Early in my career, I did not quite understand the entrepreneurial calling inside of me. There always was this constant nagging I felt pushing me to think differently, create, and innovate. I often wondered why I was just not as content as others were with a steady nine-to-five job, where you did what you were responsible for and went home. Sometimes, I even wished that I could wake the next day and not have that little nagging feeling; maybe be able to just go to work, come home and be content with that.
I first dabbled with entrepreneurship when developing Fashion for Paws for the Washington Humane Society (WHS) in 2007. Fashion for Paws is now an "outside-the-donation-box" fully developed marketing and crowdsourcing platform, raising $2.2 million dollars for WHS so far and working to raise another $750,000 by April 13, 2013. This non-profit venture allowed me to exercise my branding, marketing, and fundraising abilities for a cause I care passionately about. But, like every serial entrepreneur, the little nagging inside of me began again, pushing me to think about what to do and create next?
While on residency in South Africa with my Georgetown McDonough Executive Master's in Leadership class, my team and I taught entrepreneurship to a group of 27 students at the Raymond Ackerman Academy. These students, who ranged in age from 18 to 30-years-old, were enrolled in the program to help build their entrepreneurial dreams, the majority working to overcome living in townships and/or other adversities. We spent a total of four hours with these students, yet it felt as if we had known each other for months. I quickly realized that even despite our incredibly different backgrounds and demographics, we had the most powerful and palpable thing in common that bonded us -- the entrepreneurial spirit! It finally all began to make sense!
Later that week, I began to think about many of the business ideas these students shared with me and sought out my advice for, each so unique to their personalities and passions. I went to bed that night pondering what I truly care about and wanted to do next.
The next day I woke up with a clear idea in my head and a solution to the problem of the stinky dog: pet shampoo! Again operating in the realm of what I know and love, for years I had been searching for an organic pet shampoo with a lasting scent and aromatherapeutic benefits using essential oils to use on my three rescue dogs. To me it was so obvious, and I was sure there were other people out there like me who loved their dogs, liked to have a clean house, reveled in the healing aromatherapeutic benefits, enjoyed a fresh smelling pet, and were tired of the allergic reactions their pets suffered from the harsh chemicals used in most shampoos. In fact, I discovered the pet care industry happens to be one of the fastest growing, despite the downturn in the economy. Reaching $52 billion in revenue in 2012, it is expected to continue to grow to $62 billion by 2015.
Then and there I decided that if I could buy it, then I would create it! When I returned from South Africa, I began approaching laboratories to see who I could work with to create this unique pet product. I contacted at least 10, and though most shot me down telling me it could not be done, I found one who welcomed the challenge. A patent on the formula I created with them is now pending.
I next discovered the entrepreneurial community at Georgetown McDonough led by Jeff Reid, and even participated in and won the October 2012 Rocket Pitch competition. When I gave my pitch at the competition, it was the first time I had told so many people about my idea out loud. It could not have been more validating for me to not be laughed out of the room, much less to win it! I knew then I had to pursue it further, work to seek out as much support and advice as I could from this program, and make it a reality. I also was fortunate enough to work on the business plan as my final capstone paper for the EML program, where I was paired with an advisor who coached me along the way.
With my experience in South Africa having such an impact on me and giving way to this idea, I wanted the company name to somehow paid tribute to that, so I decided on the name, Euforie Pet. Euforie means Euphoria in Afrikaans; it is something that we (both pets and humans) are all chasing after and embodies the benefits of this unique product. It also will embody our socially responsible business model, donating a percentage of revenue back to animal shelters like the Washington Humane Society. We have combined the benefits of nature with science for a luxurious twist, all while being able to make a difference!
Seven months later, it is now the eve of the first shampoo sample being delivered to my door. I am working to build a team, seek investors/advisors, launch an e-commerce site, and create more than just a product, but a movement! I still have a long way to go, but I am certain that without Georgetown McDonough's commitment to entrepreneurship education - through both classroom learning and exposure to connect with fellow entrepreneurs, I would still be simply wishing to wake up without that nagging entrepreneurial feeling. Instead, because of the Georgetown Entrepreneurship Initiative, I am now grateful to be leaning in and engaging with my inner entrepreneurial spirit. I fully understand now that the only way to treat it is by creating, innovating, and building new businesses.