How many times have you heard some smiling idiot offer this advice?
“You gotta love what you do!”
From rock stars, to actors to CEOs of multi-national conglomerates, the sentiment is the same. Do what you love and the rest will take care of itself. It makes for a great sound bite. It looks great on a T-shirt or bumper sticker. But how many of us actually have the vision, nerve and drive to develop a dream business and go all-in with no regrets? A show of hands please …. Uh-huh, that’s what I thought.
Last year I met a young woman named Kavisara Pranee (K. Sign to her friends). We worked at the same university in Bangkok.
Sign was slaving away in a dead-end low-paying job with long hours and a wicked witch of a boss. In truth, she should have been the boss. It pained everyone in our department to see such an intelligent and pleasant person endure such a humdrum and lowly existence.
One day I saw her walking down the stairs with a big bag of dog food under her arm. When she got to the bottom six random dogs that routinely hung out in our open hallways were patiently waiting for her. She doled out an equal amount to each talking to each of them in turn. Normally soi dogs are about as well behaved as a classroom full of three-year-olds, but these mutts were completely under Sign’s spell.
When I mentioned what I’d seen to another employee, she replied, “Oh yes, K. Sign, she is dog-crazy”.
Apparently everyone knew that our friend K. Sign was head-over-heels passionate about the welfare of dogs. There isn’t a stray she won’t feed or an abandoned pooch she won’t take home. Our colleague added: “She is happier with dogs than with people.”
Everyone who worked with Sign and knew about her miserable work situation had encouraged her to find employment involving her passion for dogs. K. Sign would listen, smile sweetly and say “yes, I have a plan”. Nobody knew what she meant.
We just thought she was being polite. Then one day she was gone; replaced by two young idiots and nobody seemed to know what happened to her.
Last month I visited K. Sign at her new job. She is the owner/operator of Hug Mha, a full-service dog hotel/spa/pet supply store. Tucked away in a quiet neighbourhood in a northeastern Bangkok suburb between Nothaburi and Minburi is Sign’s little slice of entrepreneurial heaven.
Hug Mha boards and grooms dogs of all sizes and breeds. They also have a well-supplied shop offering food, toys, treats, shampoos, brushes, accessories … even a good selection of doggie beds! If it has to do with dogs, they have it at Hug Mha.
The main building houses a doggie hotel for smaller- and medium-sized dogs as well as a big kitchen where owners can prepare food for their dog’s stay if they wish. There is an enclosed playground on the ground floor for doggie guests to run around in.
Another building behind the main shop has grooming facilities, housing for larger dogs and a really big natural play area with a high fence so the fun stays inside. “This is the area we are expanding already,” Sign told me. Apparently the demand for large animal boarding is quite high.
In addition to Hug Mha’s hotel and shop, a café for owners and dog’s is right next door. Customers can enjoy a variety of drinks, snacks and even full lunches accompanied by their favourite four-legged companions.
At Hug Mha your dog’s sweet tooth can be satisfied as they offer an extensive menu of custom desserts from “Bake and Bone” canine cake makers. You can even order a doggie birthday cake when that special time of year rolls around!
And there is no need to worry about any older dogs or animals with health issues because right next door is Crystal Pet Hospital, a full-service health care facility for pets.
Right now Hug Mha can handle 11 small doggie guests and nine larger animals. But, they are expanding both places even now.
“We get busy on long holiday weekends,” Sign said. “Our average stay is two-to-three days.”
During the two hours I spent with Sign, three different families came with dogs for boarding and grooming. A pair of hearty huskies signed up for a 10-day stay while the family tours Europe. Another family dropped off their nervous Chihuahua for a few days while their apartment is getting painted.
Apparently K. Sign has uncovered a pent-up demand for such services. Thai families and individuals treat their pets like family and they’ve been waiting for a place they can trust to look after their furry loved ones.
After watching K. Sign interact with a variety of dogs and owners it is clear this is her calling. She’s even proven to be quite a good canine resources officer, employing two friendly hounds to help with guest relations.
All owners and guests will be greeted by a big sweet Golden Labrador named Kimji and my favourite all-time doggie doorman, a Bull Terrier named Bank.
Sign seems like a different person now. Happy, smiling and fully engaged. When I asked her how the business was going, she didn’t mention things like money or customers, she said: “It’s great … I get to play with dogs all day.”
It is a pleasure to see the “Gotta do what you love” philosophy in action.
By Bart Walters