Feature Interview - Melissa Viera of MJ's Pet Training Academy
As a new feature of our blog, we'll be highlighting interviews with passionate business owners, designers and more that really embody the passion that Elizabeth Anne Studio loves to be around.
You should always surround yourself with people who you admire and can learn from, so let's kick off this new blog feature!
Dogs lover + ENTREPRENEUR = awesome
I met Melissa Viera through the "dog lover world." Having just added a Golden Retriever puppy to our family, we were looking for a local, reputable trainer. Mutual acquaintances lead me to connect with Melissa, and we've truly enjoyed working with her for the past several months. What was even more admirable is that she is a young, female entrepreneur. As someone who knows what it takes to own your own business, I have serious respect for that.
Read on to learn more about how Melissa came to realize her path in life, the glamour and hardship of owning and operating your own business and what her favorite advice is.
Full Name: Melissa Jolene Viera
Current title: Owner, Head Trainer at MJ's Pet Training Academy
Education/Credentials: Holds a diploma in dog obedience training and instruction. Certified trick dog instructor. Member of the Pet Professional Guild. Graduate of Small Animal Sciences program. Holds titles in Obedience, Rally Obedience and Tricks.
When did you first realize that you wanted to work with animals? Did you expect to one day be doing what you're doing?
I grew up in a family of animal lovers. I learned to respect animals at a very young age, and I have always felt a connection with them. I think I always knew I would end up working with animals.
As a young child I was always teaching the family pets little tricks. When I was about 12 or 13 I learned how to show and groom dogs, and I also began training for obedience. There are a lot of career paths involving animals, but it was behavior and training that got my attention. I knew I wanted to learn everything I could about behavior, so I could have a career training and working with both people and animals.
Were you nervous to venture into becoming a business owner?
I was nervous about not only becoming a business owner, but about creating a type of business that is so different from anything else in the area. I did my planning, but there was really no way to know for sure if there would be enough interest for animal training. I had to look past my fears and just go for it.
What was your mission for your business?
I have been dreaming about this place long before I opened. I wanted to create an animal training school that uses only positive, science-based training methods, and that has a fun and friendly environment for both people and animals.
There are lots of dog trainers, but I wanted to create a place that goes beyond obedience training. At MJ’s we have skateboarding dogs, basketball playing dogs and dogs who do all sorts of tricks. Dogs learn better manners and obedience, but they also get a chance to exercise and engage their minds. My mission was to create a place that provides education, instruction, and a fun environment for training and learning.
The details that go into opening your own business can be daunting - from locating a space to setting price points...how did you address it all when you started on this course?
It is so easy to get overwhelmed by details from the big ones to the small ones. I break everything up, figuring out what needs to be done and working on it one task at a time. Now with the business open I set weekly goals to keep everything on track instead of letting myself get lost in the details.
What has been the most challenging aspect of opening your own business?
I think for me the most challenging part has been learning to balance my life and business. With the business so new it takes most of my focus. I have to miss out on a lot of things, but I am lucky to have friends and family who are very supportive.
What's been the most rewarding thing about it?
In dog training, trainers refer to the moment that an animal understands what behavior it is that you want them to do as the light bulb moment. You can almost see the light bulb turn on over their head. This is an amazing thing to watch in animals, but humans have a light bulb moment too.
Sometimes clients come in thinking that their dog can’t do something. All of a sudden they realize that their dog is doing it. They are communicating with their dog like never before. It is an amazing thing to witness. Just watching people and animals learn together, and deepen their bond, that is what I work for.
Owning your own business can be so time consuming - how do you balance your work/life balance?
The business is still so new, and it takes most of my focus. I am learning that even though there is always something to do, I still have to shut off business mode sometimes and just enjoy the present.
What has been the best moment of your career thus far?
There have been so many moments that I am grateful to have been a part of. I don’t think I could choose just one. That moment when a shy dog comes to say hello, or a family who was at wits end with their dogs behavior regains peace in the household, seeing people light up when their dog learns a new trick or behavior, those are the moments that I never forget.
What does the future look like for MJ's Pet Training Academy?
The future for MJ’s Pet Training Academy looks very exciting! Recently I had my new website done, and currently I am working with a company that will enable clients to book lessons and enroll in classes conveniently online. There will be exciting new classes and workshops available soon. I don’t want to say to much and spoil the surprises, but I have a lot planned for the future of MJ’s.
What advice would you give your 21 year old self?
21 wasn't so long ago, but I would remind my 21 year old self to never have doubts, and to believe in the work that you are doing because your dreams could be waiting for you just around the corner.