WHITE OAK, PA – Even the dugouts were scrutinized.
Hours before a major league baseball team played before a packed crowd on Opening Day, Jodi Perozich, along with two employees and three of her many trained dogs, examined the entire stadium searching for explosives that could put fans in harm’s way.
It’s all in a day’s work for Perozich, owner of Coast to Coast K-9 & Security, Inc. who founded the business in 2002 following the aftermath of 9-11. “I have a team of drug and bomb sniffing dogs along with their handlers that routinely check and make certain festivals, schools, sporting events, parties and conventions safe,” she explained. “We are to be seen and not heard and to detect. We service government, corporate, public and private sectors.”
Perozich, credits the U.S. Small Business Administration’s (SBA) 8(a) business development and mentor-protégé programs with diversifying her business.
The 8(a) Business Development Program is a nine-year program established to assist eligible socially and economically disadvantaged individuals to develop and grow their business through one-on-one counseling, training workshops and match-making opportunities with federal buyers. Perozich also joined the agency’s mentor-protégé program which strives to further enhance the capability of 8(a) program participants. Under a joint-venture agreement, Perozich was paired with a larger company that has enabled Perozich to learn new skill sets, manage large contracts and obtain more opportunities.
Perozich and her team of certified handlers and canines have performed more than bomb-sniffing services. Their joint-venture saw both company team members working at the Air Force Academy stadium on game day serving as security personnel, ticket takers, ushers and parking lot attendees
“That four-year project was exciting,” Perozich said. “We even were on site working when President Obama spoke there at graduation ceremonies.”
Perozich has been teaching new dogs old tricks since she was a schoolgirl in Chicago. “When I was 14, I got my first job cleaning kennels for the largest canine security company in the area. At 17, I was running searches with dogs,” she explained. “I’ve done office work, waitressing, cleaning and medical billing but I always migrated back to dogs.”
In 2000, Perozich moved to Pittsburgh. After 9/11, she was approached by her Chicago canine contacts to start a security dog service and went back for three months to implement the project. Ultimately, she opted instead to return to Western Pennsylvania and open the doors to Coast-to-Coast Canine and Security, Inc.
“I initially wanted to open a kennel, with a bomb and drug dog service on the side, but, the security dog business really took off,” Perozich stated. “All my dogs, which I sometimes get from Holland, are single purpose, meaning they only search for drugs or bombs.”
Perozich, who attended a 1200-hour training course, is a certified trainer for explosive, narcotic and patrol K9s and is licensed by multiple federal agencies to use marijuana to train her dogs. She said it can take days for a dog to learn to find a target or toy in a box with an access hole. Eventually, she places drugs next to the toy and the dog begins to associate the scent with the toy. The final phase of training eliminates the toy, with the toy appearing only when the search dog finds the target odor. “Our training is thorough. We’ve placed the drugs in trees and on ceiling fan blades, and they find it,” she stated.
A decrease in the need for canine services, coupled with a requirement for 8(a) program participants to forecast future work, led Perozich to expand her business platform; finally opening up that kennel along with a dog-grooming salon, as well as landscaping and janitorial services.
“I looked at my skill sets and I’ve done post-construction cleaning for new houses, so I changed my business plan,” she said. “We recently were awarded federal contracts for both our cleaning and landscaping services and, while our kennel is new, and seasonal, it’s doing well.”
Perzoich, admits she never wants her business to grow so big that she can’t be a “hands-on” owner --especially when it comes to her beloved dogs and their surroundings “I want to be able to touch them and train them,” she stated. “And yes, if someone calls off, I still want to go and clean the kennels.”
SBA Pittsburgh District Director Kelly Hunt believes Perozich exemplifies the passion and dedication of small business owners. “Jodi has loved dogs her whole life and now she not only has incorporated them into a very important security business but is keeping Americans safe,” Hunt said. “She took the time to learn about the various SBA contracting programs dedicated to helping small businesses grow and has changed her business model to stay successful while utilizing her talents.”
Today’s SBA: Smart, Bold, Accessible.