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Kim Sill, on how she developed the Grit to save more than 6000 dogs

To develop grit, you need to fall down… then you need to pick yourself up, dust yourself off and don’t let anything or anyone stand in your way of doing what you want and being the best version of who you can be. I had the pleasure of interviewing Kim Sill. Kim is the founder of […]


To develop grit, you need to fall down… then you need to pick yourself up, dust yourself off and don’t let anything or anyone stand in your way of doing what you want and being the best version of who you can be.


I had the pleasure of interviewing Kim Sill. Kim is the founder of Shelter Hope Pet Shop, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization showcasing rescue and shelter animals up for adoption at their pet store in Thousand Oaks, CA., and producer of “Saved In America,” a 35-minute film featuring undercover investigations and peaceful protests, while documenting Sill’s 5-year journey rescuing animals.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what events have drawn you to this specific career path?

When I was young, I had a severe speech impediment and was bullied. My dad would take me out of school early and let me travel with him, picking up foster kids. Growing up in South Georgia, with a social worker father, I saw firsthand what happens to children and their pet companions when the world casts them away. My dad would take care of the kids and I would often have to take care of the dog or cat who needed a home. My father helped me find a purpose and reminded me not to give in to the people who tried to bring me down. He said that I was special because I was able to connect with animals and help them when most others couldn’t. He never let me feel that my imperfect voice would stop me from achieving anything I wanted.

Can you share your story of Grit and Success? First can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?

In 1987, after moving to California, I went to several speech specialists. I ended up working with Dr Lillian Glass and Warren Barrigian. Both were equally effective with helping me lose my lazy tongue and my lisp. After two years of intense speech exercises and therapy treatment, I had a beautiful voice. I had spent by life blending into quiet corners, not drawing attention to myself, and now I was able to voice my thoughts and begin to move into the world as a “normal” person.

I had no idea though, that my life was about to be turned upside down. I received a call from my brother in Georgia saying our sister had been killed, shot to death by her husband. My world fell apart. I knew that I needed time to heal and I moved to Park City, Utah where I ended up meeting my husband, Joel.

Joel and I fell in love and got married. We bonded on many levels, but our love for animals seemed to really join us together. We had only been married a short time when I got another phone call that would change my life, this one came from a police officer telling me that my brother had committed suicide. My healing heart was broken, again.

I decided to fall back on my roots and give myself a life with purpose… helping animals in need. My husband and I had gone to many charitable events related to animal causes, and I began volunteering for a local organization, going undercover in puppy mills as well as pet shops selling puppy mill dogs. My undercover footage became part of a National Geographic special called “Inside Puppy Mills.”

Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?

I was shocked by what I saw in my investigations, and I knew that the world would want to know what I was uncovering. How could America let man’s best friend be bred over and over and over… and tortured for profit?

So how did Grit lead to your eventual success? How did Grit turn things around?

I began using my voice and protesting outside pet shops in the Los Angeles area. I helped shut down six pet shops that were selling dogs from puppy mills.

In 2009, things turned around when I received national attention for convincing Orange Bone pet store in LA to go humane and be the first pet shop to “sell” only rescue dogs. As a result, pet store owners all over the U.S. reached out to me, and I helped them change their business model from selling puppy mill dogs to “selling” only rescue animals. Finally, rescue dogs were being viewed in a new light.

So, how are things going today? 🙂

My rescue store, Shelter Hope Pet Shop, has saved and rehomed 6000 dogs since we opened in November 2011.

Based on your experience, can you share 5 pieces of advice about how one can develop Grit? (Please share a story or example for each)

Be open to change. I once stayed in the back of rooms to hide so I could be invisible. Now, I’m a voice for the animals, standing on the front lines making changes happen.

I was willing to move forward and let go of the past, the heartache and fear. Every day I was open to what came my way. No judgment.

To develop grit, you need to fall down… then you need to pick yourself up, dust yourself off and don’t let anything or anyone stand in your way of doing what you want and being the best version of who you can be.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped you when things were tough? Can you share a story about that?

I am very grateful for Demetra Canning and Melanie Pozez, who stayed by my side as we figured out how to make a nonprofit pet store sustain itself. The three of us believed that providing a pet store in a mall with rescue only dogs would be the way to have America shift from buying puppy mill dogs to “buying” animals in need.

Melanie funded Shelter Hope Pet Shop to help me get it up and running. Dani Coeutte became the manager at our rescue store and helped me run it for two years. I then helped Dani open a second Shelter Hope Pet Shop in Santa Clarita, which has saved almost a thousand dogs in two years.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I try to always give back to those in need and recently during the Woolsey fires, my store took in approximately 200 animals who were affected by the tragedy and needed a place to go.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

I am currently working on a book called, “The Year I Protested.” I hope it will help people build strength and courage to become the best versions of themselves.

What advice would you give to other executives or founders to help their employees to thrive?

Communicate deeply at least once a day. Really connect with the people who are helping you achieve your goals and take an interest in theirs.

You are a person of great influence. 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. 🙂

I would ask the world to be kind. Put your negative statements away, take a breath and be grateful. Help a stranger. It’s amazing how the power of kindness can make you whole.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

My favorite saying is: I have never rescued an animal they have always rescued me. It is my truth. What I said about kindness holds the same meaning. You will always get more out of being kind and giving with your heart.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Instagram: shelterhope_petshop

Facebook: www.facebook.com/ShelterHopePetShop

Twitter: @ShelterHopePets

Website: www.shelterhopepetshop.org

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