Ratna Anagol's life neatly divides before and after her cancer diagnosis at age 41. Before, she was a hard-working high-level executive at a major publishing firm, traveling all the time. When her second mammogram revealed a tumor, Anagol took medical leave to undergo nearly a year of treatment – surgery, five months of chemotherapy, three months of radiation. After that, she determined to change her work life. She took a buyout from her company and began to experiment with "smaller" jobs that would produce less stress and more time with her two young daughters.
Finding Her Way After Cancer
First she became the executive director of a nonprofit that worked with people who were merging traditional and alternative care for their cancers. The job was part-time, which gave Anagol time with her family, but in the end she itched for more. "I've worked m whole life, and I felt like I wasn't doing enough."
During her time at the nonprofit, she unknowingly sewed the seeds for a new career by getting a dog. "The kids had wanted one forever and now I had the time," Anagol says. They chose a Coton de Tulear, 15 pounds of cottony white fur bred in France for the noble families of Madagascar. She and her girls began to practice agility with the dog. "We had such a good time, but there was nowhere in Monterrey to do it indoors," Anagol says. And there was her business idea.
A New Pet, A New Business Idea
Anagol had found her calling. "When I got my MBA, I always thought someday I'd have my own business," she says. "But my parents are doctors, and I'd never been around anyone who started a company from scratch. I had the theory but no practical experience."
She began looking into buying a dog-agility-center franchise. "I put my business hat on and did research. I talked to the franchisers and I sized up the market. I conducted informal focus groups at the dog park by talking up the idea with everybody who came – 15 to 20 people a day." She discovered that even when they weren't spending on themselves, people were spending on their dogs. "The pet business grew 30% during the recession, when other businesses were either down or flat," she says. She found out how many dogs lived in Monterrey and what percentage of that population she'd have to recruit to make her business a success.
Striking the Balance Between Home and Work
At the same time, Anagol was thinking along a different track: "I wanted work that I could incorporate into my life. After cancer, it was important that my priorities be right – time with family and friends, living in the moment, not letting events drive me forward faster than I was willing to go. I wanted work I enjoyed, that didn't stress me out."
Anagol became the fourth franchisee of Zoom Room. She read books, studied dog training online, took tests and spent three weeks at the Hollywood headquarters doing hands-on training.
Her dog agility center has been open two months and already has more clients than her business plan projected. Even more important, her work is a great fit with her life. She takes her kids to school before she heads to Zoom Room, only a mile and a half from her house. At 2:30, her one employee comes in to relieve her for a few hours while she picks up her kids, takes them home and makes dinner. Then she's back to Zoom Room for evening classes. Now that the girls, nine and twelve, are out of school for the summer, they often go to work with her. "They vacuum, do inventory, interact with the dogs and the people. They're seeing what it takes to run a business."
Want To Buy A Franchise? Read This First
For anyone interested in a franchise business, Anagol has this advice: "You must do your due diligence. Keep your business hat on; don't be overcome with emotion. You need to know your market, your location, your financials. There are no shortcuts. All these pieces really have to work."
Even at the most challenging time – the early days of a start-up – Anagol knows her decision was right. "My doctors say they've never seen me look happier or more relaxed," she says, adding, "My entire body feels this is right."
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