For as long as I can remember, my dad’s house has been a revolving door of pets. My stepmom loves rescuing, and my brothers love encouraging her. Throughout my lifetime, we’ve had 4 dogs, 9 cats, 1 snake, 2 rabbits, 1 turtle and a bunch of fish in the backyard pond. The best one is obviously our orange tabby, Lucy, who I picked out when I was 14. And it’s well known to all of her furry (and scaly) companions that she’s the queen bee!
So when someone says they love animals, I know exactly what they mean. Jamie Migdal, lover of animals and founder of FetchFind, came up with a way to take working with animals to the digital space.
Instead of the typical route—vet or animal shelter—Jamie was looking for more connection between people and their pets. And boy did she create it.
People with Panache: What is FetchFind, exactly?
Jamie Migdal: FetchFind is the marriage of e-learning and the pet industry to create this brilliant online content marketplace of education, resources and solutions for the pet industry.
That could be anyone who has or wants to have a business—or is just really interested from an enthusiast or hobbyist perspective and wants to get more information about animals. We’re a content and marketing company.
PWP: How did you get into the pet industry?
JM: FetchFind is actually my fourth company in the pet industry.
It sounds so cheesy and obvious, but I’ve always loved animals. I truly love them. After college, I thought I would go to veterinary school. I needed to start saving money, so I started walking dogs. I was also working at a veterinary hospital and as a social worker. It was crazy. I was really busy.
The dog-walking I did for extra money turned into a 2,000-client business with 25 dog walkers! I realized I wanted to do something with pet care and people, so I sold that business and pursued the study of animal behavior in Arizona. Then, I came back to Chicago and opened Animal Sense, a dog training company. My mentor, a veterinarian, set me up in business in her practice. Next thing I know, it’s 11 years later and again, I have 20 trainers and 11 locations.
I sold that company in 2011 and had a baby a few months later, Sadie Rose. I was going to take some time to be a mom, but over and over again, I saw people really loving animals, wanting so badly to leave their cubicles and follow their dream like I did of working with pets. In 2008, while I had Animal Sense, we started something called the Academy. We worked with universities and some of the greatest thinkers and academics in the animal behavior world to write books and teach people how to be dog trainers. The Academy grew and grew, and we literally changed people’s lives—from marine biologists to lawyers to stay-at-home moms to marketing experts, hundreds of people. It was the most amazing thing. When I sold Animal Sense, I kept the rights to that program in case I was going to continue to do it.
PWP: How did people find the Academy?
JM: Word of mouth. I had a good reputation in the city: If you want to be a dog trainer, go to Jamie. So after I had Sadie, we resurrected the Academy and ran it as a training business named Canine Link. About one and a half years in, I was sitting with one of my early colleagues, and we thought, we should get this online. There’s a whole giant pet industry, and this doesn’t exist. FetchFind was born—a total evolution from the first company.
PWP: Clearly you have a knack for entrepreneurialism. How do you balance your business with your other pursuits—sitting on the board of 100+ Who Care, helping your husband with his company, being a mom to your four-and-a-half-year-old daughter? (Editor’s Note: Her husband is also an entrepreneur—one of the founders of Sober Living Homes—and a Drake University alumnus! Go Bulldogs!)
JM: Your priorities become crystal clear. I don’t waste a second with anyone who doesn’t add value to my life or anyone who I don’t add value to theirs. I make choices every minute, every hour is important. I’ve actually gotten rid of my to-do list, and I now schedule all of my to-dos into my calendar, and I hold myself accountable. It really helps me look at them on an hourly basis—you’re just more focused on the goals. I also don’t watch a lot of TV, and I listen to a lot of business podcasts.
PWP: How did you know you wanted to work with people and pets?
JM: I really love people and relationships, and I love to put myself in a position where I can have some impact and create value for myself and others.
I was a social worker in a group home for dually diagnosed women with significant emotional and psychological illnesses, and I was working as a crisis therapist and a case manager. They had lots of interpersonal strife, and it was a really combative environment.
One day, this black and white stray cat was in the parking lot. I brought him into the house late at night, which was totally against house rules. That night and the next morning, I saw a total shift. I saw these women relating to something in a way that I had never seen them relating to anybody—myself, the other staff members, the other house members. It was actually after that that I knew I wanted to work with people and animals.
PWP: Aww, what a meaningful rescue story! What do you love most about your work?
JM: At the end of the day, entrepreneurship is all about pursuing opportunity. When I wake up in the morning I definitely think: So, what’s my opportunity today, what are the goals that I have, what are the objectives that I want to meet to be able to move toward that opportunity? I just know what I’m building is really meaningful, useful and purposeful, and I’m able to identify all of the opportunities to bring that vision to life.
PWP: What is the best advice you’ve received?
JM: My top three are:
(1) Have a plan—a plan that you’re willing to change.
(2) Create a group of supportive people around you: friends, family, business associates. The days that I don’t feel supported are my worst days.
(3) Trust yourself. I had a situation with FetchFind that is still one of my greatest mistakes. I decided I was going to raise money for the first time—about $1 – 2 million. I wasn’t an MBA, I don’t have a fancy pedigree around these things, but I had opportunities and people willing to have those conversations and write checks. I took someone’s advice to just raise a little bit and see what I could do. But I knew the entire time that turning down that money was a mistake, and I didn’t fucking trust myself.
For the first year and a half of FetchFind, I just believed what I was told by a few people around me—who are no longer around me, by the way—that I didn’t know what I was doing because I was a “pet person.”
I allowed myself to be really weak. Then one day, I woke up and I went, I’m the CEO, I’m the founder, I’m the one responsible for the $500,000 we did raise. I also owned the fact that I’m an entrepreneur, not just a pet person, not just a business owner who loves pets.
PWP: It sounds like you have a lot of other great mentors in your life. How do you find one?
JM: Identify who it is that you believe would add value to what you’re doing, and reach out. It’s a good idea to figure out who might be able to make a warm introduction. It’s about being fearless.
Identify someone who has what you want—success, happiness, building a multi-million dollar business, building a stable brick-and-mortar business—because they’ve done something to get that way.
We’re so grateful to have women like Jamie sharing their lessons with us at PWP. If you have any great tips for finding a mentor, share below! (And we wouldn’t be upset if you posted pet pictures…)
And look for Jamie in the August issue of Chicago Woman magazine—she’s featured in the Movers + Shakers section on page 24!
[Photos by Kate.]
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