Hub Spotlight: K9 Lifelines
K9 Lifelines helps individuals with disabilities acquire lifesaving service dogs who aid their owners with day to day tasks that would otherwise be extremely difficult. K9 Lifelines specializes in psychiatric and mobility service dog; their experienced trainers provide fully trained service dogs and aid individuals training their own service dog through the entire process from selecting the right dog to advanced obedience training and specialized skills training to help mitigate their owners disability.
The inspiration for the idea came as a result of the experiences of K9 Lifelines' founder, Angela Miller. The John F. Wood Centre was lucky enough to get the inside scoop behind Angela's personal journey to entrereneurhsip. A journey fueld by a passion to improve life!
How did you come up with K9 Lifelines?
I came up with the idea of creating K9 Lifelines through my own struggles with severe psychiatric disorders my entire life. In first year of university, I was met with a new set of challenges. I struggled to leave the house even to run essential errands such as groceries and struggled to make it to lectures. When I was on campus, I faced a lot of anxiety and found it difficult to focus or get anywhere without having a panic attack. That’s when I discovered service dogs and learned that they can be trained to help individuals with psychiatric disabilities as well. I quickly realized there weren’t many resources or options available to acquire a psychiatric service dog; established service dog providers only trained psychiatric service dogs for veterans or first responders with PTSD and weren’t able to offer their services to civilians with psychiatric disorders. The only route a civilian with a psychiatric disorder could take to obtain a service dog was to train their own with the help of a trainer, but most pet dog trainers don’t have the knowledge and experience required to help train a service dog to the high standards required.
After years of shadowing professional pet dog and service dog trainers, taking classes, and attending seminars in dog training, animal behaviour and psychology, I decided to found K9 Lifelines to help guide individuals training their own service dogs and increase their odds of success. Training a service dog is a long and difficult process, but especially so when the individual is also balancing the effects of their disability with the needs of a training a dog into life-saving medical equipment.
What motivated you to take the next step and apply to the Hub?
As I continued to see more owners struggling to train their own service dogs and reaching out to me to help, I decided it was time to take the next step into making my dream and ideas a reality. I heard about the John F. Wood Center through a friend, who volunteered as a peer helper and after meeting with Tyler and discussing my idea of creating a service dog program to help individuals with disabilities train their own psychiatric service dog, and getting his input and support for my idea, I decided to take the next step and apply for the John F Wood Center Hub incubator program.
What do you hope to get out of the Hub?
When I first applied to the Hub incubator program, I had lots of knowledge and experience with service dogs, however, I knew very little about starting a business. The Hub incubator program was a great way to meet other entrepreneurs and gain more knowledge and guidance with starting my new business. I began my journey in the Hub Start program in Winter 2020 semester and continued to apply and get accepted into the Summer 2020 Hub Build program. Our bi-weekly hub sessions went over lots of important topics in starting and building your own business and we got guidance from mentors who have done all this before or that were experts in a field such as marketing and legal services. Having people to bounce new ideas off of and to give another opinion is so valuable while making decisions on how I want to present and market my program.
Do you have any advice for someone with a business idea in mind, but are not sure what to do next?
My biggest piece of advice to anyone who has a business idea and isn’t sure what to do next would be to reach out to others and get their input on your idea. You may be second guessing your idea and getting input from others can help you realize if your idea is viable and could be successful. Sometimes we all just need another person affirming our dream. There are so many great resources out there to help individuals wanting to become entrepreneurs that have an idea such as the John F. Wood Center.
Being an entrepreneur is a lot of work and can be overwhelming at times, so developing a strong support system; it will make the journey a lot easier. Having someone else to help you bring your idea to life, or the guidance of a program like the Hub and support from like-minded individuals, will be one of the most valuable tools you can give yourself. If you need help, reach out to your friends and family, you may be surprised with the connections they have that may be able to help you with areas you find challenging and grow your network.
Housed within the John F. Wood Centre for Business & Student Enterprise (Wood Centre), the Hub is a business incubator designed to support early-stage business ideas with high-potential, but unproven business models. The goal of the Hub is to provide University of Guelph students (undergraduate and graduate) and alumni the opportunity to build a successful business enterprise in a supportive learning environment.
The Hub has a tiered program that ensures a good mix of start-up companies at varying stages of growth. “Hub Start” is for ventures still getting their idea off the ground. These ventures typically have a great team and a great idea, but still have not demonstrated product-market fit with traction. “Hub Build” is for ventures with traction looking to refine their business model and/or scale.