Combining a love for dogs and the desire to be self-employed, Marlena Cervantes creates a unique service that lets people share dog ownership.
LatinaLista — Marlena Cervantes had one dream — to be self-employed.
But it couldn’t be just any job. It had to be something that earned this California native a steady income while also providing a social service.
Marlena Cervantes and her two friends.
But what kinds of self-starting jobs can do both in the beginning stages?
Marlena didn’t have to look far to find the job that met her strict criteria. It was literally lying at her feet — wagging its tail.
Marlena created FlexPetz, a business that allows people, who want a dog but don’t have the space or schedule to care for one fulltime, to “share ownership.”
Marlena got the idea when she worked as a child behavioral therapist. A dog lover herself, Marlena routinely shared her Labrador with the families of her clients.
She saw how the temporary arrangement benefited both her dog and the families that borrowed it. It was enough of an incentive to gather her courage together and go for it.
“I was tired of allowing opportunities (to) pass me by, not because I was afraid of success, but because I was afraid of failing,” Marlena said. “I had to say out loud whenever I was afraid to act: ‘Worse case scenario, I fail and have to try again.’ That’s not so bad.”
Soon, Marlena quit her job, and the security of her steady income, and dove head-on into her new venture.
She first wrote a very detailed outline and business plan. Next, she networked among the types of professionals and experts whose help she would need to make her business a success, like veterinarians and dog trainers.
Then came the final step.
“I started a small trial pilot. Not only does this support the development of the project, it provides a nice point of reference and a foundation of data and written documentation to support the potential success or reinforce the need for your service or product.”
During her start-up stages, Marlena estimates that she spent a few thousand dollars but relied mostly on the support she got from friends and colleagues. She had created a budget and was able to stick to it.
“It was easy for me to stay on budget because initially I boarded the few dogs I had in my own home and performed all meet-n-greets personally with my dog trainer.
“I worked from home and had created such a nice network of the professionals needed to support the program (for example, veterinarians, dog trainers, cage-free doggy day-cares) that it provided my infrastructure, which minimized start-up costs.”
In no time, Marlena expanded from her original Flexpetz focus of clients sharing pet ownership to include a second program called Canine Ambassador.
Targeting hotels, the program pairs hotel guests with a dog as either a companion during their stay or as a buddy to go on walks with near the hotel grounds.
With both programs in operation, Marlena is busily expanding her unique pet service business across the country, and even the Atlantic.
The thought of business expansion doesn’t intimidate Marlena as much as one other thing that she confesses scares her a lot worse.
“Getting over my fear of public speaking has been the most difficult part of achieving my goal,” Marlena said. “Having a unique concept such as Flexpetz, the press flooded the Flexpetz lines with television and interview requests.
“I realized that being the founder, it is my job to represent the company. I thought I’d have a panic attack and die during my first television interview. I’m glad I didn’t have a budget for a spokesperson, I would have happily paid someone else to do it for me!
I gave myself pep talks in my car. I must have looked like a lunatic talking to myself.”
But at the end of the day, Marlena knew to achieve the kind of success she envisioned for herself there was no choice but to hazlo.
Marlena shares her tips on forging ahead with a dream:
1. Network, plan and stay positive.
2. Focus on the future you want to create and disregard any negative or counterproductive thoughts that may occasionally try to interfere with your much-deserved success.
3. Read motivational books such as “Secrets of the Millionaire Mind: Mastering the Inner Game of Wealth by T. Harv Eker. Such books assist us in losing our paradigms.