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Omaha Entrepreneur’s Corporate Career Goes to the Dogs – And She Couldn’t Be Happier

What do a life-long love of animals, a degree in Zoology, and getting fired from a high-paying job after 30 years in the corporate world have in common? They all led to Eliza Burr creating Preferred Pet Partners, a pet care/walking/sitting business based in Omaha, Nebraska. “In 2013, I reached what I thought was the pinnacle of my career. I was climbing the corporate ladder, travelling to other countries and around the US – I had the corner office, the title, the money. Everything I’d worked for. Then in 2014 something amazing happened – I lost my job. More specifically, I got fired from my job,” said Burr when asked about the origins of Preferred Pet Partners. Eliza moved into another corporation but couldn’t shake the feeling that she wasn’t in the right place. She wanted something more meaningful. Something closer to her true passion – caring for animals.

Eliza has always stayed close to animals and has spent over 15 years volunteering for humane societies and rescues. She took classes to become certified as a professional pet care provider, and in June of 2017, Preferred Pet Partners was born – as a side gig. “At first, it was just me. I was working my 9-5 job and working horrible hours in the mornings and evenings to get my business going,” Eliza said. But her goal was to build her business “to the point where [she’d] have employees and the infrastructure to provide the level of service [she] wanted to provide and that she felt was missing in the Omaha market.” Eliza identified a gap of animal services in Omaha. There were a lot of solo-preneurs involved in pet care, but they’re limited on what services they can provide. There was a definite place in the market to provide a more comprehensive service, and Eliza focused her efforts on marketing in that niche. In only one short year, she was able to leave her corporate position and focus on running Preferred Pet Partners full time.

There’s a lot of challenges to being an entrepreneur, and Eliza said one of her most important lessons was learning that she couldn’t do everything herself. “I’m a very independent person, and especially in the beginning being an entrepreneur sounds a lot like rainbows and unicorns – until you get into the reality of running a business on a day to day basis. In the beginning you don’t listen to anyone who points out how hard starting and running a business is. Once you get into it, you realize how true that is and how much you need help, both technical and emotional.” Eliza turned to SCORE, a resource partner of the US Small Business Administration.  SCORE provides free business mentoring and technical assistance, and Eliza took full advantage of working with a SCORE mentor and attending various free workshops and events. “The mentoring was good. I took advantage of the mentoring program when I was trying to decide what business entity to become. Having someone with experience who’s gone through this type of thing to talk about what the implications might be to various legal entities – I really appreciated that.”

Eliza has grown her business signifcantly over the past three years. She hired her first employee when she took Preferred Pet Partners full time and has since hired an additional 9 employees. Her revenue has grown quickly as well - Eliza had $100k in revenue in 2019 and is projected for $160k in 2020. Eliza had planned since the very beginning to have employees, but says it was “hugely scary. I was working towards it and for it [hiring employees] so I knew it was coming. But it’s your baby – it’s your small business. Handing any part of that over, no matter how well you’ve prepared and how wonderful that person is, it’s one of the most traumatic things a small business owner does. I’m a huge believer in processes, systems and training, and making sure that infrastructure is in place to hire good people and make them into great people. I have an amazing team and couldn’t do what I do without them.”

Eliza has sound advice for beginning entrepreneurs. “There’s no better job in the world, but there’s also no harder job. I’d tell them they’re going to be exhausted and frustrated most of the time, especially in the beginning, but to hang on because it does get easier and better. It’s hard, and there’s mountains to climb to get there, but knowing you created something where nothing was before, that’s the best part.”

Eliza’s long-term dream is to open a brick & mortar pet care center like a doggie daycare to complement Preferred Pet Partner’s current in home pet care. In the meantime, she’s focused on building Preferred Pet Partners and her client base, as well as maintaining long term relationships with her clients.  Looking back on her journey to entrepreneurship, Eliza says, “I really enjoyed my corporate world job, but I’m so glad I made the decision to start my own business and be an entrepreneur. I wake up every morning just happy and amazed that I get to do what I do every day. I spend my days working with clients with unconditional love and sloppy wet kisses, what’s better than that?”

Company Name: 
Preferred Pet Partners
Location: 
Omaha, NE