Life is too short to not do what you love. (My brother died suddenly, and it can happen to anyone at anytime, so make the most of this life) You are never too old to start a business and do something that you love. I would have started sooner if I didn’t have so much self doubt.
As a part of our series about entrepreneurs who transformed something they did for fun into a full-time career, I had the pleasure of interviewing Diana Ludwiczak. Diana is the CEO of Doctor Sniffs Bed Bug Dogs. Diana is a CEO, bed bug dog handler, trainer, K9 bed bug scent detection trainer.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a bit about your “childhood backstory”?
As a child I was always inclined to befriend animals. The neighborhood cats, birds, and dogs were my constant companions! Growing up in suburb of NYC, I led a busy life even as a child! My father was a NYC police officer and my mom ran her own house cleaning business. As a child I went with my mom on these house cleaning jobs and she paid me to help. At 12 years of age I started my first job, which was delivering penny savers on Saturdays.
I always thrived on hard work and keeping busy. It was deeply ingrained!
What was the catalyst from transforming your hobby or something you love into a business? Can you share the story of your “ah ha” moment with us?
The a ha moment was a slow process that was cultivated over time. It was refined by my deep passions which are science ( I have a BS in biology), dog training, and my constant desire to help people. Training and caring for animals has always been a hobby for me. While in veterinary college I began to learn about the game of nosework for dogs. This game of searching for target odors was a great way for the rescue dogs that we used in the veterinary college to have fun and stimulate their mind. When I moved back to NYC I became a K9 bed bug handler for a company. During my years as a bed bug dog handler, I kept researching and learning more about how the dogs learn. I began to teach my own dogs how to search for bed bugs. The world of scent detection is constantly evolving and keeping up to date and on the forefront requires a lot of time, patience, reading, watching videos, and training the dogs! It was during this time that I realized that I can train my own bed bug dog, try out for the various certifications, and start a business! I already knew how to build a website and get customers. I have a successful pet care/training business (Wolfie’s Place), which I built from scratch. So applying the same principles to the new K9 bed bug inspection company would be easy.
There are no shortage of good ideas out there, but people seem to struggle in taking a good idea and translating it into an actual business. How did you overcome this challenge?
I knew I wanted to work with animals it was the only way I could survive in the world. After my brother passed away suddenly in his 40’s, I knew I did not want to waste time doing something that I did not love. I overcame the challenge with a necessity of feeling like I “had” to make this work.
What advice would you give someone who has a hobby or pastime that they absolutely love but is reluctant to do it for a living?
Start now. I am not saying to quit your job and go all in on it right away, but definitely do it in your spare time. This will give you time to see if you can make it work.
It’s said that the quickest way to take the fun out of doing something is to do it for a living. How do you keep from changing something you love into something you dread? How do you keep it fresh and enjoyable?
For me I do not have that problem. I worked in so many unrewarding jobs throughout my life that I consider myself blessed and privileged that I am making a living doing what I love. If I ever have negative thoughts about it, my mind quickly goes to what kind of careers I could have had, where I would not be so happy.
What is it that you enjoy most about running your own business? What are the downsides of running your own business? Can you share what you did to overcome these drawbacks?
- Making my own schedule (I am a service based business, and can take on clients at any time of the day that I want)
- Working with my best friend-my do
- Challenging myself to do better
- I enjoy doing my own bookkeeping
- The stress. Dealing with bed bugs is a very stressful situation. Having to go into apartments, houses, and businesses that have bed bugs puts me at risk every single day. I actively have to overcome this on a daily basis. I have fear of bed bugs and do not sleep well. So I would not say I that I have overcome this but instead try to deal with it on a daily basis by being positive and careful. I heat treat my clothing every single day after bed bug inspections.
- Having an unpredictable schedule (most of my jobs are last minute inspections, when people want me to service them they need it NOW) I overcame this unpredictable schedule by just accepting it! It is a mental choice and I have chosen to not let the fact that at any given moment I might have to get called on an inspection, bother me. I always think “it could be worse”.
Can you share what was the most striking difference between your actual job and how you thought the job would be?
There really wasn’t a difference because I worked in the field for a years beforehand. The only difference is the bookkeeping, which I like.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
In the world of scent detection the dog chooses what reward they want. Some dogs choose a toy and others choose food. One of my dogs was telling me that she wanted to be a food reward dog, but I wasn’t listening. I really wanted her to be a toy reward dog, but it’s not about me! Once I fully realized this the training went so much smoother!
Who has inspired or continues to inspire you to be a great leader? Why?
Irene Pepperberg; Harvard PhD. Despite much backlash and people not believing in her research, she still stuck with her passion of studying animal cognition and language learning in parrots. She funded all of her own research through her own foundation- The Alex Foundation.
How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
I can think of 2 major ways I am making the world better.
1. I use trained rescue dogs to locate the bed bugs. This gives an unwanted dog a home and a purpose. Plus they love doing it! For the dogs it is just a game of search!
2. Helping people rid their homes and business of bed bugs is making the world better. Bed bugs cause a lot of anxiety and panic in those that have them or think they might have them. I have a lot calm energy which helps ease people once I show up to do the inspection. For some people the peace of mind they get after the K9 inspection is priceless. (that is if we do not find bed bugs)
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
- When you work for yourself, your yearly taxes are always more than you thought. (Last year I was off by a few thousand, so I had to scramble to get the money together)
- You are never too old to start a business and do something that you love. I would have started sooner if I didn’t have so much self doubt.
- Life is too short to not do what you love. (My brother died suddenly, and it can happen to anyone at anytime, so make the most of this life)
- Customers can come from anywhere! I have an Instagram page for my business @DoctorSniffs and I have gotten a number of clients through there. This was unexpected and I usually do Instagram posts for fun, but didn’t really see it as a form of advertising until now)
- That I will be replying with many of the same answers via email or text all throughout the day. Creating a short cut or a copy and paste answer for a few different types of questions has been a time saver. Some questions that I get over and over are -“how do I prepare my apartment for the K9 search.” -“does diatomaceous earth powder work?” -“what does bed bug evidence look like?”
What person wouldn’t want to work doing something they absolutely love. You are an incredible inspiration to a great many people. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
Empathy is a learned behavior. Learning how to be more empathetic towards humans and animals will make the world a better place.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
This quote is true and practicing the art of empathy can help ease sorrow of lost family members whether the family member is an animal or a human the sorrow can be overwhelming.
“No truth can cure the sorrow we feel from losing a loved one. No truth, no sincerity, no strength, no kindness can cure that sorrow. All we can do is see it through to the end and learn something from it, but what we learn will be no help in facing the next sorrow that comes to us without warning.” — Norwegian Wood -Haruki Murakami
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
Ariel Peldunas. She has a BA in biology like I do and served in the military as working dog handler. I heard an interview on a podcast (K-9 Talking Scents) recently and she has a lot of knowledge about detection dogs. I would love to talk scent detection with her.