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Featured Mompreneur – Meet Sheryl

Sheryl Matthys, The Dog Expert & Founder of Leashes and Lovers
Business: LeashesandLovers.com

Twitter: @TheDogExpert & @LeashesnLovers

Blog:  leashesandlovers.com/blog

Tell us a little bit about your business.
We, who love dogs are a “special breed” and at Leashes and Lovers® our mission is to connect you with those who love dogs as much as you. Here we provide a dog lovers social community, products/services, and events dedicated to the dog lover in you.

Leashes and Lovers was founded with this idea in mind.  Dog lovers stand out from the pack. We are friendly, loyal, open and fun! And, like dogs, we come in all sizes, colors and ages; but all in all, we have common ground – a love of dogs. Leashes and Lovers welcomes all dog lovers with and without dogs.  Being family oriented to us means inclusion of our four legged friends who are just as much our family. Whether you are looking for friends, same breed of dog, a date, a lasting relationship, and/or resources to find products and services to suit you and your best friend’s needs,

Sheryl has been at the forefront of fundraising for various animal charities with Leashes and Lovers‘ events and its online dog lovers social community. She has doled out a combination of love, friendship, family, and relationship advice to thousands of dog lovers.

Tell us a little bit about yourself:
Leashes and Lovers is a full-time business for me as well as I’m a commercial actress in NYC.  I have 2 children and 2 Greyhounds. I’ve just completed my book titled, Leashes and Lovers: What Your Dog Can Teach You About Love, Life & Happiness.

I specialize in what your relationship with your dog can teach you about yourself and how that knowledge makes your human relationships more successful. I discuss your dog’s issues regarding behavior, training, and even decor for your home with your dog in mind!  I’m a certified dog trainer with a psychology degree and master’s in Radio/TV.

I’ve been lucky to talk with dog lovers about how their dogs impact their human relationships – good or bad!

My passion for homeless dogs and my rescued Greyhounds led me to create Leashes and Lovers for dog lovers everywhere to share their love of dogs and be a part of the mission to find all dogs loving homes.   We’ve  been featured in numerous press including Animal Planet’s Special with Jane Goodall, Fox News Channel’s Imag, Ambush Makeover, Raw Dog Comedy on Sirius, Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, Entrepreneur Magazine and other media.

What advice would you offer any women with their own business or starting out as an entrepreneur?
Well, go for it. If you don’t, you’ll regret it. You may have doubts along the way, but you’ll always doubt the “what if’s” if you don’t do it. I often wonder what life would be like if I hadn’t started down this path because so far it’s still been an upward climb. But the journey has been an experience. I’ve had a lot of fun, met some amazing dog lovers and even celebrities, been on TV, radio, print – all because I love dogs!

I have to admit, in the beginning I didn’t treat this like a business. It was a hobby – something I simply enjoyed. Now, I’m realizing to treat it like a business. That’s the distinction – do you want a hobby or do you want a business? Know the difference before starting out. Hobbies can be very expensive in business – only have tennis, golf, etc as hobbies. OK, those can be costly too but you’re know those are just for enjoyment.
Partner, joint venture or simply seek out advice from those who know. Partnering with someone just because you’re friends is not usually the best “business” move. Balance it with what each one can bring to the table and hopefully it’s not the same things.

What is a typical “day in the life” of Sheryl like?
I Skype with my programmers early mornings until about 10:30 and then I write, review, edit, test, add whatever I need to instruct them to do for the next day. I’ve been redesigning and restructuring new aspects for the site which is probably always ongoing, but as that subsides I can focus more on the marketing.

Then, it’s marketing – what can I blog or write articles on today? Who can I reach out to – to either promote, joint venture with to further enhance the benefits and opportunities on the site. I may also be planning and organizing an event.

I’m just finishing my book of Leashes and Lovers due for release this Fall and then onto book signings, etc.  I’m finishing editing on the news-umentary of Subway Baby and then it’ll be promoting that online for sale and submitting it to festivals.

In your opinion, what is the best thing about Leashes and Lovers?
That I can work from home and see my children.  Also, to be here with my dogs. That I can have flexibility in my schedule. And, most importantly that I am my own boss!

What was the steepest learning curve in terms of developing your company or business model?
There are always learning curves. First it was even establishing a name, how to get incorporated. Now that all seems so long ago and easy.

Then, it was finding virtual assistants to help make things happen like a website, etc. Hiring and firing people didn’t come easily at first for me. Now it’s just happen stance.  Another learning curve is to promote and market as cost effectively as possible. Learning computer and internet functions like PPC, SEO, servers, domain names, joint ventures, bonuses, offers, shopping carts, e-commere, blogging, twitter, facebook, designing the site to stay in the game.

I’ve learned so much along the way – it surprises me sometimes. Yet, there is so much to learn and I’ll attend internet conferences and think – “Gosh, if I had known that last year.” But, all we can do is be open to learning and modifying within our means.

What has been your greatest success to date?
I’ve been very happy with the media attention my Leashes and Lovers site has received. Most often it’s even been the media coming to me – places like E!, Ambush Makeover, Entrepreneur Magazine, The New York Times, Bravo – that Leashes and Lovers has been a part of or featured in some way.

Have you experienced a low? If so, how did you dig yourself out and get back on track?
Along with the highs – there are certainly lows. Working for yourself is risky, scary, and often lonely. Remember to reach out to others, get involved in groups, conferences, or even just a lunch out with a friend at least once a week.

What has been your biggest obstacle and how did/do you get past it?
Others seeing what you create who have more financial resources who then become your competition. But, we live in a free society and that’s what’s so wonderful about the U.S. is we have the freedom to do and create pretty much whatever we want.  Finding, hiring, firing various web programmers along the way has been an obstacle. I’ve been burned, been naïve, and been fortunate too. Perseverance and a passion to talk with dog lovers keeps me going.

Is there anything in business you wish you could change or go back and do over again?
Dealing with an online business, it’s always evolving. The advantages of my site are that it has my personal touch, aspects I feel are important and user friendly and because it’s unique it has a higher value and sell-ability. The downside to that is I reinvent the wheel where now there are open source applications that do some of these things more quickly and easily but may not be quite the way I want – so there’s a trade-off.

If I did things over, I would most likely be able to build the site in different code and for less money knowing what I know now but sometimes these are lessons we have to experience along the way.

Photo of Sheryl and her Greyhounds Courtesy of Kareena Denley