How This Solopreneur Groomed a Passion for Small Dogs into a Big Business


How This Solopreneur Groomed a Passion for Small Dogs into a Big Business

I love the freedom. No more commutes. No more traffic jams. No more deadlines that kept me from enjoying my time with family.Janice from

The idea of starting over at the age of 60 didn’t appeal to Janice — at least not in the traditional way of getting a new job at a new location.

She had dedicated most of her adult life to working with children. She even had her own child care center. Then she wanted a change. So she went down memory lane… and found… puppies!

Miracleshihtzu Puppies
Adorable puppy from Janice’s Shih Tzu girl Meiling.

The idea to start a web-based business, coupled with a dog breeding enterprise, was born. See how she groomed her idea into a profitable home based business – use the takeaway lessons to do the same.

1. Janice, you share your home with 15(!) small dogs. Where does this passion come from? How has it turned you into a profitable business owner?

I did not always share my home with as many dogs as we do today. It started about six years ago when my husband’s job required us to move across the country to a new location.

He had a new position to look forward to, but I didn’t have a job. The idea of starting over at the age of 60 didn’t appeal to me, so I began thinking about what I could do instead.

For most of my life I devoted my time to working with children, but now I wanted a change. I remembered back to my life as a 20-something, when I was studying for a bachelor in science, interning at an animal shelter and as a vet tech in a local hospital.

Those memories flooded my consciousness, and I began to contemplate what I could do with that knowledge and experience. Many ideas began to spin in my mind until one day, I found Solo Build It! (SBI!).

The idea of building a web-based business coupled with a dog breeding enterprise began to take shape. Pretty soon, I had accumulated a large group of small dogs.

They live peacefully with our already existing pets. Not only did I have the beginning of a breeding business, but I also had plenty of ideas for content.

TAKEAWAY #1: Can you spot the key term that Janice uses above? The key that set her up for success right from the start?… Business. She talks about “building a web based business” and a “dog breeding enterprise.”

She doesn’t see herself as someone who was going to “build a website.”  Sites don’t make money – businesses do. She sees herself as a business owner.

Having a business mindset from day zero (from the moment you decide to start your solopreneur journey) is the key that sets you apart. It may sound small to you, but it impacts in important ways, from how you prioritize your limited time to planning a monetization mix that maximizes your income.

A business mindset keeps you on track. Shift your focus from “putting up a website” to building a long-term business with ever-growing profits and equity.

Janice and her dogs.
Janice and her dogs.

2. In less than four years, Janice, you built 3 dog related online businesses plus a site about a preschool you own. That’s a lot to achieve! How did you do all this?

When you are passionate about your niche, you are willing to work hard.  And I have a very supportive family. After all, how many husbands would put up with as many dogs as we own?

One of my adult sons helps me with the dogs, the breeding business, and the puppies. My daughter has written an article or two for one of my websites. I also have a grown son whose background is in marketing and project management, so he lends a hand wherever he can.

I probably put in as many hours as any average worker, but my work occupies seven days rather than the typical five-day work week. The nice thing, though, is that I decide how much and when I want to work.

TAKEAWAY #2: Building an online business is hard work. Anyone who tells you it’s easy is either delusional or lying to you. 😉

Especially in the beginning, you have to put in many hours. The key takeaway here is to do something that you are passionate about. Work is not “work” when you’re passionate about it.

The other big bonus?… You decide when and where to work. We all have more than one passion, FAMILY being a big one. There are days you just want to spend with them, or that you simply want to take off for yourself. Being your own boss has a ton of perks that spell F-R-E-E-D-O-M.

Many years ago, a wise mentor told me that the only way to get things done is to “work smart, not hard.” Those words have stuck and followed me to this business.

Finding an easier, faster way to get something done has been a goal for me. I also have Solo Build It! to thank for the many articles provided on time management, smart apps and methods to reduce the amount of time it takes to get a job done.

The solopreneur’s biggest enemy is lack of time.  We built SBI! as one big time-optimizer. There’s no need to figure out the perfect process, no trial-and-error.   The Action Guide lays that out. Nor do you need to “keep up” with all that’s going on in the blogosphere. We do that for you, too.

Due to time limitations, we typically advise SBIers to focus on building one online business at a time. Succeeding online is not about building a bunch of “sites.”  It’s about growing one high-income business.

However, if your first business maxxes out on traffic and income (or if you have an employee to manage it), some SBIers do choose to venture into a second one, preferably in a related niche that creates synergy between the two.

So it’s rare to have 3 e-businesses so quickly  We wanted to know how doing that worked out for Janice. So we asked her this follow up question…

Knowing what you know now, would you still have 3 sites about dogs? Or do you think it would have been better to focus on only one business?

In retrospect,I think owning three dog sites was a big mistake. Two of the sites account for the most income, and the third one requires more of my time than it is worth.

The last site was purchased from someone else, and I do believe that may have been a mistake. I did not take enough time to research and thoroughly study the site with regards to Google penalties, keywords, site structure, even the photographs used.

I have invested a tremendous amount of time with little return on investment. I am likely going to be making some serious decisions about that site shortly. Two dog-related websites might work much better for me.

To do a website, or rather an online business well, requires a great deal of work and energy. Having too many sites spreads those resources too thin.

Janice's daughter with one of the puppies.
Janice’s daughter with one of the puppies.

TAKEAWAY #3: See Takeaway #1.  Would you start a bakery and a barbershop at the same time?  No way. “Business” is a word that is loaded with implications – you have more respect for it because it implies so much more than “site” does.

3. Your dog sites get an amazing amount of search engine traffic, especially What’s your “secret” to generating so much traffic?

I have to confess that if I have a “secret,” it would be SBI!. I had a couple of websites years ago that miserably failed because I had no idea what it took to succeed.

When I found Solo Build It!, it took some time to understand the philosophy and all the detailed instructions provided in the Action Guide, but I am glad that I persevered.  Traffic building, like anything worth having in life, takes time, motivation, energy, and dedication.

TAKEAWAY #4: Most solopreneurs fail because they “have no idea what it takes to succeed,” as Janice put it. And that’s a shame because most people are able to do what Janice did as long as they have BAM (more on BAM here).

SBI! members like Janice have a much higher chance of succeeding for two reasons, both of which are ridiculously simple…

  1. They do all the right things, in the right order, and in the right way.
  2. They don’t do the wrong things (there’s a lot of bad information out there).

Do you know why we put the word “secret” in quotes (above)?  It’s because there are no secrets.  For more on that, see what 52 top SBI! solopreneurs shared as their “must do non-secrets of success.”

As Janice noted, we spend a lot of time on sweating the details of getting the important “must-do’s” right. In a nutshell, here’s what you need…

  • An understanding of the big picture (what does it even mean to “build an online business”?)
  • A proven step-by-step process (what to do at any given time of your business-building journey, and how to do it)
  • An integrated set of tools that allows you to carry out the necessary steps (even if you have zero tech knowledge)
  • A supportive community of like-minded people (where you get help and motivation when you feel stuck).

SBI! supplies all of the above, all in one place. As long as you bring BAM (Brain – Attitude – Motivation) to the table, you’re bound to succeed. Let’s turn the floor back over to Janice now…

Finding the right keywords is critical. People get hung up on that term, but really it’s just the topics that I’m going to create content for (text, photos, videos).

Developing a good website navigation system that keeps readers on your pages is also helpful. Monthly newsletters and social media also play a huge part.

I also firmly believe that you must enjoy lifelong learning and engage in ongoing research. You do not want your website to mimic those of others in your niche.

Don’t regurgitate information you read on Wikipedia. It is important for your readers to believe that what they are reading comes directly from your brain and heart, even if you have never experienced it first hand. Of course, it is much better if you are writing about a topic that is near and dear to your heart.

TAKEAWAY #5: Janice mentions two key ingredients for your online business: passion and knowledge/first-hand experience. That combination is totally unique to you. SBI! cannot teach you….

  1. about your niche – that’s the “B” of BAM that you bring to the table.
  2. how to be passionate about that niche (that’s part of the “A” and the “M”).

Whether you know and love breeding small dogs, raising chickens, a tropical island, your hometown – whatever topic is close to your heart – that’s all you.

SBI! can and does show you how to develop that knowledge into a site that generates high volumes of traffic and into your “Brand of One.” Outstanding content, presented in your unique “voice” makes you stand out, even in a competitive niche.

Your readers will know that you’re “the real deal,” an authority in your niche whom they can trust and will happily buy from. We call this concept PREselling. To learn more about it, and how it can help you grow your business, download Make Your Content PREsell! It’s free — we don’t even bug you for your email address.

Back over to Janice…

In my niche, it means that every dog breed profile or every canine disease known to modern researchers is something that I know well and can put a personal twist on, to make it real.

While writing well is an excellent goal to aspire to, there is more to it than just producing great articles. I feel as though you also need to be committed to learning something new everyday, not only in your field but also in what it takes to succeed on the internet.

TAKEAWAY #6: Janice has the “A” and “M” of BAM, too. She has a winning Attitude sparked by passion and the Motivation to keep learning.  SBIers, as we said, don’t have to “keep up” with learning about the Internet – we keep them updated. They should, though, be following what’s happening in their niche. With SBI!, they have time for that.

Think of it this way…  MBAs don’t keep going to business school after they graduate. Once you have a job marketing widgets, you spend your time learning all you can about widgets and the people who want them. Focus on growing your niche business, not on Internet marketing — everything else is in SBI!, including any new developments.

4. Your sites are beautifully designed. Did you design them yourself or did you have help?

Thank you. I did design two of them using Solo Build It!’s Site Designer, and I had a fellow SBIer do the other one, Small Dog Place. I have little knowledge of coding. What I do know I have learned through the forums and other very helpful SBI! web designers and articles.

I suppose if I had to decide where my inspiration came from it must have been from nature. Dogs and nature just naturally go hand in hand. I love being able to sit at a desk that faces a window and look out at nature.

It is so peaceful, and I want to give that impression on my websites.

TAKEAWAY #7: SBI!’s Site Designer enables you to create an elaborate design from scratch or use one of the many free, fully responsive templates with as much or as little customization as you like.

A word of advice… don’t try and follow every new “cool” design trend that comes around. Instead? Go different while still being sharp-classic. Your design should…

  • be part of what we call your “Personality.”  Voice, positioning and site design add up to your business’s Personality. And that, of course, should appeal to the thumbnail that you visualize as your typical visitor/customer.  This is an important concept that is covered in detail in DAY 5 of the Action Guide.
  • add credibility, upon which your words build.  You don’t need to look “BigCo” – you probably should not, actually.  But it shouldn’t look like you put your site together in your pajamas, either!  Look, voice and positioning must all be in sync as a single Personality.

You only have 30-40 seconds to hold onto a new visitor. Here’s the sequence…

5 seconds The look and feel of your website can make or break a visit almost immediately.

5-10 seconds Your opening headline and first paragraph. Can you hold onto your visitor and entice them to read more?

15-20 seconds Your following text and imagery.  If your visitor is still with you after 30 seconds, if /he likes your voice and positioning and senses that this is what s/he wants, you have laid the foundation for what could become a long-term relationship.

Naturally, the quality of the rest of your content (words, photos, videos) has to do its job for that to happen. OVERdeliver on your visitor’s search intent to win with your online business!

Her son Aaron helps Janice with the dog breeding business.
Her son Aaron helps Janice with the dog breeding business.

5. Tell us about your philosophy regarding content. How do you know what your prospective customers are looking for? Where does this information come from?

At first, I started writing about topics that I found interesting or those that I thought people needed to understand. I even purchased a book or two and thought that anything written in books must be worth writing about for the web.

Well, I was dead wrong.

Janice’s remark that at first she “started writing about topics that I found interesting or those that I thought people needed to understand” stopped us in our tracks. The SBI! Action Guide dedicates two full stages of the Action Guide (we call them “DAYs”) to researching your niche thoroughly before you even register a domain name, let alone start writing content.

The preparation phase includes brainstorming keywords (aka “topics to write about”) with the Brainstorm It! tool. If you follow this process, you’ll know which topics your target audience is looking for. You don’t have to guess or follow your gut instinct. So we asked Janice if and how she used Brainstorm It!. She replied…

“When I first started with SBI!, I was so anxious to get going that I just skimmed through the part about Brainstorm It! in the Action Guide. I have never been fond of numbers and my brain was turning to mush just seeing all those figures in my Master Keyword List.

After writing about 70 pages, I got some help from one of the SBI! professionals who did a site review. It was with this review that I found out that so many of the keywords I had chosen were not viable. The process of the site review was both painful and enlightening – and so worth having it done.

The numbers were either too high or too low. It took a long time to redo the pages, but eventually I got back on the right track. I am still fixing pages on one of my sites with poor keyword choices.

Brainstorm It! is highly accurate and predictive. I never write a page any more without first logging into Brainstorm It..

Another thing that helped was using the Site Blueprint which is provided as a spreadsheet. It keeps me organized and focused, something that otherwise, I would struggle with. I update that as time permits, then print it out so I can study it further. (I’m a very visual person.)”

TAKEAWAY #8: Janice fell into a typical beginner’s trap. We tell new SBIers to take their time, to follow the Action Guide to a tee. Some, though, are so eager to get the new business off the ground that they skip over the all-important research and preparation phase.

Fortunately, Janice realized her mistake and enlisted the help of an experienced SBI! Professional to get her back on track. In the non-SBI! world, this is just one reason why so many solopreneurs, even folks who have BAM, fail.

The best way to avoid getting off track? Follow the SBI! Action Guide thoroughly. Don’t skim and skip ahead… however tempted you may feel.

As we say very early on, the single biggest piece of advice that every successful SBIer gives to beginner’s is “Follow the Action Guide.”  It is Ken Evoy’s “Single Most Important Piece of Advice” that he imparts in the forums to newcomers to SBI!.

The bottom line?  Hobbyists can afford to write a site for themselves. Online business solopreneurs create content for visitors and potential customers.

Back over to Janice…

It was not until I began to figure out who my readers were and what they wanted that I began to generate more traffic. It was surprising to me at first that all three of my dog sites have vastly different audiences both regarding 1) age, gender, where they live in the world, and 2) their interests.

My next big hurdle was learning how to write for the web. Finding my “voice” took a while. I could not rely on any previous writing experiences. Nothing in any English course taught me what I needed to know to succeed as a blogger.

Being adept at academic thesis writing just didn’t cut it when it came to writing for individuals browsing the web.

I needed something special — not too difficult or arcane, not too easy or juvenile, just right. That happy medium seems to be working for me.

Now, SBI!’s so-called “Goldilocks’ Principle” rules my life.

TAKEAWAY #9: Janice is spot on with her observation. You won’t learn how to write for the web at school, college or any English course. Online, you write to communicate. Create relevant, personality-filled content that connects with your reader on an emotional level.

The good news? You don’t need to be Hemingway to master this kind of writing. It’s just a matter of undoing the damage inflicted upon you by your schooling and unlocking what’s already inside you.

The free eBook mentioned above (Make Your Content PREsell!) explains how to develop your “Goldilocks” voice.

Once I knew who my readers were and how to reach them, I needed to determine what to write. While that may seem intuitive, it was not for me. I poured over keywords that I generated with SBI’s Brainstorm It! tool until I found one that not only interested me but that I could try and spin to give it a more personal feel.

At some point, I started getting daily emails from readers with real life problems, asking questions and hunting for answers. On one site (about Shih Tzu Dogs), my readers became my customers and friends and would visit me at my home.

Their endless questions and my previous dog experiences gave me so many ideas. Even 24/7 writing would not be enough time to address all of their ideas or problems.

Luckily for me, dog lovers are also very patient people and are very grateful for my help. Many articles sprung up from readers’ questions and problems.

Social media has also opened my mind to ideas I would never have dreamed about on my own.

I did not have all the answers at first, and it took time to research topics. I also found that it took me longer to sift through those aging neurons upstairs in my brain to remember dog information that I once knew so well.

After a while, though, all the canine knowledge that I had years ago began to surface, and writing about it with a historical twist seemed to resonate with my millennial readers.

And then there are all the wonderful opportunities and people near where I live (in the Midwest, USA). There is no shortage of dog lovers who love to talk about their dogs!  Veterinarians, Groomers, Doggie Day Care professionals are all willing to add their two-cents, and their stories are all scattered throughout the pages of my websites.

TAKEAWAY #10: You don’t have to write all of your own content. In this age of User-Generated Content, one SBI! module (“Content 2.0”) enables you to make it easy for visitors to share their experiences and stories online.  It’s like having free content writers growing your traffic for you!

Correction: It’s not “like” that.  It is that.

6.  Do you use social media to grow your “Brand Of One”?  If yes, which platform(s)?  Has it had an impact?

Social media has been a struggle for me. All of my businesses have their Facebook, and Pinterest presence, and I have a small YouTube channel for one of the sites.

Twitter has been a little more challenging for me; I am still trying to find a way to make that one work. I have an Instagram account with one of the sites, but I do feel that all of my online businesses would benefit from a stronger social presence.

Social Media is vital to promoting online businesses in 2017. So it’s worthwhile taking the time to learn how to use them most efficiently. This is one of my goals for the coming year.

TAKEAWAY #11: We have studied solopreneurs’ Web presence, both SBIers and non-SBIers. A small percentage do it well. Most don’t. While SBIers are 100X more likely to build a successful business, they are only slightly better than average at social media.

But “slightly better” is not good enough. The reason that SBIers do not dominate in social, too, we recently realized, is that there is just too much information out there. It’s the same problem as the larger challenge of building a business.

SBI! was created to overcome that issue and enable solopreneurs to succeed by allocating their time in the most efficient business-building process possible.

Now we plan to replicate that with social media. To help solopreneurs like Janice, we are developing “Social Media Action Guides” (included in every SBI! subscription for free).

Just like the main SBI! Action Guide, the social media version will take proven best practices, while dropping the 90% that is either useless, bad or more complicated than is worth the time. Then we’ll organize this information step-by-step, from setup to advanced techniques.

All along the way, we add our own unique insights from our experience with winning social media marketers. All you have to do is follow the logical, step-by-step format.

Building a strong social presence is increasingly important, especially if you have something to sell.  It both builds your “Brand of One” and enables you to personally network to powerhouses in your niche.

Some SBIers already have strongest-in niche presence (ex., Facebook account on Italy and Twitter on Wicca Spirituality and Instagram about Anguilla).  Soon, most will!

Solopreneurs don’t need articles (what we provide in SBI! Is already too much). They need a process that works. Coming soon to an SBI! business near you!

7. How many different revenue streams do you have? Which ones perform best?

There are currently four revenue streams from my three dog related businesses….

The first, and largest is from my Shih Tzu site where I advertise my puppies for sale.

Part of Janice's sales page for her Shih Tzu puppies.
Part of Janice’s sales page for her Shih Tzu puppies.

The second income stream is Google AdSense. Unfortunately it has done less well within the last several years, along with the Yahoo equivalent.

In third and fourth place are Amazon and other affiliate programs. Revenue from Amazon is holding its own, but the income from other affiliate programs is very low.

I am in the process of writing several books, which I plan to publish later in 2017.

Other monetization options are In their planning stages. We’ll have to wait and see how that materializes.

TAKEAWAY #12: Janice has developed a healthy monetization mix for her business…

  • Selling physical products (and what adorable products she sells!)
  • Selling digital products (her eBooks are in the works)
  • Advertising income via Google AdSense and
  • Affiliate income from Amazon and other relevant merchants.

Never put all your (monetization) eggs (or puppies) in one basket. There are many ways to monetize your niche.  “Passive models” (ex., AdSense and affiliate programs) have been paying less well for all solopreneurs in recent years.

Adsense, in particular, seems to have “hooked” solopreneur with high payouts in its early years, but is gradually paying less for valuable real estate on your sites. Well, this is the Internet – you have choices.

Janice’s highest earner is in line with what we recommend. Develop your own products. It’s far more do-able than most people realize. One entire eBook, Make It!, is dedicated to that.

They don’t have to be “hard goods,” either. We include all you need to create and market your own eBooks, too, for example.

From AdSense to making and selling your own products, we have SBIers covered when it comes to monetization. The SBI! Action Guide helps you plan and implement those that are right for you.

8. How long did it take to start earning income from your businesses?  Is it a full-time income (replacing a job) or a part-time income?

My income started around the same time that I joined AdSense. As advised by the SBI! Action Guide, I only started with AdSense after having a fair number of pages (about 40).

By the first year, the income was covering all the costs associated with the sites. After about two years, I would say that my businesses were generating a part-time income.

After four years on the web, I am now making a significant income, one that is equal or larger than that left behind by my previous full time job.

While I never expected to get rich, the income has put two children through college without any debt incurred on their part, provided several very nice vacations, and refinished and updated much of my old home.

Janice at her work-at-home desk. Her canine "supervisor" watches her every move. ;-)
Janice at her work-at-home desk. Her canine “supervisor” watches her every move. 😉

9. What has been your biggest challenge so far as a solopreneur?

Time, energy and knowledge.

As I get older, all of the above seem to be in shorter supply. Let me explain.

I love to write, so creating new content for my sites is not a problem for me. Learning more and more about my niche is not only rewarding and fun, but it is what keeps me going.

Keeping up with the ever-changing landscape that we call the world-wide web is something else.  My knowledge gap is where I rely on SBI! to stay on top of changes and alert me and fellow SBIers whenever we need to make changes in our practices.

I depend on the experts at Solo Build It!, so I can concentrate on spending my time learning more about my niche. Time is precious, and I do not have a chance to do both.

TAKEAWAY #13: Another spot-on observation from Janice: “Time is precious, and I do not have a chance to do both.”  Solopreneurs do not have time to stay on top of her niche and the ever-changing requirements of an online business.

As an SBIer, she doesn’t have to. She knows that SBI! weeds out the noise, the time-sucking distractions, and enables her to focus her limited time in the most efficient and effective way possible (this benefit made third place among the Top 3 Ways in Which SBI! Helps Solopreneurs Succeed).

Sharp use of time and a BUSINESS-building focus lies behind most successes.  Everything, and we do mean everything, needs to blur away until you are always doing only what matters most to build your business, never spending “empty treading” time.

Energy is the last part of the equation. I can no longer expect that my energy level will keep up with the Millennials or 20-somethings just getting started in their careers.

Trying to keep up with Millennials does not stop me from considering this work as the ideal solution to retirement. Clearly, both cohorts have much to contribute to the online community.

TAKEAWAY #14: Every business in the world comes to an end. Much like humans, there are no exceptions. Either it dies or you sell it.

If you only create a site that makes some money, you don’t build a valuable asset that others will pay top dollar for (i.e., business equity).  Odds are, in fact, that it fails before it generates much income. At best, you merely create a job for yourself.

SBI! businesses are built to last. It does not take more effort to do that. It only requires you to do the right work to the best of your ability. Sooner or later, you may either pass it on to a family member or enjoy a large final payday when you sell it. And yes, we show you how to do that, too!

Bottom line? Build a business with growing income and equity.

10. Finally… What do you enjoy most about being an online business owner? How has it changed you, your life, your family?

I love the freedom the most. There are no more commutes along icy roadways in the northern U.S., no more traffic backups, and no more deadlines that prevent me from enjoying my time with family.

Even though I consider myself a hard worker, I can choose when and where to work.

I live in a relatively large home, and it is so much fun to pick up the laptop and work in any room I choose. I have a great home office, but the change of scenery is just priceless — something you cannot get working in an office for someone else.

A different scene, different view, or even a distinct sense of sound or smell can heighten your creativity.

I love working outdoors when the weather is good. I can justify leisurely walks with the dogs in parks near my home, or even an overnight trip to visit a dog show or visit with another dog breeder.

Doing what you love is the best way to make a living.


  1. Doing what you love is the best way to make a living. Nothing to add here.
  2. Have a business mindset from the start. You’re not “building a site that makes money.” You’re building a business with income and equity.
  3. Most solopreneurs fail because they have no idea what it takes to succeed. Some know too much! Don’t be one of the 99%. SBI! provides all you need, all in one place.
  4. Your skillset, experience and passion are a unique combination. Use them to develop your “Brand of One.”
  5. Time is your most precious resource. Guard it fiercely. Every distraction needs to blur away until you are always (and only) doing what matters most for your business.
How This Solopreneur Groomed a Passion for Small Dogs into a Big Business
Margit Streifeneder
Margit Streifeneder is the Marketing Co-Director at SiteSell. She works with a small but mighty team to spread the word about Solo Build It!, via helpful content, informative emails and eye-catching ads. She's passionate about helping solopreneurs achieve success, and enjoys interviewing SBI! members about their achievements. Besides growing her own online business, she loves exploring new places, hiking, dancing and spoiling her three cats.