If you know me…if you’ve met me once…if you’ve seen me standing outside of my building holding a leash with a very tiny dog at the end of it, then you know that I’m all but obsessed with Henry, my little chihuahua. He’s about six pounds and full of energy and personality. He travels with me, he goes to work with me, and yes, he does sleep in my bed, sometimes squarely between me and my boyfriend and I know that’s no accident on his part.
So imagine my surprise when I learned that there is someone in Chicago who is a bigger dog-a-holic than I am. Candace D’Agnolo started Dogaholics as a retail store and it has since become all things dog… connecting pet parents all over the world. Though she recently sold her Chicago-based brick-and-mortar, her company is all but going to the dogs. Candace spun her retail business into a pet parent powerhouse with retail, daycare, grooming, boarding, educational and even business consulting services to help those whom she dubs “petpreneurs” take their businesses to ‘top dog’ status.
We chatted with Candace to learn more about how she (along with her lab/collie mixes, Guinness and Clover) helps retailers, veterinarians, dog walkers, pet sitters, doggy daycare providers, groomers and product manufacturers create seven figure businesses.
What was your first job out of college?
My first job out of college was at a very small event planning company in Chicago. I loved it because we had many opportunities to be creative. I learned a lot from the owner, [including] that I didn’t want to be like her. There were bets going on how long I would last, because she had gone through 9 assistants in 3 years. In my own business, I strive to be a positive influence, and lead by example. I encourage ideas, partnership and ownership from all members of my team and coach them through any obstacles.
What led you to create Dogaholics?
Over the three years after college I had a variety of jobs, I found that I really loved retail — merchandising, customer experience, signage, buying — and I decided to mesh that with my love of dogs. A retail store for pet parents was a special type of business because we really became part of that dog’s life and their routine. Helping pet parents overcome their training issues, solving an allergy and getting a dog on a better diet, celebrating in the arrival of a new puppy or mourning the lose of a furry best friend, it was a community type of business where people and pets connected.
What does your typical work day look like?
While every day is different and I can really work from any where, I still have structure as much as I can. I plan my week and day ahead, blocking out time on my calendar for tasks, not just meetings, but when you manage a team of 15-20 people, and you have a business with over 100 animals, sometimes my to-do’s get pushed off to the side to assist with their immediate needs. I have weekly meetings with managers and leads of projects. From my to-do list I like to tackle calling or following up with people who I’m waiting to hear from or need to work with first thing. This allows for me to take action on the things I need to accomplish before there’s any opportunity for me to get pulled into someone else’s needs.
How do you start each day?
I actually live above my business right now. Team starts arriving around 6:45 a.m., so I like to get up early to have some moments to myself. You can get so much done in those couple of extra hours. I make coffee and hang out with my dogs, go for a 30-minute run to my favorite music and pop into the doggy daycare and say good morning to everyone. Usually at that point, it’s go time!
What is the best advice you’ve ever been given?
Indecision is death. Make a decision. Move forward. You can always fix consequences and make improvements if the outcome wasn’t what you wanted.
What is your favorite room of your home and why?
I love my living room! The couch is deep and comfy and has wide arm rests – perfect for my two dogs and me, my coffee table pulls up like a table top if you’re sitting and it has storage inside, I always have fresh flowers, There’s lots of sun light, I love the art I’ve chosen and there are lots of photos of all my loved ones.
What is the one thing on your bucket list you most look forward to?
I’m all about bucket lists, but in my life its more like my next year list! I look at what I have on it and tackle the major ones if possible. Over the last two years, I had sky diving, going on an Africa Safari, Hawaii, helicopter ride and scuba diving on it and they all got accomplished! Next on my list is traveling to South America, learning to fly a small plane and eventually having a home on or near water. I’m not into material things, but I LOVE experiences.
It’s 5:00 p.m. on a Friday. What’s in your glass?
Santa Margarita Pinto Grigio
- ½ pound ground beef or turkey
- ½ cup cooked brown rice or quinoa blend
- ½ cup frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
- ¼ cup finely chopped carrots
- 1 egg, beaten
- 3 tablespoons, low sodium tomato paste
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Mix all ingredients in a bowl until combined.
- Roll meatballs into 1-inch size balls and place on a well greased cookie sheet or in a muffin pan.
- Bake for 15 minutes and cool before serving.