Name: Jessica Greenleaf

Age: 33

Title: Owner

Business: Loyal Leashes

About: Dog training and dog walking in the greater Gardiner area.

Website: loyalleashes.com

What’s your biggest challenge right now?

It’s trying to find a work-life balance, trying to make time for myself because I’m single with no children, so it’s easy for me to work nonstop. I don’t have a lot of home obligations, so I find myself working around the clock, seven days a week. So I am trying to find that balance in taking time for myself and being OK with saying no sometimes, and also wanting to be there for my clients whenever they need me. Finding that balance is my biggest challenge.

(The finances piece) weighs in sometimes. Business can kind of ebb and flow. Sometimes, when I’m a little light on the schedule, I’m like, “Oh my God, I need to get more work, even though I’m tired, because I need to make more money.”

But then also I do make time to take a vacation every year, not necessarily a trip. I take at least one week off a year. I’m OK if I want to take some time off financially, but if I don’t work, I don’t get paid.

It hasn’t been a constant struggle. I have been doing this for four-and-a-half years. I have been doing this seven days a week for four-and-a-half years with an occasional break. As I said, I don’t have a spouse or children, so it’s easy for me to dive in headfirst. It’s not only my job, it’s my hobby and I am passionate about it. It fills a lot of roles. It’s work and it’s my hobby and my baby.

In the first few years, I was happy to be building my business and working around the clock. Even when I am not working with clients, I am at home on the computer, doing all the back-end things.

What’s the best advice you have given?

I have had some people meet with me who want to start their own dog-walking or pet-sitting businesses. I am always happy to help anybody who wants to get started. The biggest lesson I learned, as well as the best advice I could give to someone, is that nothing is built overnight. You’ve got to put in the hard work to get out what you’re looking for.

When you’re starting up a business, especially when it’s just you, there’s a lot of time you are putting into it that you’re not getting paid for. There’s a lot of hard work to get it up off the ground. You just have to kind of put one foot in front of the other and tackle each task as it comes and eventually, you will get there.

What’s the biggest misconception you’ve discovered about self-employment?

It’s definitely not what you think it is. A lot of people romanticize it. They say to me, “I’m broke, I’m going to start my own business,” or, “I want to name my schedule and be able to take vacations whenever I want, I am going to start my own business.”

Both of those things are not true.

It takes a while to turn a profit out of it. Of course, there are some businesses that start right up and start earning a profit right away.

I thought, of course, like everyone thinks that I would be creating this job for myself and making money right away, and it will be easy, basically. Not necessarily the work, but the business part of it, I thought it would be easy.

I train dogs and walk dogs and care for animals. I am not an accountant, I am not a businessperson — I mean, I am now; I’m a business owner. You really don’t know how many roles you have to play in the business until you are the only one doing any of it. Even down to being your own IT person. When I had a desk job I could just call the IT person. I can’t do that anymore.

How do you overcome obstacles?

I look to a lot of people for advice. I am in a lot of private Facebook groups for dog trainers and pet business owners, and they are all very supportive. I ask questions there if I have run into a situation I am unsure of how to handle. I also try to know and be OK with what I don’t know.

When I know (I am) not the best person for a certain task, I will give it to someone else. I am not an accountant, so I hired an accountant. The things that I’m not good at, I will absolutely use other people to help with it.

Where will you and your business be in five years?

I see myself definitely growing and expanding. I am actually looking to open a training facility, hopefully very soon here. It’s a lot harder to find the facility than I thought it would be. That is definitely a big turning point I would like to make to my business there. Also, possibly hiring dog walkers and growing and expanding what I’ve got now.

I do have a business plan for opening up a facility.

As far as I have gotten now with my business, it’s been without any kind of a plan. It was definitely by the seat of my pants. It was, “OK! Here I am, everybody! Who needs me to come walk their dog?” But with the facility, that will be much more. There will be bank loans involved, much more commitment as far as expenses and things like that.

I actually see a wonderful, wonderful guy in Augusta whose name is Brad who works for CEI (Coastal Enterprises Inc.). He’s been kind of a mentor and helping me plan for upcoming changes in the business. He has been very helpful to me.

When I don’t know something, I reach out for help. I knew that I wouldn’t be able to do it on my own.

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