Sonja Sandberg, Stanley BARK on the Park Inc., Doggie Daycare & Spaw, Vancouver
When asked what made her step away from a successful corporate career and take a risk on entrepreneurship, Sonja Sandberg admits that Oprah Winfrey had a big influence on her decision.
"I was watching Oprah on TV and she suggested that you look around your office to discover what it is that you love. My office was covered with pictures and prints of dogs, so I decided that I wanted a career that would allow me to follow my love for little dogs,” says Sandberg.
Her next step was to create a list of criteria for her dream job which included being able to walk to work and have her Yorkies, Mickey and Madelaine with her all the time. At the end of the day, Sandberg realized that entrepreneurship was the way to go, so following her instinct she put everything on the line and opened Stanley BARK on the Park Inc., Doggie Daycare & Spaw in Vancouver.
“It’s a high-end, open concept daycare that fills pets’ mental and physical needs while giving their parents peace of mind,” says Sandberg. “The dogs socialize with each other all day and go for regular walks in Stanley Park. And of course they are given lots of personal attention with lots of love and hugs."
However, in order to make her dream a reality, Sandberg needed a small loan to help cover some of the initial start up costs, so she approached Women’s Enterprise Centre (WEC).
Getting a loan through WEC was an excellent learning experience. I was able to work with a Business Advisor to answer my questions and support me, so the process was very smooth and I received the loan funds very quickly,” says Sandberg. “WEC has been crucial in the development of my new business; I would not have been able to get all the pieces together without their support and education. Knowing I have WEC gives me more confidence that I am not alone in the business process.”
Now entering into the second year of business, Stanley BARK has established a reputation as one of the top doggie daycares in the West End of Vancouver. What makes the business stand out from its competition? Daycare drop-ins, 24-hour service, professional grooming and of course the love and attention that every doggy receives.
“When I developed the business plan for Stanley BARK it was to be primarily a full day doggie daycare offering overnight service, however the plan has changed to meet our customer’s needs. We had not realized that many people needed half day, full day and evening services as well, so we decided to offer the flexibility that our competition didn’t.”
Having created a niche for Stanley BARK is working and the business is quickly growing thanks to references and word of mouth advertising. Sandberg couldn’t be happier with the choice she made to take on self-employment.
“My strengths as an entrepreneur are my passion, determination, willingness to learn and customer service. Also, I know my business. I have confidence in my skills and abilities working with little dogs and taking care of their individual needs. I feel that this is what I was supposed to do.”