When Silverton resident Karen Werner and her husband Hal set out on a three-week trip to Norway, she went without worries about her two beloved dachshunds, as well as her cat, llama and two lambs – thanks to the Purple Pet Lady.
“It was such a relief to know she was here; I just can’t even explain it,” Werner said. “It made my trip so much more enjoyable because I knew they weren’t by themselves or in a kennel with barking dogs all around.”
Janay Mulligan, AKA the Purple Pet Lady, knows just what she means. She dearly loves her dogs and bunnies and used to count on her mom looking after them when she and her husband went away. But a few years ago, both her folks and she and her husband wanted to take a trip to Disneyland. She voiced her concern while at Silver Creek Animal Clinic – and was glad she did.
“I found that Amanda Geck, the daughter of an employee there, does pet sitting,” Mulligan said. “Until then, I didn’t even know pet sitting existed. It was just so wonderful to be able to go and to know someone responsible would be there.”
Mulligan, with a master’s degree in library science, has been a librarian for the past 13 years, the last 11 as children’s librarian at Silver Falls Library. As is often the case, Mulligan needed an extra “push” before pursuing her passion as her means of livelihood.
“There were things going on at work that made me realize it was impossible to be able to continue there as a professional,” she said. “So I made the difficult decision to leave and start my own business.”
From the stacks, the librarian unearthed a book that provided both inspiration and guidance on this new quest.
“I found a wonderful book called Career Renegades,” she said. “The basic premise of that is to figure out what you love to do, and can do really well – and would do for free really – and find ways to create a niche for yourself doing that one thing in a way that nobody else does. You also need to find a way to market your business effectively.
“I was looking for something that would have low overhead and that I would love doing,” she said.
That part was easy.
“I love animals; I love taking care of them,” Mulligan said. “I love feeding them; I love sleeping with them; I love their little sounds and their smells – they’re fabulous – so that was my inspiration.” Well, that and Amanda Geck, her pet sitter from years past.
She enrolled in a bookkeeping course and availed herself of free workshops offered by the Small Business Development Center. She found SCORE, a nonprofit association that provides free mentoring for budding entrepreneurs.
To make her business stand out from the crowd, Mulligan added a further menu of pet-related services that include popping by to give a potty break to pets whose owners are at work, dog walking, weekly poop-scooping visits and some overnight stays. Her colorful marketing strategy includes an identity; branding that brings her to mind when folks need care for their precious companions.
“I love purple and I have a Honda moped that is black with purple piping, so I became the Purple Pet Lady,” she said. “It’s alliterative and easy to remember.” In fact, clients tend to remember that over her real name. Word travels, and by the end of September – two months after she opened her business – the Purple Pet Lady broke even with her start-up costs. It reassured her that she was on the right track, and makes the extra scrimping worthwhile. But she already knew that in her heart; being able to bring to others the peace of mind her first pet sitter did for her and the satisfaction of calling the shots in her workaday life are infusing her life with new joy.
“With your pets, especially if they’re elderly or have special needs, you can feel guilty or as though you’re abandoning them,” she said. “I really identify with those who wonder when their pets will get a chance to go to the bathroom while they’re at work or who want to go to the coast and don’t want to take them everywhere while they’re there.”
Without the opportunity to observe Mulligan in her element, such as at home with her four dogs and four bunnies (and husband Larry), one can’t truly appreciate the extent to which Mulligan enjoys her furry friends. Giving one of her pugs or bunnies a big squeeze, she’ll say they’re “delicious,” “yummy” or “scrumptious.” In fact, upon returning from the dog groomer’s the other day, Mulligan reported that her three “velvety” pugs were now “delicious – just like shortbread cookies with pecan pieces in them and drizzled with caramel!”
…A purple pet passion.