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Having a job you love is huge. Building a business fueled by one of your passions is bigger still. Karen Scoggins, founder of My Perfect Pet, managed to have both by turning her lifelong love of animals into a thriving business.
Despite years collecting unwanted strays and working with rescue organizations, Scoggins was an unlikely candidate to go into the pet-food business. Her plan after a successful professional corporate career in engineering and R&D was to retire. In 2007, the tragic loss of her yellow lab Hunter took her life in a new direction.
Weeks after losing Hunter headlines about a large pet-food recall made her rethink what was going into the food she fed her own pets. These concerns propelled Scoggins toward a new mission: to improve the health and longevity of pets through diet and nutrition. Several years later My Perfect Pet was born.
As a mom with more than one four-legged kid myself, I was intrigued by Scoggins story. Happily she agreed to share some of her journey with me.
Over the course of your career, what was your biggest professional challenge?
I have really had two careers: 25 years with Hewlett-Packard in a variety of positions, including R&D program manager at the time I “retired” to start My Perfect Pet, which I am calling my second career. I have discovered there is no “retirement” in owning your own business. A strong corporate background has proven invaluable in starting and running my own business, but I found the challenges of having to become an expert in every field – marketing, sales, manufacturing, quality control, purchasing, customer service, accounting, and especially finance – have at times seemed overwhelming and far beyond any level I anticipated at the start. The expression “jack of all trades, master of none” is worrying to the entrepreneur who must not only wear most if not all of these hats during business startup, and whose success depends on their ability to master them all to the degree necessary to be successful.
There’s a lot of talk today about balancing our professional and personal lives, what was your greatest personal challenge?
My greatest personal challenge today remains finding that balance between my professional and personal life.I ran My Perfect Pet single-handedly for the first few years, then in 2012 my husband left his corporate job and we doubled our executive staff to two. I jokingly tell people that my husband decided if he ever wanted to see me again he would have to join the company.
While we continue to think that adding to our staff will enable us to offload some of our responsibilities and shorten our to-do lists, the reality is that the list of business critical must-do’s seems to constantly outweigh our personal goals. “Vacations” are spent attending pet expos and trade shows, “date nights” almost always have an agenda. We are fortunate that, for us, we can take our “kids” almost everywhere we go.
So when we “dine with our dogs” or attend “yappy hours” or other fun pet events, we are truly having fun as a family. But at the same time, I am continuing to chase that elusive goal of having the right balance of personal time, exercise, and family time that is not always tied to My Perfect Pet. I do believe I can have it all, so I do not feel compelled to choose between, but rather work on getting all areas to merge as one big happy place.
As you look back, what was your greatest success?
I am married to the man of my dreams, I have a business that is a perfect blend of education, skills, and passion, my dogs are my kids and every day at My Perfect Pet is a take your dog to work day. I have a great family, strong personal faith, and a business that is booming. I have pet owners who trust me with their kids’ lives, and I do believe that My Perfect Pet has made a difference in the pet industry, educating pet owners on the relationship between diet and health, and the importance of doing your homework when it comes to choosing the best for your pet kids. I have many successes, and look forward to looking back at My Perfect Pet as one of my greatest.
Outside of work,I have had opportunities to travel much of the world, sometimes traveling in luxury, sometimes camping, backpacking, diving, skiing, and occasional times as Jake Owens puts it, just “beachin”. To me, success is living your dream – I have had many dreams and to me fulfilling them is success.
What was your biggest surprise in business?
The depth of knowledge and amount of time committed to finance.As an engineer I am extremely comfortable with numbers, but I had no idea that business finance would be fully consuming.As the company grew we had to raise additional funds, and I would say that funding required a level of finance expertise that was beyond anything I could have anticipated.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Personal advice: I would focus more energy on building networks. I have always been driven, and my younger perspective was much narrower, more cause and effect. Study hard, get good grades. Work hard, make more money. Ask, receive. Be nice, have fun, make lots of friends, etc. I would tell myself to spend more time enjoying the ride, and less time worrying how to go farther, faster. Probably good advice to tell myself now…
Career advice: I would take advantage of opportunities to study the arts. I took engineering so I wouldn’t have to take English J I loved math and while I have found math to be useful in every aspect of life (even shopping) I would like to be as comfortable with artistic expression as I am with technical data. And I wish I had paid more attention in chemistry class.