Chelly Bosworth Fousek of Ahwatukee left the world of corporate America, partly to pick up dog poo.
She turned her back on hard-charging Realtors and now works with fish, reptiles, cats, dogs and most any other creature that fits in a house as a pet.
Her business, Humphrey’s Leash Brigade, provides a gamut of home-care services for pets ‒ including cleaning up after them.
“No one likes picking up poo,” said the eight-year Ahwatukee resident. “It's gross, unsanitary and unsightly. We won't even talk about the smell. Time is the biggest asset people have. Smart business men and women know that their time can be better spent on more important things than waste removal. That's where I come in.
‘What benefit do I get from picking up poo? I get to play with dogs while they ‘help’ me clean up their yard. It's a win-win for everyone.”
And whether she is running her mobile concierge service ‒ pampering clients in their own homes with pet sitting, dog walking/exercise, pet taxi, poo pickup, in-home dog bathing ‒ or baking homemade dog treats, Fousek thinks what she does now pretty much beats the life she left behind.
Fousek tracked commissions for Realtors and also worked other jobs in the real estate business for more than 10 years.
But after going through two mergers and watching three rounds of layoffs, she began wondering about her own job security.
“Although I loved my job and enjoyed the people I worked with, I really started to wonder if it wouldn't be better for me to be in control of my own destiny,” she recalled. “I had been assured my job was not in jeopardy, but it occurred to me that no matter what happened, I drew a paycheck based on the whim of corporate executives in another state who looked only at bottom lines.
“I was tired of being swept in the tide of other people's decisions,” she continued. “I wanted command of my own future. “
So she gave a six-week notice and went off for a 10-day soul-searching in Montana, ultimately deciding “I wanted to try my hand at becoming an entrepreneur.”
“An entrepreneur in ‘what’ was super easy. I have always loved animals since I was a little girl. I decided to open a pet concierge in my beloved community of Ahwatukee. I'm a hard worker who wants to make a difference. My business gets my heart, soul and love full-time....My goal is to go above and beyond the norm by being more than just a pet sitter, but a pet concierge.”
She named her business after her “soul dog” Humphrey, a Briard and Wheaten mix that had been abandoned when it was three days old. He was her companion for 13 years until her died last year, though she and her husband have adopted two other dogs.
Fousek said her leap into the world of animals was not without anxiety.
“Giving up a well-paying job to chase a dream sounds romantic and adventurous. It is, but it's also frightening when that regular corporate income stops coming in,” she said.
“You don't get to see the possibilities of what's out there if you stay safe and secure in your own little world,” she added. “Yes, the move was scary, but if I didn't take the leap, I may never see all of the adventures waiting for me. In the pet industry, it's not about the money- it's about providing excellent pet care because I love animals. My metaphorical $100,000 check is getting to play dogs and cats every day. That's my passion.”
And yet, that fear never completely went away.
“Is it still scary? Absolutely. Every day I wake up and think, ‘Today I am getting my resume back out there. I'm going back to the corporate world.’ And right after that, I know I am not a quitter. I admire Responsible Chelly, but Entrepreneur Chelly is stronger and has more grit. I consider myself the luckiest person in the world to have this opportunity to start a business and make it work.”
Fousek credits the support her husband, family and friends, noting “If a company could solely be successful based only on the love and championship of one's friends and family, then Humphrey’s Leash Brigade, LLC would be a billion-dollar enterprise.”
Still, the business has its challenges.
“I'm a numbers person. I'm a people person. And, most importantly I am an animal lover. What I am not good at it is selling myself and marketing. These are areas I've really had to work hard at,” she said.
What’s helped is the assistance she has received through a free regional business-mentoring organization called SCORE. Her mentor for the last four months “has been wonderfully helpful and I am learning so much about running my own business and how to succeed. The challenges I face are great learning experiences.”
Besides direct services for pets, Fousek also has opened a sideline activity ‒ baking dog cookies based on recipes developed by her mother.
“After lots of testing and trials, she finalized the ingredients and bake time for pumpkin and peanut butter dog cookies as well as a gingerbread recipe. Grandma Jeannie's Doggy Cookies are all-natural and have only 100 percent human-grade ingredients.
“Originally the cookies were only for Humphrey's Leash Brigade clients, but they are so yummy and so popular that they have taken on a life of their own.,” Fousek said. “We offer free cookie delivery in Ahwatukee and take online orders. We can ship. We definitely bake to order and also offer pupcakes and dog birthday cakes. Currently, mom is working on gluten-free and vegan dog cookie recipes as well as banana treats for cats.”
Fousek has signed a contract to be regulars at the monthly Ahwatukee Eats food truck picnics.
“We are very excited to be a part of this ongoing community event,” she said.