Forward with NACCE

Turning Passion into Profit: Amanda Cheney's Success with Amanda's Best Friend

May 31, 2023 National Association for Community College Entrepreneurship
Forward with NACCE
Turning Passion into Profit: Amanda Cheney's Success with Amanda's Best Friend
Show Notes Transcript

In this episode, Amanda Cheney shares her story of transitioning from a path in veterinary medicine to becoming a successful entrepreneur. Amanda's passion for animals and helping people shines through as she recounts her childhood love for animals and her desire to pursue a career focused on their well-being. However, life took an unexpected turn when her parents were diagnosed with cancer, altering her trajectory and prompting her to explore other avenues. Despite challenges and major shifts in her academic and professional journey, Amanda's determination and resilience allowed her to find her true calling.

Join us for this insightful conversation, a testament to the power of pursuing one's passion and the entrepreneurial spirit that lies within each of us. Whether you're considering a career change or seeking inspiration, this episode offers valuable insights and lessons learned along the way.

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Becky: Welcome to this episode of Forward With NACCE. I'm Rebecca Corbin and I'm really happy to be with you today. we love at NACCE talking about everyday entrepreneurs and people that are living their dreams by pursuing their interests. And we have a special guest in our studio today, Amanda Cheney. So she's got a very interesting career path.

She started down one path and then she became an entrepreneur. So I'm gonna begin and welcome you to, to our audience and to share your story. So I'm, I'm so glad that you're here today. How are you doing today?

Amanda: Hey, good morning. thank you so much for having me. I'm very excited to be here and share my story and, yeah, I'm a pretty open book, so just ask away.

Becky: Great. That's great. Well, let's start, why don't you tell us, you know, where did you grow up? What were some of the influences that impacted, the things that you're doing today?

Amanda: I grew up in North Carolina, specifically Greensboro, that's kind of, my dad was in textile sales, so we moved around a little bit when I was younger, but we settled in Greensboro, North Carolina because the textile industry there was really big back in the nineties and early two thousands. And so yeah, I grew up there and I've always been a person who loves animals and outside and playing sports and just being a super active person.

And, another passion of mine has just always been helping people and volunteering. So those are kind of two huge components of my life.

Becky: Yeah, that's great. And North Carolina is a great place to do that because we have, of course, the four seasons, but there's just this wonderful network of parks. It's, it's a very livable, community, in, across the state, but you talked about your love of animals and your passion. So in the early days or, or, you know, maybe when you were in high school and in college, you were going down a, a certain path and, and so tell us about that.

And, and you made a, a pivot as lots of, young people do. So, maybe share that part of your story with us.

Amanda: Well, growing up I was obsessed with our family dog. I begged my parents to get one. We wound up getting a golden retriever and he was just my best friend growing up. And I knew from, you know, that moment forward that animals were my passion and I wanted to explore careers that, you know, involve the care and wellbeing of animals.

And of course the primary one that you hear as a child growing up is to go into the veterinary medicine field. So that was the path I was on. I Did a senior project, I went to a private high school in Greensboro called Greensboro Day School, which just gave me incredible opportunities and one of which was we did a senior project, which was a month-long internship, our last month in school.

And I did that with a friend of mine's mom in the area. And I, you know, realized this is what I wanna do. It was, it just sparked this light and love in my life. Being in the vet hospital, I loved caring for the animals and it was wonderful. So after that, I did make the decision to go to NC State University, which was awesome. Go Wolf Pack. 

I started down a pre-vet path and. Unfortunately, when I was in undergrad, my, both of my parents were, actually right before I went to NC State, the summer before I went, both of my parents were diagnosed with cancer. So luckily they're both with us today after, you know, it's been a 21-year journey at this point, and they're both here and happy and healthy, and I am so blessed to have them every day, but it did really shift the trajectory of my life from that point. 

I majored in biochemistry. You know, I was on that path for two and a half years, but when their treatments would overlap, it was very difficult to make up the workload of the labs and just the classes themselves. And so the university worked with me and I ended up switching my major from that biochemistry tract to English and Spanish. And so I graduated with a major in English, a concentration in linguistics and a minor in Spanish. 

So big shift, but I graduated and it sent me off into the world, down, you know, a, a corporate America path. So that's kind of where I was headed.

Becky: Yeah, it's, it's interesting. So you went from caring for animals to caring for your parents and I, I think that is, the path sometimes it takes a lot of people down, whether it's caring for a parent or a child or, or doing something else. And I think that that nimbleness, but it sounds like you kind of leaned into the change and so I know there's more to this story.

So, you, you know, you got your degree in English and Spanish and had some experiences in, in sort of the corporate, you know, political world. And, sometimes like we always try to tell young people it's great to have experience cuz you find out what you don't like. So, so what did that, what did that experience teach you, when you started working, more in a corporate role?

Amanda: So I graduated and just was trying to find what resonated with me, what I liked to do. and I did my senior year of college have an internship with a telecommunications company, a five. Optics company when that was really in its initial phases of what the internet and everything is today.

It was really interesting. But, it wasn't really for me. I did 18 months of helping do business admin and dispatching all of our technicians. And so I learned a lot of operations through that role, which was cool, but it just wasn't exactly what I wanted to do. And then I switched into banking, believe it or not, and I was a customer service rep at a bank in North Carolina, which was, again, I really enjoyed helping people.

But it was when the economy crashed and it was really difficult to be a customer service rep in that world. It just, I think I'm a little bit too empathetic of a person to be in that role. It was like killing me. And so then I switched to politics and I was a legislative aide for one of the members in the North Carolina house, which, was a really cool experience and I was good at what I did, but I'm not a super political person.

And so it just, again, wasn't hitting all of the chords of something I'm truly passionate about. And, as I was kind of feeling those feelings, unfortunately my mom, relapsed with the type of cancer that she had 10 years prior. And it, it sent us to Duke, which thank God we have the medical resources in this area that we do because my mom ended up having to undergo a stem cell transplant.

We thought we were gonna be at Duke for three weeks and we ended up being there for almost four months. And so I resigned from politics, but it also, you know, really gave me this unique perspective at the age of 28, that life is very short and I wasn't super happy doing what I was doing. And your work life takes up a really big part of your life-life. 

And so I said, What can I do with dogs? Because that's truly been my passion for forever that doesn't require that veterinarian degree. And so I started a dog walking company and my dad thought I was insane. He gave me six months and said, you'll be back at the legislature in six months. And here we are 12 years later.

So I own Amanda's best friend, which is a North Carolina based dog walking and pet sitting service.

Becky: It's great. Well, and I, I like your story because not only just the passion, but it shows you really, anybody can be an entrepreneur if you really put your mind to it. Cuz you know your background science, you know English, you know, I'm sure the humanities, but you, you kind of had a knack for it. 

And that's what we like to, to sort of share, you know, opportunities with people. We had a guest on recently that wrote a book, The Entrepreneur Within, his name is Alex De Noble, and it's really about the entrepreneur within each of us. whether we ever start a business or not, and some people don't, but it could be the entrepreneur within an organization.

Sometimes it's like you, where you're in, kind of a, a different role and you feel like it's not the right fit. So you, you step out. So, So you, you, you managed to, to make it work. So tell us a little bit about the business model. I think it's, it's, we, you could maybe share with us pre pandemic and then how you got through the pandemic, cuz that's always an interesting, story for people.

Amanda: Man, pandemic. It was, that was a wild ride. So pre pandemic, we were doing great. We were in this huge growth phase. I brought on a COO and we were just at the beginning of 2020, we integrated with a technology that allows the media reports and interaction with the customers upon our visits.

And so that was a huge step for the small business. It was really setting us up for, you know, faster growth and, bigger, bigger expansion. And literally overnight the pandemic happened, and the way that the laws in the state were drawn up, we were unable to work for, you know, almost three months at the capacity that we were, because we were only considered an essential worker when working for an essential worker or if the animals were left a home alone, which, No one was traveling. 

So there was one family that the cats were really dicey. Like they didn't like to travel, so they had gone to their beach house with their kids and everything, and left the cats. So we were tending to the cats. But other than that, the only real, customers that we were allowed to work for were the doctors and nurses that we were working for, which posed, you know, a huge threat to my team members and their families because, And then asking, you know, COVID was so, it was such an unknown thing at that time.

I'm asking my team members to go into homes where the doctors and nurses had been at the hospitals treating Covid patients, and I was worried about cross-contamination and all of that. And so we lost 80% of the business and made the decisions for those three months to furlough our team members. And I literally laced up my shoes and started doing all of the walks again until we could stagger bringing all of our team members back in in order that made the most sense for them and for their lives.

And within three months after that, everybody was back at their job by July 1st. And I take that as a huge, You know, win for our team and for our small business that we were able to, like you said, stay nimble, use the time to create some really great relationships in the community that helped boost us, you know, boost our sales once things got a little bit back on track. And honestly, just, there's always a silver lining, I guess is the best way to say. There's always a silver lining in any difficult situation. It's just, can you take back and take a step back and see the silver lining?

Becky: Yeah, it's funny, you know, just listening to your story as an observer, it's, you know, Probably those experiences you had with your parents, you know, getting sick and then taking care of them. But knowing, you know, the out the future is, is very unknown. It's unknown now, you know, who would've ever predicted what happened?

But that's what we see a lot with strong leaders. You know, they, they don't all fit in the same mold, but what they do is they take the means in front of them. And what they do is they make the best out of it. And sometimes businesses don't survive. And people that are really committed to the entrepreneurial way of life, they might decide to start another business or, or, or do something else.

And I, so I, I think your story is, is really inspirational. I'm glad to hear that your, your business is back and, you know, like you said, I think the pause even for us at NACCE, that's how we started our podcast and we wouldn't have had that time or if we would've just tried to do things the way that we had always done them because of our traveling organization, I think we would've missed an opportunity.

So, Amanda, I wanted to just end with maybe some advice that you might have, you know, being on this journey for a while, for people that might be in a job where it's not, inspiring them, or as many people found out during the pandemic they were in jobs that just, you know, it wasn't a good fit for them.

How does a person, kind of do what you do? Like, like how do you begin or how would you recommend people begin if they wanna kind of dip their toe or jump into, an entrepreneurial, pursuit?

Amanda: Taking the leap of faith. I think is definitely the hardest part. I think probably in my experience, the biggest thing that has really gotten me through any challenge in my life in starting a business has, let me just tell you, been not only the most rewarding thing, but also the most challenging thing I've ever done.

It's just surrounding myself with an incredible community. my family, my friends, I'm super involved in the nonprofit community, which has really given me incredible leadership opportunities, provided some of the best mentors that I could have had. Also, given me connections and networking opportunities to pull in customers.

So, I highly encourage people to chase their dreams and follow their passions and do something they truly love because it is a ton of work. And if you don't like what you're doing, I don't think it will be sustainably successful, if that makes sense. You might be successful from the get-go, but I don't think you'll be delved into it 12 years later, like I am. 

I find this so rewarding. There's new experiences that as a leader I never anticipated having, working with a, a lot of younger, freshly graduated or, you know, These young individuals in this realm that we're living in now that feel that college isn't always the right opportunity or community college is an incredible resource that our communities have.

Um, it's, the mold has just changed and I think working with some of these younger kids and giving them opportunities before having four to seven years of experience is a huge win for small businesses. So, Surrounding yourself with, you know, older mentors and younger risks has been probably the best I've done for myself and my business is just getting the knowledge from those who are older and younger than me because the, the knowledge that these young kids have with technology blows my mind.

It supersedes anything my generation and anyone older than us can produce, just the quickness that they pick it up because they've had technology in their hands. So I've loved working with, you know, young 20-year-olds, and I think that that is something that any entrepreneur should, should reach out to is just give, give people a chance, you know?

So, and also the other thing is, is find a really great operating model. We in US it's called Entrepreneur, the entrepreneurial Operating Systems, True North is the company that we use that through, and it really just keeps our whole team on track. It encourages the tough, you know, debates, enforcing, you know, encouraging open and honest communication within the business.

And everybody knows what their role is and where we're going. So it kind of keeps us all on track and we check in every 90 days, which is incredible.

Becky: Yeah, that's a great resource. I, I hope people will check that out. And, if they are in the, you know, the Raleigh Carey area in there, in need of your services, how do they find out, about you and, and if they have traveling and pets?

Amanda: Yeah, so we're in Raleigh and Greensboro and we'll be moving into Wilmington and hopefully Durham at the end of this year, by the end of this year. And really just, all you have to do is look up our website, The name of the business is Amanda's best friend instead of Man's best friend.

And, there's a form right on our website and if you fill that out, it kickstarts our new customer onboarding process and our team will be in touch in 24 hours.

Becky: Great. So maybe we have some listeners in green. I know we do in Greensboro and Raleigh area, and yeah, Wilmington is, is a great, is a great community as well. So thank you so much, Amanda for sharing your story. It's exciting to see what you have done so far and we'll be keeping an eye on you into the future. So we wish, you and everybody who's listening, a wonderful day.

Amanda: Thanks so much for having me, and I hope y'all have a great day too.