was the set of a fancy cooking show, or a living room make it look comforting and homey just by arranging furniture and light.
When the housing market crashed in 2008, no one was looking to sell a house, let alone hire someone to make it look nice. The crash left her without a job and forced her to rethink her career trajectory. That’s when Diana began to look back on her childhood memories.
“I love animals, but I never thought there was a career in them,” Diana explained.
Diana decided to take a risk and jump into a new profession to start a job at a doggie daycare. She had been a lifelong pet owner, and doted on her French bulldog like a loving mom, but she had never done something like this professionally. But she quickly noticed some limitations with the work.
She loved every minute of working with the animals, but found herself frustrated by the long hours, low pay and limited upward mobility. As a result, Diana began looking for ways to become her own boss and set her sights on a opening a dog walking business.
Diana wanted to go to a bank and get a business loan, but she couldn’t. Even though she had lived in the U.S for most of her life, was a college graduate and had a full time job, she had no credit score.
“Once I knew I wanted to start a business, there was no turning back.”
She heard about a local nonprofit that could help her create a business plan through a friend and there she was able to get her dog walking business off the ground. One of the things that business planning taught her was how to find her niche. Diana decided that she didn’t just want to have a typical dog walking business. Instead, she wanted to combine her love of animals with eco-friendly values. She wanted to make sure that every part of her business was eco-friendly – from organic treats and foods the dogs enjoy, to sustainably sourced toys, and even biodegradable waste bags.
Within six months, she had her business license and Green Urban Dog was born. Now accredited to provide animal care, her eco-friendly services were ready to go by 2012. The next hurdles were building her credit score, getting more training and building a client base. To build her credit, she joined Lending Circles, where she went from zero to over 650 in just a few months. She then spent over 56 hours training in CPR and dog walking to learn the ropes. And by the end of 2013, she was able to land her first client. But before she could really call herself Green Urban Dog, she had one final obstacle to overcome.
Diana’s final hurdle was her gas guzzling car.
“I was spending nearly $90 a week in gas alone transporting the dogs across the city,” she said. She knew that she could save money, and fully green her business by purchasing a hybrid vehicle. Even though Diana now had a credit score, and enough income to make the monthly payments on a loan, her score was still below prime and so she couldn’t qualify for an auto loan for a car.
Diana came back to MAF because she heard about a program that provided zero-interest small business loans to business owners. With MAF’s help, Diana received a microloan for her business. She was able to purchase a used, energy efficient car to drive the dogs around. Since then, Diana has joined Lending Circle for Business to keep building her credit so she can gain access to larger loans from banks in the future.
Now with 12 full-time clients, Diana’s business is growing fast. She specializes in working with short nose breeds like English and French bulldogs – a tactic that helps her gain loyal and long term clients. She even runs a “Short-Nose Adventure club” for the pups that provides activities designed for short-nosed breeds.
“I tell everyone that I know, ‘go to Mission Asset Fund for a small business loan.’”
Building credit for the long-term while getting a zero-interest business loan has been a huge boost. Diana’s advice to aspiring business owners? Go for it! Although the road will be hard and scary, she believes “the sun shines for everybody” as long as they work towards their dreams.