Amy Parsons used to work as a telecommunications executive, but the stress was eating her alive. Diagnosed with an autoimmune condition aggravated by stress, she didn’t let it frustrate her when she was laid off. Instead, she picked herself up and started a business, reports

“It’s a different type of stress,” she said during an interview this month as one of her seven dogs, Basta, a four-year-old Italian mastiff, sat at her feet. “I always tease I used to work with cold-blooded animals. Now, I work with warm-blooded ones.”

When Canine Creature Comforts opened in 15,000 square feet of rented space at the Great Valley Shopping Center on Route 30, it initially offered dog grooming, training, day care, and supplies. The $130,000 in start-up costs were covered, Parsons said, with her and husband Terry Cummings’ 401(k) savings.

But with overhead “pretty high,” including a monthly rent of $16,000, the company of 16 employees was in need of an infusion of money for operating capital about a year into its existence. Contrary to what she heard on television and radio commercials, banks were not lending, Parsons said.

Parsons said her corporate work had not prepared her for that: “I didn’t understand how difficult it is for a business to get financing,” especially a service business that rents rather than owns its property. “We had to become extremely creative.”

About two years into the business, Parsons added boarding services at Canine – with an employee who sleeps over, and even allows the more well-behaved “guests” to share the bed – to help offset the losses from the more recession-vulnerable day-care operation. Both boarding and training (considered more of a necessity than a luxury) represent the most promising areas for growth, she said, especially as the local economy continues to struggle.

Logo from Canine Creature Comforts

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