After passing the bar exam in 1999, I became a public defender and practiced criminal defense for almost 12 years, with a focus on representing the mentally ill who were charged with serious felonies and violent crimes. It was tough work, to say the least. I quickly burned out and knew I needed a change. But I had no idea what I would do. I felt completely stuck and pigeon-holed.
Along the way, I got a dog named Dash. He literally changed everything. He has a behavioral problem called separation anxiety – when he is left along he barks continuously and completely melts down. My neighbors weren’t too thrilled with me, so I started taking him with me when I would go out. It turned out that Philadelphia was a very dog-friendly place – I thought dog owners should know about all of the dog-friendly businesses and events that were going on.
So, in 2009 I created a blog called ThePhillyDog.com.
I started with just talking about the problems I was having with Dash and did reviews of the businesses I visited. I also started doing event promotion for the local charity/rescue fundraisers to help spread the word about the site. Then I started getting products in the mail from pet companies to review. So I started holding giveaway contests. After a few local businesses asked to advertise, the site exploded. I made it my mission to learn everything and anything about the pet industry, blogs, and social media. I started getting invited to trade shows and asked to speak at conferences, and became heavily active in the animal welfare/pet community. I wished (like a lot of bloggers) that I could blog full-time, but it just wasn’t a reality for me. I made some money on local advertising, but not enough to support myself. I honestly don’t know how I managed to do all this while still working full-time as an attorney. It was some serious hustle.
About a year ago, I was looking through LinkedIn and I saw that one of my pet industry contacts was connected to a guy (Brock Weatherup) who was the CEO of a local pet industry company that I had somehow never heard of – Pet360. It turned out that they were the parent company of two sites that I knew – PetFoodDirect.com and petMD.com. I asked to be introduced, and emailed Brock asking if I could take him to lunch/coffee – just to pick his brain on how to get into the pet industry.
He declined my offer, and instead told me that he wanted me to talk to his HR manager. Pet360 was right in the middle of launching their new site, Pet360.com
, and they were going to have a community component to the website. They were considering creating a community manager position. Long story short, they called me in and hired me.
I’ve never been a community manager before (I’ve been a moderator on several forums and sites) so it’s been quite the learning process. But it’s amazing how much cross-over there really is from having been a trial attorney (and defending often-difficult clients) to managing a community – from dealing with different personalities, advocating on their behalf, to making strategic decisions on how best to grow. Having been active in animal welfare has really helped me best represent the interests of our members by predicting what will be popular content and what will be offensive to them. While I may be the community manager, I’ve been through what many of our members have in being new pet parents. I know how important their pets are to them – they truly are part of the family. So that helps me really relate to our community.
Our community is still in its infancy, and I’ve got a TON of work ahead of me (with many exciting changes are on the road-map) but it’s been websites like mycmgr.com
that have really helped me out.
*photo by AprilZielger.com