When you work with dogs, it’s hard not to be an optimist. Carol Lynn Fox is no exception. And as a small business owner, this optimism has served her well. Especially in 2020.
A 20-year resident of Arizona, Carol Lynn and her husband arrived in Charlotte in 2014 when they moved for his job. With a background in retail and county government, she looked at the move as an opportunity to rethink her career. Thanks to her love of dogs, and her pack of champion Bernese Mountain Dogs, her decision to turn to canine training was an easy one.
“I knew I didn’t want to go back to a desk. I love dogs and have been working with them since I was a little girl,” she says. “Plus, I’d been training dogs since 2005. So my husband and I discussed it, and I started the research.”
That research paid off. Her optimistic outlook combined with a strong work ethic resulted in a thriving business in just five years since launching Blue Ribbon K9 Academy.
But then COVID-19 hit, and everything changed. In an instant.
“I’ll never forget the day—March 20. That was the day Governor Cooper issued his stay-at-home order for nonessential businesses like mine. And because this is a one-on-one in-person business, I knew that this was going to hit pretty hard.”
Because she has no staff, she didn’t have to think about ways to keep employees working and paid. As such, she got to work on pivoting her business model. “I’m a one woman band. I knew that I was going to make it. The thought of closing my doors for good never even crossed my mind,” she says. “Just because things shut down didn’t mean dogs and their owners didn’t need my services. I just had to figure out a way to get my services to them. Safely and efficiently.”
She turned to technology. Thanks to video conferencing, she has been able to reconnect with her clients and even attract new ones. A recipient of the Open for Business Access to Capital program from the City of Charlotte, she’s upgraded her equipment to help her business grow.
“The funding was a huge help. I can’t stress enough how grateful I am to have it. It’s given me the opportunity to keep my business moving in the right direction during a time when no one is sure what happens next.”
Like everyone, Fox admits she has no idea what comes next—but that she’s certain it will be ok.
“I specialize in positive reinforcement to train dogs. And it’s been my experience that having a positive outlook works wonders in life. For people too.”
Even now, six months into a global pandemic that virtually halted economic growth everywhere, things are beginning to look up for Carol Lynn. She’s able to provide virtual training lessons, and even some of her clients are starting to come back to train on-site. “I can’t help but believe that certain changes as the result of this event will be change for the better,” she says with a smile. “I mean, I never gave any thought to virtual obedience training before. But now that I know it can be done, it will be an important part of my company moving forward.”
As far as advice to other entrepreneurs struggling to make it in 2020, she offers this advice, “Don’t give up. Lean on your network. Use the resources, like Charlotte Business Resources, that are at your disposal. If you’re stuck, find a different way to meet your client’s needs. Because even though you might not be able to see it, there are ways. You just have to focus on the positive.”
Carol Lynn Fox, owner of Blue Ribbon K9 Academy, is an Access to Capital Grant recipient. Through the grant program, the City of Charlotte is distributing $30 million in federal CARES Act funding to small businesses impacted by COVID-19. Learn more about the Access to Capital Grant and stay tuned for upcoming opportunities.