Paul Abbott, Owner of Life of Riley
Small Business of the Year Finalist
To better highlight the impressive members of the small business community, we sat down with the 2019 Dream Big Award finalists to learn more about their startup stories, the challenges they have faced, and what the future of business looks like to them. We chatted with Paul Abbott, owner of Washington, D.C.-based Life of Riley, a luxury dog care facility. Here is what he had to say (what follows has been lightly edited for length and clarity):
Q: What inspired the creation of your business? What problem does it help to solve?
Life of Riley came about thanks to two dreams merging in the right place at the right time. Fifteen years ago, I asked my girlfriend Laura (now my wife) what her dream job would be, and without hesitation she said, “to run a luxury dog hotel.” Back then we lived in Dublin, Ireland. I was struggling with my first business venture and Laura was in a job that didn’t satisfy her. Fast forward to the present day; five or six failed business ventures later – via Dublin, London, Monaco, Maryland and Washington D.C – here we are. Laura and I both living our dream: hers to run a luxury dog hotel and mine to be a successful businessman. Life of Riley has raised the standard of pet care. We are probably the most luxurious, service-oriented pet care business in America. Life of Riley has become a place where dog owners can leave their dog while they travel, or go to work, or just to socialize their dog, and they do it with peace of mind. It’s not like dropping your dog to a kennel or somewhere that they don’t want to be. Our furry clients bounce and wiggle into Life of Riley, eagerly and happily anticipating their adventures with us.
Q: What does American entrepreneurship mean to you?
None of the opportunities or success we experienced in America would be possible without the support infrastructure that is available to the American entrepreneur. American entrepreneurship is like a blank canvas. One of the great things about being an entrepreneur in America is the pureness of it. You can succeed even if you start out with nothing, or if you start out with no connections or contacts. In America, it’s possible to turn a blank canvas into a work of art. It is hard work, but if people are prepared to put in the work, and to accept some failures, then success will come. That’s American entrepreneurship, and the pathway to the American Dream.
Q: What impact do you hope your business has on society as it grows?
Life of Riley is the kind of place where everyone thinks they want to work. Who wouldn’t want to play with puppies all day, right? In reality, the work our people do is really challenging, and also really rewarding. We work hard to find the right people, and they are not easy to find. On our team, we have had ex-convicts, ex-hedge fund managers, veterans and everything in between. There are no specific qualifications required for this kind of work, just a great attitude and workethic. I hope Life of Riley can always be a workplace for everyone. It doesn’t matter who or whatyou are.
Q: If selected as the winner of the Dream Big Small Business of the Year Award, how will you invest the $25,000 grand prize?
There’s a bit of luck required for anything. Laura and I came to America for a different business venture in the Italian tile industry (which failed). We were lucky to find ourselves in the right place at the right time to provide much needed high-end pet care where and when it was needed. The dogs we care for are lucky to have families who love them, and who can afford to send them to Life of Riley. Some animals are not so lucky, and we would invest any cash prize into the animals that are not so lucky by donating it all to The Humane Society of the United States.
Q: What words of advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs?
Two words: “honor” and “tenacity”. If you do everything to the best of your ability, using your best judgement, and keep getting back up when you’re knocked down, then good things willhappen.
To learn more about the 2019 Dream Big Award finalists, click here.