The Road To Second Chance – Chapter 3
My god it seems like it should be Chapter 8, but we’re writing these out in an order so that both we, and our supporters, can see the journey.
I believe that if not most, many people, dream to be doing something else. But fail to see the steps needed, or aren’t willing to take the risk.
I can’t ever pass on the wiring of the risk taking attribute’ per se, but it’s important for us to show anything can be achieved by having tremendous clarity of your vision. A mission statement and purpose. Good people around you at all times. And you have to have perseverance to not let anything get in your way.
If you have these traits, whether it’s owning a coffee shop, putting out a CD of your own music, or living off grid it’s just now a matter of laying out the steps and taking them one at a time, even on days when it hurts to do so.
I’ll start with 501c3 Status. It’s “In Progress” now. Articles of Incorporation are planned on being filed by mid Dec-Jan 1 the latest. We have the donation for the 400$ filing fee and what I think is the most important update so far, or coolest to me, is we have our board members selected.
They are a mix of what I hope the Solgave Second Chance board should be (and likely a few more will be added, but we have the minimum needed to file)…one who’s been a real mentor since Solgave was born in Sweden with animal therapy, outdoor education, nature and animals aiding in the healing of humans as our primary mode of thinking. We were working on how take a philosophy, a brand I knew was going to be solid, into an idea, into something real.
I bought the URL to solgaveanimalsolutions.com well over a year ago. It was the end of summer I think. We had been blogging and tinkered with the “Solgave Farm” site and blog site (A Family that Believes in the Power of Change) that would deal with things mentioned above, and focused on the same 4 pillars we have today as our foundation (Nature-Animals-Healing-Balance)
Yep, a blog actually called SAS-Defined was written before I found out about Neo’s pending birth and we laid out exactly where we are today (or pretty close) I knew hard work was involved, I saw the steps, and we knew it was a vital first few floors of the building leading to the altruistic upper deck. (Animals that had been rehabilitated reaching humans who have lost their way)
So it’s been a series of steps. It’s been sacrifices. I sold all I had to stay in Europe believing that the visions we had about Solgave were so part of our souls anything could be let go for the sake of the dream. (Material wise)
And moving back to the US Sunniva left the comforts of a nice farm home shared with her mother, the horses she so adored (and impacted me greatly), the fjords, the power of the ocean, and we came to Midwest.
Sunniva has been around animals like a wolf in the wild since she was a young girl. I knew when I saw her as a riding teacher, I knew after witnessing how she communicated with both dogs and horses she had a skillset a PhD could not give you. Asperger’s don’t choose to be so, if that makes sense, they just are.
So with the blend of the American and Norwegian who’s passions, timing in life, and unique blend of traits felt divinely inspired…. we brought our dream here.
We own a professional pet sitting and animal care business. I have not owned one before. I just knew it could be learned by anyone, and what then becomes vital is how you connect to people, how you drive teams to become better than you, how you change lives through experiences…. and while we had to do a lot of navigating in the beginning our base level of business is growing, growing quickly. Even the year we had to prepare and insane hours of market research I did studying the best of the best from Seattle to New York City (dog walking and pet sitting companies) it would still be a new world for me.
We got some respect pretty quickly as a team with unique Behavior Modification approaches. I would really just be a link between the animals and humans. Sunniva needed experience to just get in front of one dog at a time, and gain experience under the guise of a real business. Red zone cases she loves, other types of cases where everyone else had given up hope. (Phobias, anxiety, etc.) She’s written a lot about that and we have video blogs, so I will try to not be repetitive.
So with her belly getting larger and our savings and loan keeping us barely going, we did B Mod work on spotty basis, established a monthly Community Pack Walk right after landing and tried to connect to many shelter in the area.
We were naïve in believing those connections would be instantly magical. LOL. I laugh now, thinking back on it. “Why don’t they “see us”? How much we can help? Yes, naïve in the beginning we were, but we kept going and assessing ourselves first and I think that’s vital.
I sort of lost the notion for a bit of our baseline idea that was dog walking and pet sitting among the pet consulting creation, and because my wife was suddenly put on bed rest early a few weeks before our son was born. We had a baby coming any day and I began this summer to think, “Did I make the wrong call?” Should I have gone practical and looked out for them and our security material wise first. We never let ourselves go hungry, we had a roof, and we had a few people believe in us that helped by rent this summer, buy some food at Sam’s Club, and chip in with clothes for our baby.
I had to mow lawns 3 times a week and we paid not a single bill unless it meant something getting shut off during early summer. We sold a car. We decided to hang on to this dream after I went back and forth 1000 times on whether it was ‘right to do”.
I did apply for some jobs, ones I really didn’t want, we had spent a year planning and were ready for this…sigh, but the timing maybe wasn’t right. (So I thought)
It became clear that our order of how we presented ourselves and naivety of the business side of the animal world needed time to figure itself out. Who do you trust? Who wants you to be around? Who needs your help? Who believes in what you are doing? What really generates cash flow? How are you allocating your time each month? While giving away services and creating events we needed to still tie it to the brand, help grow the company.
This was a dark period in the Solgave journey.
There was 8 months of market research I did not want to waste, and we knew pet sitting and dog walking would be vital to this concept, we were just busy enough in the beginning we didn’t obsess about it…UNTILL I realized I could not support this family on the trend of monthly numbers. Family had helped out, but we couldn’t ask for any more assistance.
So we enrolled in something called the NWA Startup Cup and redesigned our model a bit and set out again.
Our first regular mid day (6 visits a week) client was a Dr. from Atlanta who looked 9 pages deep on Google to find us because our SEO was so low then and we had no idea about how to correct it. It was the first sign again, a real spark of something. She went 9 pages and looked at every business and chose us? Somebody bright, somebody who deeply cared for her little sweet pet, looked at all others and saw whom she wanted for her daily pet visit. Not B Mod work, pet visits.
It was a turning point and business since then has not turned back. One client at a time you build up.
July improved over August, August improved greatly. Now I know what we are doing, I am ready to cultivate talent and use the business side of my brain to finally grow this thing.
So I thought we missed the NWA Startup Cup deadline but a friend on the final day asked if I had applied. “Hasn’t’ it passed? I would look it up, and see it was midnight that night.
At 11:56PM I submitted the long form and one attachment with our graphical stuff thrown on PDF’s to hope maybe they could see the power of the brand with this new Startup.
Once Sunniva started back, we did more B Mods and kept the relationship with rescues high as we could, and one night after reviewing video and taking hours to edit and get it up and online because, we wanted to show the processes of thought, the psychology behind the assessments, I had a beak down of sorts.
We have to flip our energy into pet sitting and the animal care side and I need your help!” I would beg. I meant energetically less than literally, of course.
After the first judging session over two months ago they basically told us what I had been thinking a lot about.
We had intense respect for the process, and knew they believed in us, and while they saw the long-term goal, they are there to help us create real steps to get there. That meant SAS as a pet sitting and dog walking businesses needed to be in the forefront. Customer service and business were my side; animals were hers…of course this translates into an incredible baseline business in a growing industry!
We tripled our sales and net profit the first month of the Startup Cup. Whether energy, whether the timing of just taking half a year to get your bearings and name out there, or guidance by them, I’m not sure. Likely it was a blend of all 3.
The only way I know to approach the business side of what we do is to create the best experience and best service in the country. Yes, we are small today, but you don’t think small if you don’t see yourself as you are today, but as you are in a few years. So we began to shift our ad campaigns on Google, our social media intent, our energy shifted and the axis tilt was felt.
Now we needed great people and our first team. Lauren In Ridgecrest was already a “Solgave Second Chance’ supporter and so much so, she switched from having Oasis Pet sitting (as a side gig to her rocket science job after finishing her doctorate) as a new business operations manager of Solgave Animal Solutions-Ridgecrest, CA…. our first branch!
Laura Templeton would be the next one we wanted and I sensed she could be a think tank type, one we could cultivate intensely. Somebody about to finish college, capable of running an entire arm of this dream one day if she stayed wth us.
Then mentors emerged around us.
This journey of ours just to get to today, I cannot sugar coat for you. It was bloody tough man! You have got to be flat out crazy, or just wired with the entrepreneurial wiring, which is a balance of risk and logic, dreamer and realist. The difference in the ones with the dreams, not moving, are fear typically, or not willing to let go of a lifestyle or material things, but with Sunniva and I so deeply tied spiritually we knew that material stuff in the cosmic aspect means nothing… so it was easy to live on the edge of having not much stuff. That part of the dream was easy.
The hard part was growing this company, doing our own sittings and dog walking while caring for a newborn, the 3 dogs and 4 humans in this 720 square foot apartment and no yard to let the dogs out easy, meant our normal stressors at home were big, then the ones added to keep growing to feed your family and that dream driving the train, were huge.
Revenue, while not putting us in any fancy hotels yet, has grown every month since Neo’s birth, and grown big. We have embraced the NWA Startup Cup process and look to hire two more in the coming week or two to have a team of 8. We work late into the night and get up early, but we do it not because we have to, because it’s our soul at work.
Now, it’s early and the coffee is good. My feeling this morning was a few were new to the journey. A lot of new likes on our page and some with no clue how we started, what “Soul-gaw-vee” means, and felt inclined to catch you up.
You’ll see a video inserted and we try to do v-logs inside the blogs to give you a better glimpse into our eyes. We are often tired and rung out and post these anyway.
We had a brilliant one yesterday on a hike and then got lost a bit in the network on the back side of Mt Sequoyah…LOL.not lost, but having a specific window of time to get Gabi from Root school, I had to cut it short and start running so we opted to not share that piece of video (although I find those the most compelling)
What is said in the video I’m writing less about.
We are moving in 3 weeks! We are establishing a relationship with Grove Humane Society who took us in day one upon landing and let Sunniva go to work on dogs. The president saw in our eyes something I suspect she knew, that while raw, and while we needed time to progress would get reach our dream. We are going to likely pull a dog that has been there 6 years as the first one under the Second Chance umbrella.
The ideas we’ve had since spring and loosely pitched to a local shelter, I think now we realize it was the “universe” saying take your time, and then work it out on your own dogs.
The ones in your Foundation. (Solgave Second Chance Foundation may be the new name; this is a final decision before we file the Articles) Solgave Second Chance Project is another option, but Rehabilitation Center felt it might limit us on the breadth of things we eventually want it to stand for.
One of those pitched ideas was an intensive scorecard to process how dogs are in about ten settings before adopted out. (Behavioral assessment scorecard) How dogs do with kids, other dogs, eating food next to others, and not just rated, but also shown via video, blogs, etc. A Solgave Scorecard system that means hopefully the owner has a deep glimpse into what this dog is about. Our ideas on foster homes, and how that relationship will work are unique.
We are not out to become a rescue, and we do not see anyone as competition. Any industry with mostly males or mostly females likely gets competitive for the wrong reasons. We feel called to do some soul work and are just following our dreams. This is not about money to us; it’s about a cause, a philosophy of life, and the hope that animals and humans can meet in a spiritual way through healing.
Another local organization reached out yesterday and wants to meet about partnering in some possible way in the future. By a person I deeply admire and trust. We are very selective I think on that circle of field you place yourselves around in the beginning, because it can propel or inhibit growth.
I was humbled and excited to get that message because energetically, at the very least, we have seen our share of both intense support and extreme distance. All to be expected, honestly. I am not saying I expected open arms and understanding of the cause by all…. just appreciated. But that too was my bad, something I am processing along the way as I grow.
So if someone wanted to sit down for 4 hours they could hear pretty specifically every step we see we have to take to get to the more final rungs on the ladder (although I know they never really stop) But for now it’s about sharing one step at a time.
Neo is young and our new home situation is going to be ideal .We are setup to have one dog a time to rescue, rehabilitate and adopt out. It’ll be neat to see one of our own eventually along side other rescue dogs at our monthly Community Pack Walks we’ve been doing for 8-9 months now.
The piece of property, the farm, and the aspects that tie in humans is out there somewhere. At risk youth, troubled souls, etc. and how horses come in are down the road. It’s the “Road to Second Chance” and the dream that we realize is much bigger than who we are, and what we can do, but about a collective movement towards shared ideologies.
I have to end with this too. It feels less like a dream today, and now just the steps we have to keep taking. Dreams almost sound unreachable, an early idea that has not been formally looked into for months, or all consequences and thing weighed. Dreams often fall away to other dreams.
This is our plan. This is our road. Thank you for being a part of it and as we get our 501c3 established, as we get a NWA core business of pet sitting and dog walking care like no other with an operations manager, we will look to build out from there. Tulsa, Springfield, Little Rock are logical next steps to look at once NWA is properly where it should be in a year or so.
As the judges and mentor of the NWA Startup have advised, and now seen us adapt to quickly and proficiently, we use our cash flow base business that is a great industry and means we get to build great teams and develop great leaders who can hopefully one day help other aspects of Solgave, it’s the altruistic side that drives the grounded side right now.
But one tiny step at a time, we inch closer to a true dog psychology center of sorts, but more than that a compound, a farm, I’m not sure how we envision it for sure, but it’s not far off from that spiral notebook we scribbled it all down in almost 2 years ago.
A place where animals, nature, balance being restored, and healing are still the ethos and pillars of this company. Those words I repeat a lot, but they were the ones jotted down in February of 2012 as I was still a traveling US guy on holiday in Sweden, found a soul mate I knew I’d share the rest of my life with, and carving out this vision with my wife so we could merge our ideals on what the world meant to us, and somehow turn that into a real business.
Is that vision we have of the farm/compound one year out? 2? 3? I don’t know, I know we just get there by continuing to wake up and keep giving it all we’ve got every day.
“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”
— Lao Tzu