After 15 years of being an employee, doing something you’ve been dreaming of for a long time can be a fantastic feeling. Szilvi Pochanics did exactly this. She left her stable job to create something that didn’t yet exist. This sounds very nice, but it’s not always an easy way to make a dream come true – especially if Covid double-crosses your plans. Szilvi, however, did not give up and builds her own dog park, Top-Pancs, day by day.
Read my interview with her about her real success story!
– After about 15 years being an employee, opening a dog park may seem like a pretty sharp shift. What was the antecedent of this in your life?
I always wanted to deal with dogs. It has been my dream for a decade to create a park where you can find everything that is essential for an in-city dog life. My own experience is that unfortunately, living in the city centre in Budapest is not an easy life for dogs and their owners. There is very little green space where our dogs can get well-tired. The number of the outside dog parks is also very low, compared to how many dogs live in the city centre and in addition, these outside parks are not disinfected. In summer the asphalt burns the paws, in winter the salt. If we don’t have time to get out of town on weekdays, providing enough physical activity to our dogs is pretty tricky.
I got to the point of making my dream come true by 2019. After a long search, I found the right location in the city centre, close to Jászai Mari Square.
– How did you get from the idea to the implementation?
Many years of hard work and savings preceded the implementation and unfortunately there were factors that would have required strengthening the nervous system as well 😊 I found a city-owned rental property in July 2019 and we finished creating the place by February 2020.
– Did you have any doubts about how your own business will start?
Every night, up until the day of today 😊 Despite the fact that the feedbacks are very good and more and more people are getting to know us. I fall asleep every night asking whether I’m heading in the right direction for sure. Running your own business is completely different from working as an employee. When I resigned from my previous job to do this, my boss said he didn’t know he should feel sorry on envy of me. At that time, I said I didn’t understand what he was talking about, so of course he should envy me. Today I know what he was talking about. The own business requires much-much more determination than being an employee. On the one hand, it is a very good thing that you earn money for yourself and you don’t have a boss, but you also pay the price for it up to the last penny.
– How did the first half year of the Top-Pancs go?
Unfortunately, we were closed because of the quarantine between 7th March and 20th May because people were afraid to go out and a lot of people were at home. At that time, very few people knew us. During this period, I have accumulated a great deal of debt, which I am currently paying back and will continue to do so in the next 6 months.
When the news came out that private businesses would be helped with crisis loan, it was very reassuring news. Up until it turned out that this cannot be given to newly founded businesses.
When I went through the banks and everyone laughed at me, I was already aware that I would not receive any help from either the state or the city of Budapest. Due to the virus, we were able to reopen on 20th May. Overall, we didn’t have an easy start with Top-Pancs.
– How did you recover from this period?
I haven’t been able to recover yet and for a while it will be like this unfortunately. Next year, when I will have a closed financial year, maybe I can get some help from the state. Also, as more and more people get to know us, life is getting easier every month.
– What are those things of being an entrepreneur that you didn’t necessarily think of before as an employee?
In your own business, you don’t work an 8-hour work schedule. Actually, it is the 8 hours that you don’t work out of the 24 hours. When you’re trying to bring a facility this big to life on your own, it’s a lot of work. I work 16-18 hours every day. I can’t write a letter to my boss that I want to go on holidays. If I want to relax a bit, I have to make up first for those lost days 😊 But there are more than just negative things.
It’s an unspeakable joy when a guest asks whose idea it was, or when they say that we are the gift of the year,
and that’s when I feel it’s worth working on. When I go through Újlipótváros (the area of the district) and every second person recognizes and greets me, it also feels very good. I haven’t woken up not even once in the last six months regretting it.
– What is the biggest challenge in running your own business?
I have a lot of questions in my head all the time. Am I doing everything the best way for my business? I want to be the best in everything and it takes a lot out of me both in time and energy.
– Do you have any thoughts that it would have been better to stay in the safe and stable work instead of your own business?
I don’t deny, sometimes I have such thoughts, but then the final thought is always that I made the right decision to get on this path.
– What makes it worth getting up at dawn every day and working until late at night in Top-Pancs?
The owners and dogs. When I get the videos and pictures that after the day-care they don’t want to go home or they fall asleep at home because they’re so tired. When the owners are brought to us by the dogs, because they want to come in. When the owners tell us that their dogs refuse to walk the other way, only towards us. When the owner sees the change in their dog after our day-care. When they complete a group training and they go through tremendous development during the course. When we start working with a dog that has undergone surgery and after the third physiotherapy treatment, it comes in on its own legs. They fill me with indescribable joy and give me the strength to continue.