Virginia Donohue of Pet Camp is Interviewed on Fine Living

April 10, 2012

Quit Your Job – Pet Camp Episode – We’re following five people who left successful careers in order to become their own boss. Up next, an animal lover with big green dreams. While working at a cubicle job, Virginia Donohue wished for a way to bring her dog to work with her.

They say be careful what you wish for. Today Virginia has over 100 dogs and cats at work. She’s the director of Pet Camp. When we’re full, we have 190 dogs and cats. So we kind of went overboard a little in that direction. But you have to truly love dogs and cats to do this.

Virginia Donohue and Mark Clayman were avid environmentalists and animal lovers. Both worked at the Environmental Protection Agency. Mark was an attorney and Virginia worked in public relations. They had fulfilling careers, but when their neighborhood doggy day care center closed down, they saw it as a call to action.

We were both working for the federal government and we were restless. And we were looking for a way to bring our dogs to work. Had this goal, dogs would play and it would be fun and it would be a great guilt free experience for people. We wouldn’t have to say, I’m sending my dog to the gulag.

They’re gonna go to camp. They’re gonna have fun. It’s gonna be fabulous. Experts say the secret to success for a startup business like Pet Camp is to make sure it’s work you find rewarding. I can’t emphasize enough that you have to be passionate about what you do.

What you usually see with people who have been really successful financially is that it’s tied to just who they are. They live and breathe their business. They love it so much that they would do it even if they weren’t making money. Today, Pet Camp is a 19,000 square foot day care facility for dogs and cats.

They board animals overnight while pet owners are on vacation and some clients bring their dogs for day visit to socialize with the other dogs, or have a physical therapy session in Pet Camp’s pool. The dogs, they’re well socialized, they get group play twice a day. We also have a swimming pool, one-on-one time, a wide range of doggie treats and we have bathing.

For the cats we have one-on-one play time. Cats don’t do group play. Cats think they’re the only cat, for the most part. I think in any business you have to be constantly reinventing yourself, constantly innovating, constantly looking for the new better thing. After we became profitable we said, okay, now we can incorporate our green values, so we went green.

Virginia and Mark have put their green values to work at Pet Camp. There are 252 solar panels which power nearly half of the center’s electricity, and everything gets recycled. Even the dog waste is sent to a local methane facility that converts it to methane gas that powers other local businesses.

We rotated who had the day job, but somebody always had a day job that had cash and had health insurance. No matter how successful you ultimately become, you’re not making enough money to live on in the beginning. So I think in a big sense that’s the hardest part about opening up a new business.

I tell a lot of my clients that it’s really important for them to get a jump start on their business while they’re still working, for a number of reasons. One is that they already have the financial stability. Figure out the name of their business. You can file for your business license, get business cards, work on your website, buy some of your equipment, set up your office space.

Constantly coming up with new ideas, Virginia has concocted a secret recipe for doggie ice cream cones, Popsicles. Made with special ingredients, this treat has dogs howling with excitement. I said it, what can we create that’s gonna be good for dogs, and fun? And basically looked around a lot of dog recipes, and put one together, that’s for frozen yogurt for dogs, and I can testify dogs love it.

One thing I really like about Pet Camp is the way they don’t hesitate to do something extra for your dog or for you. Whenever you’re going away, even if it’s on vacation, or you’re going on a business trip, it’s always a nerve wrecking time to be away from home. Originally wanting a job where they can take their dogs, Mark and Virginia have created an animal empire. One of the largest pet facilities, Pet Camp is now on their way to opening up a new Cat Camp location. Ever growing and expanding their ideas, Pet Camp is the place to take your animal.

Customers keep coming back to us because we take phenomenal care of their dogs. And we really, really care about them and their pets. We know all of these dogs and cats. We are personally invested in this business. When you come here, either Mark or I are here most of the time.

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