We had the good fortune of connecting with Amber Quann and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Amber, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
I have always been highly motivated by control – control over my work hours, what I fill those work hours with, how much money I make for my efforts (side note: for many of my early years as a business owner, it wasn’t a lot, but having control over it made it worth it!). Since I was young, I’ve been the queen of the “side hustle” – lemonade stand, making jewelry out of cheap beads, braiding dog toys out of scrap fleece, teaching dog training classes in my parents’ front yard, teaching piano lessons, teaching group fitness classes – all on top of my regular schoolwork and official part-time-job. The ability to work hard to market a product or skill that I have has always been attractive to me, and ultimately I decided to focus my efforts on one full-time business instead of too-many side hustles.
What should our readers know about your business?
I started training dogs when I was 11, and teaching other people about training dogs when I was 14. I’ve been doing it pretty much nonstop ever since, so I joke that at 28.5 now I’ve been in my career long enough to be overdue for a mid-life crisis any day.
It has been a lot of hard work, often of 50-60 hour work weeks up to this point. My current brand and business of Summit Dog Training has been growing every year since I started this chapter 6 years ago. We’re a team of 9 people now, and I’m actively interviewing additional candidates to join our Training Team. Easy is the last word I would use to describe this path, but it has certainly been filled with bright spots along the way.
I would say overcoming each of these challenges along the way has looked a lot like knowing what questions to ask (thank you, Business Administration degree) & where to find the answers (the local Small Business Development Center has been invaluable with free consulting at different pivotal points in my business journey). And being willing to put in the work to create processes & systems to support your business rather than doing a lot of manual repetitions of simple tasks.
Something I have worked hard to achieve with Summit Dog Training, that is still somewhat a work in progress, is making it a sustainable business. A business that has the systems in place to support our clients & employees well, pays its employees a living wage, and yes, also provides financial support for me as the owner. This has been a work in process for many years, and I still have more learning and improving to make in order to completely achieve that goal. But it’s something that is very important for me, in an industry where dog trainers chronically don’t take these factors into account when building up their business.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I live in Fort Collins, CO, and one of my favorite spots are the hiking trails up the Poudre Canyon, or farther north past Red Feather Lakes. I would definitely include visits to some of those spots on my recommendations for a visiting friend!
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
My parents gave me a lot of opportunity to try different things as a young person! My siblings & I were homeschooled, which meant that in addition to our more traditional schoolwork, we also got to spend some of those school hours learning concepts in a non-conventional way. I was able to spend a lot of my middle school and high school years training dogs, doing dog-related service projects, and learning a lot of very essential skills that helped me to catalyze my career at a young age.
My husband Charlie also deserves a lot of credit, as the unofficial Chief Strategy Officer of my business, and someone who has put up with a lot of weeknights and weekends sacrificed to the work of Summit Dog Training. A lot of the success of my business is due to him, pushing and challenging me to think outside the box.