By Melissa Grieco
In the winter of 1993, I was living the life of a prototypical Gen X twenty-something. A recent college graduate, I had spent the previous year shacking up with friends and working at my first real job in London—facilitated by a British passport and family connections in the U.K. Now, at 23, I was back in Connecticut living with my parents while helping offset the gently levied rent through a part-time retail job.
With a youthfully carefree attitude and hastily slapped together Curriculum Vitae, I was in no hurry to embark on a career path. In fact, I had little inkling of where to head now. Having relied thus far in life on the comfort and structure provided by educational institutions and my self-imposed rigorous academic standards, I was at a bit of a loss. I entered my twenties with a thirst for life experience and adventure, but I felt these things could not be derived from the workplace which further dampened any enthusiasm towards a job search.
Exacerbating this life-path dilemma was my shiny Magna Cum Laude French/English B.A. degree from Amherst. Prominently inked in Times New Roman at the top of my resume, this would have been an asset if I had possessed a burning desire to become a high school teacher or United Nations translator. However, I had no aspirations in these areas. I had always been involved in animal and environmental causes; at college, I had led successful MASSPIRG crusades to banish both Styrofoam and veal from the school cafeterias. I was hopeful that I could translate this passion and activism into a paycheck. But without a scientific or veterinary background, I was unsure how to go about making that happen.
While regularly capitalizing on the employee discount at Banana Republic, I loosely pondered the future. A high school friend in a similar spot recommended that I get my aptitudes measured to prompt me onto an appropriate job path. And so I underwent a two-day-long battery of tests in Manhattan to find out what I was going to become. The results showed that I had many right-brained abilities including off-the-charts ‘ideaphoria’ which the counselor dubbed as “the ability to generate a rapid flow of ideas that can be used to inform and educate others.” This would lend itself to a career in journalism, public relations, marketing or advertising and—factoring in my other aptitudes—I could make a great college professor. Hello tenure! Quite randomly, I was also adept with numerical series and would do well in accounting.
I had spent my year in England working as a marketing assistant so by default I decided to pursue the marketing angle. And that’s what provided my anchor and livelihood for the greater part of the next fourteen years. My marketing career propelled me through two recessions and the dot-com boom and bust. It paid the rent, gave me a lively social life, and took me to numerous U.S. cities. And, most importantly to me nowadays, it taught me how to write business copy, develop and execute a business plan, manage budgets, promote and sell products and ideas, produce documents, design websites, and make one heck of a convincing sales pitch.
It was marriage to my wonderful and supportive husband in my mid-thirties that gave me the confidence and independence to pursue other avenues that had seemed closed to me until that point. I had been volunteering for several years after work up at the ASPCA headquarters on East 92nd Street. I now decided it was time to leave the confines of the corporate world to indulge my love of animals by starting a dog walking business in the Manhattan suburb that we had moved to.
My dog walking years were therapeutic and enjoyable. The antics of my canine clients provided endless entertainment and color! My services were in high demand and it proved to be a lucrative livelihood. However, one is on call 24/7 year round and outside all day in the elements. Feeling a little burned out and busy enjoying a burgeoning hobby as a triathlete while juggling volunteer commitments and part-time work as a commercial print model, I decided to wind down the business. But I had been bitten by the entrepreneurial bug and was soon determined to brainstorm an alternative business plan that incorporated my passion for pet rescue. I had an ‘aha’ moment while preparing for my second Ironman—and voila!—Trihound, LLC was conceived.
Fast forward to today and I have been lucky enough to crystalize all my talents and passions into my small business. Among other items, I design and sell dog collars and leashes with endurance sports motifs that are produced locally by a family-run factory. I donate 20% of corporate profits to an animal shelter. I use my marketing savvy to promote my products and business and work out of a home office with my rescue dog Bruno by my side. I am pretty convinced that without my corporate background and all the tools of the trade that I gleaned from it, I wouldn’t have had the proficiency to launch Trihound. Hindsight shows me that I wasn’t that lost at twenty-three. It wasn’t obvious to me at the time, but I was always on the right path, headed to exactly where I find myself now.
Born in England and based in Rye, New York, Melissa Grieco owns and operates Trihound LLC, a producer of lifestyle accessories designed for runners, triathletes, and the dogs who support them. In addition to the Trihound website, you can also follow the company on Facebook.