As a hospitality management major, Diana Hurtado landed what should have been her dream job: An internship at the Crowne Plaza at the United Nations, in New York City. “But I hated it, because I had to be in an office from nine to five,” says Hurtado, who was born and raised in Colombia and moved to New York in 1995, when she was 15. “I’m an outdoor person, and my real passion was pets.”
So she quit the internship and followed her heart to a very different gig -- working as a dog walker and a pet sitter for In Home Pet Services. Five days a week, four hours a day, Hurtado would walk her charges through Bayside, Queens.
“The income wasn’t that great,” Hurtado admits, “but I loved what I was doing.” That was enough to keep her happily working for owner Robyn Elman for four years. But then Hurtado found out she was pregnant. “I had to find a way to do something I love and provide for this new person,” she says. That’s when she learned that Elman was franchising.
For just a $6,000 franchise fee (it’s since been raised to $8,000) and a new computer, Hurtado was able to open In Home Pet Services of Forest Hills, N.Y., in early 2011. In the five-plus years since, she’s built the business up to a seven-employee operation that brings in around $150,000 a year.
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Because “people see their pets as their children,” she feels confident the business can continue to perform well in any economic climate. And the benefits of franchise ownership are more than just monetary for Hurtado. Because her day consists mostly of responding to emails and phone calls -- and occasionally covering for one of her walkers or sitters -- she can work just about anywhere and any time. “My dream was to be able to earn enough money to support my son and have the freedom and the time to be with him,” she explains. “This business has given me that.”
Now she wants to get back into the hotel industry -- albeit with a much furrier set of guests. She’s looking for a house where she can add pet boarding to her services.