“It's a scary thing to try to come up with possibly a 50-page business plan—it sounds really daunting. But using LivePlan made it really easy.”

Starting Trots Dogs wasn't always Joanna Stanford's plan. “I didn't even really plan to be a dog walker,” she says. “It just all kind of happened.“

After leaving her previous job, Joanna was looking for a new direction. While she considered what to do next, she stumbled on a new interest: the psychology behind dog training.

“I ended up watching a lot of TV, and saw ‘The Dog Whisperer’ for the first time and got a little obsessed,” she says. “My neighbor got a dog, and my girlfriend at the time told her, ‘you should have Joanna walk him, because she is really obsessed with this show.’ And it just kind of happened.”

From there, Joanna focused on learning as much as she could about dog training and the industry. She took classes on dog psychology from teachers who had trained with Caesar Milan, aka “The Dog Whisperer,” and networked with other dog walkers and trainers. Slowly, she started building her company, though at first it was “just enough to pay the bills.”

Joanna's goal became teaching people to “speak dog,” in order to develop an understanding of their pets' behavior. “It's not the typical kind of dog training—sit, down, come, heel, you know, just teaching them a bunch of commands and obedience—but teaching people to have better relationships with their dogs,” she explains.

Joanna's team, out for a walk.
Joanna's team, out for a walk.

Building a network and planning for growth

Joanna grew Trots Dogs slowly, through connecting with other dog trainers and learning from them. “We all kind of grew together,” she says. “I started adding more services. With that, I had to figure out how to manage the business through this growth period.”

“It wasn't my intention to be an entrepreneur or a business person. My intention was to work with dogs. I kind of had to learn the rest of it in order to do what I wanted to do.”

What started as a one-woman dog walking operation has expanded to include several dog walkers as well as additional services. “I do training and boarding in my one bedroom apartment,” says Joanna. “Things can get cramped. I've been intentionally growing the business, and people like us, so we now have waiting lists and stuff like that, which is great.”

While growth had been deliberate and slow, Trots Dogs was ready to expand. “I got to a point where I realized, ‘I don't want to have dogs in my house 24/7 for the rest of my life,” she says. “I've been planning to expand for a long time, and we're planning to open a training facility so that I can get all of the dogs out of my little apartment. I would like to have more space and not have to turn people away.”

Still, Joanna spent time building her client base and doing what she could out of her home to get established. She also worked on perfecting the business end of Trots Dogs, organizing her finances, and ultimately preparing for expansion and moving into a larger training and boarding facility.

Joanna, center, with the Trots Dogs team.
Joanna, center, with the Trots Dogs team.

Learning to run a business with LivePlan

Since she didn’t have entrepreneurship experience, Joanna taught herself how to manage her growing company on her own. “I started with QuickBooks and Google Calendar, and spent the time [growing Trots Dogs] and learning how to be a business person at the same time.”

“I'm not a salesperson, but I'm passionate about what I do. I thought it would be a good idea to have [a business plan] that people could read.”

“It wasn't my intention to be an entrepreneur or a business person,” says Joanna. “My intention was to work with dogs. I kind of had to learn the rest of it in order to do what I wanted to do.”

“I knew that in order to get this place opened or to be approved for a loan—or even show what I've done or what we have potential to do—I would need to have a good business plan,” she says. “I'm not a salesperson, but I'm passionate about what I do. I thought it would be a good idea to have information that people could read.”

So, she began searching for information on writing a business plan, and found LivePlan along the way.

Business planning made easy

At first, Joanna was a little worried about undertaking all the work involved in writing a business plan, but LivePlan made it a lot easier. “The way that it guides you through creating a business plan was really helpful, because it's just a step‐by‐step process,” she says. “LivePlan tells you, ‘here's the next subject we're going to tackle and here's what we want people to know, so organize your information in this way.’ Then you save it and go to the next thing.”

The fact that LivePlan is web‐based has also been a huge help, too. “Anytime I make changes, [anyone] can see them in real time,” she says.

“[Everyone] has given me compliments on my business plan and how thorough it is and how it gets to the meat of the information they need to know,” she says.

A satisfied customer.
A satisfied customer.

Making sense of the metrics

In the beginning, tracking and understanding her financials was intimidating to Joanna. “I'm a dog trainer, not an accountant,” she says. “That part is a challenge for me.”

She appreciates how easy it is to keep track of them and share them with lenders too. “The way LivePlan gets the information from you and then puts it into a format that lenders would recognize and are looking for is really helpful.”

As she lays the groundwork to prepare Trots Dogs for expansion, Joanna is using LivePlan to help her track metrics more closely.

“The most important metric I look at is how much each individual service is bringing in, and how much it makes us on a monthly basis,” she says. “So, if one certain training program isn't doing very well or isn't working for people or making enough money, we can adjust it accordingly.”

“It's about teaching people to have better relationships with their dogs.”

This process of making small adjustments is easy—much simpler than navigating Excel spreadsheets, and that helps Trots Dogs stay nimble and iterative.

Plus, it's easy to make changes if outside investors need to see something specific, or her circumstances change. For example, Joanna initially set up her business plan with the intention of leasing; suddenly, an opportunity to buy space appeared.

“The lender I was working with called me and said, ‘You should change your business plan to have it specific to the property in the information section, so that when they look at it they know exactly what they're giving the money toward,’” she says. “I was able to go in there and change all of those sections from lease‐oriented information to this particular building‐specific information, and I didn't have to resend anything or print anything out.”

Joanna's passion? Teaching owners to “speak dog.”
Joanna's passion? Teaching owners to “speak dog.”

Looking forward

Ultimately, Joanna hopes her business will help change people's perspective on how to build a positive relationship with their dogs. In order to make this type of impact, however, they need a bigger footprint. Beyond expanding her footprint beyond her apartment, Joanna hopes to grow in other ways too. “We need to have more people out there teaching, because it's the future of dog training in my opinion,” she says.

“Ultimately, I want people that are working for me to have somewhere to go,” she says. “I don't want them to be in one little facility and get capped out on their pay and then take off and start their own business somewhere else. I want those people to have somewhere else to go and continue to have a career with us. Eventually, it would mean opening up other locations that those people can run themselves.”

Business planning doesn’t have to be scary

“I feel like ‘finding your passion' is kind of overused as a phrase, but that's literally what it was,” says Joanna. “Once I found that thing, it didn't take as much effort or thought—it just seemed completely normal.”

“Don't let your fear hold you back. LivePlan takes the fear and the struggle out of the process of creating a business plan.”

Even though pursuing her passion came naturally to Joanna, she needed the right tools make the business side a reality. “It's a scary thing to try to come up with possibly a 50‐page business plan—it sounds really daunting. But using LivePlan made it really easy.”

Joanna advises other would‐be entrepreneurs to face this fear and dive right in. “Don't let your fear hold you back,” she says. “LivePlan takes the fear and the struggle out of the process of creating a business plan.”


More success stories See All

arrow bottom for cta

Seen enough?

In just 60 seconds you could be building your plan the fast and easy way, risk-free for 60 days.

GET STARTED