Why I Quit My Corporate Job To Become A Pet Sitter
If you’ve got preconceived notions about professional pet sitters being lazy freeloaders, or unable to hold down a “real” job, you might want to reconsider. We spoke with three successful, hardworking professional pet sitters who quit “normal” 9-to-5 jobs to pursue a career in petcare. What you’ll discover about them may surprise you. It may even inspire you to quit your job and consider pet sitting.
Transitioning Into a New Career
Lisa Kang, the founder of Walk & Wag in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, had a successful career in the arts before launching a professional dog walking and pet sitting business.
“As Director of Marketing and Public Relations, I brought The New Haven Symphony to Carnegie Hall and helped launch Seattle Symphony’s world-class symphony hall,” says Kang. “As the VP of Marketing and Public Relations, I had the opportunity to lead the reopening of the Detroit Science Center.”
When Kang relocated to North Carolina so that her husband could launch the Performing Arts Series at UNC Chapel Hill, she had no trouble finding a new job. As a young mom to a two-year-old, Kang became the founding Director of North Carolina Arts in Action, where she brought an innovative dance program to local schools.
“While wearing multiple hats during this busy time, I decided to take a break from NC Arts in Action once it was well on its way,” Kang recalls. “During this short hiatus, we lost our two dogs and I started borrowing my friends’ dogs and taking them for walks. It was on one of these many walks that Walk & Wag was ultimately born.”
Kang says that although the dog walking and pet sitting business was a pivot for her, it was not very surprising to her friends and family given her love of dogs.
“They were intrigued and supportive of my career change. Many understood the potential given the pet industry’s growth in the U.S. Of course, it would not have been possible without my husband’s steadfast support of Walk & Wag.”
Since 2010, Kang has been able to grow Walk & Wag into a booming business that has a staff of over 30 and serves hundreds of clients in the Chapel Hill area.
When Corporate Audits Aren’t Enough
Before Rich Miller launched his Philadelphia-based dog walking and pet sitting business, Walk It Like A Dog, he handled Sarbanes-Oxley compliance, or risk mitigation for financial reporting fraud. As an internal audit consultant for the small firm in West Chester, PA, Miller found himself struggling to create some semblance of work/life balance.
“I was traveling a lot for work and wanted to spend more time at home,” recalls Miller. “I was working in other cities, but paying to live in a home that I rarely spent time in. I also had my dog, Snuffy, and hated the fact that my dog walker was spending more time with him than I was.”
Not feeling fulfilled at work or at home, Miller decided that it was time for a change of scenery. In 2009, Walk It Like A Dog was born out of necessity, but it was hard for others in his life to get on board with the change.
“When I told my parents about leaving my corporate job to walk dogs, my mom asked ‘What are you going to tell girls that you meet about what you do for work? That you pick up poop for a living?’ In retrospect, I realize that my parents could have been a lot less supportive about it.”
When Miller first launched the business, many people didn’t know dog walking existed as a general service that they could pay for, and he grew the business mainly through word of mouth marketing.
“When I would tell people what I was doing, they would have a lot of questions,” says Miller. “But that usually was followed up with a request for my services or putting me in touch with a friend who needed my services.”
Today, in addition to running a successful dog walking and pet sitting business, Miller also co-founded a dog walking software company called Scout.
“After years of not liking the interface of the programs that we were using for the business, I decided to partner up with my developer and co-founder James Dixon to create a better software,” says Miller. “It solves all the problems that dog walkers and dog walking companies deal with on a daily basis. I love the fact that I’m not just the co-founder of the company, but I am also a client!”
Stepping Out of the World of Academia
In 2014, Kelly Kandra Hughes was working as an associate psychology professor at a suburban Chicago university, when she started to feel like she was burning out. She had lost her passion for psychology. Hughes decided to take a sabbatical, and soon realized she wanted to pursue a writing career, but wasn’t quite sure how to make it happen. She then stumbled into an unexpected detour in the process.
“I decided to just quit so that I could finally pursue being a writer,” Hughes says. “Of course, I thought, well there goes my salary, and I asked myself what I could do to live on less. I woke up in the middle of the night and it hit me: I love dogs! I could be a pet and house sitter. The next morning I Googled pet and house sitting and found a whole new way to approach life. I personally haven’t paid for rent/mortgage/utilities since August 2015!”
When Hughes got married in 2016, her husband was on board with becoming a professional pet sitter as well, and they have added house sitting to their list of client services.
“Most people thought I was nuts. They didn’t think I’d be successful as a writer and they didn’t think I’d be able to find pet or house sitting jobs to sustain what I wanted to do,” says Hughes. “A lot of people were condescending and negative, telling me that I wasn’t being realistic and that I would regret my choices. I have no regrets about leaving teaching. It is, without a doubt, one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.”