President and founder, Dairydell, Inc., PO Box 751378, Petaluma 94975, 707-762-6111, www.dairydell.com

Residence: Petaluma

Professional background:  Founded Dairydell in 1989; Founded Dog Talk Diva brand in 2011

Education: B.S from Cal Poly – San Luis Obispo

Graduate Studies in Business and Public Admin: Cal State Hayward,San Francisco State UniversityUC Berkeley

Staff: 19

Tell us about yourself and your company: The entrepreneurial bug bit early and by 1981, I was on my path.  I started Dairydell in 1989 -- a dog training hobby that soon became my livelihood.

Raised on my family’s Petaluma dairy, I learned the language of animals and that skill was to lead meto my eventual profession.  I now own and operate Dairydell Canine Doggie Dude Ranch & Training Center -- on a family ranch which I converted from cows to canines.

Under my newest Dairydell brand, Dog Talk Diva, I specialize in helping women find their power – starting but not ending with the family dog.  I’ve launched a new line of dog training products for women and am doing more public speaking.   My book, “LIPSTICK AND THE LEASH: Dog Training a Woman’s Way” released in March.

I’m excited for the future and where this path will take me.

Is there a major accomplishment in the past year or so that you would like to share?

Growing my company by over 73 percent since 2007 in a rotten economy – that was a major accomplishment.

I decided to expand my business in 2006, when the economy was strong and I was feeling pretty confident.  Little did I know the economic monster that was waiting around the corner!  I opened the doors of my expanded facility in October, 2007.  We all know what happened next. 

In spite of the worst economic climate in recent memory, the company managed to grow exponentially between 2007 and now.  I’m indeed proud of that – and very grateful.

What is the achievement you are most proud of?

Of all the things I’ve done in my field, I am most proud of establishing my new Dog Talk Diva brand which identifies women as the target audience;  74 percent of every dog-owning household leaves dog training to a woman, yet no one had targeted her special needs in this area.  I am so excited to pioneer this field. 

As part of breaking new ground in the women’s market, I’m also proud of  publishing my first book, “LIPSTICK AND THE LEASH: Dog Training a Woman’s Way,”  and achieving Best-Seller status in the first month.

What is your biggest challenge today? Staffing and controlling payroll in a seasonal business is my biggest challenge. Maintaining a core staff of highly trained professionals is critical in a high-end service business like mine, but wildly fluctuating revenue can make that very difficult.

Every month I work on broadening our non-seasonal business services and revenue streams that can help even out cash flow peaks and valleys.  Meeting challenges is how we make our businesses better!

Words that best describe you: That’s an interesting question.  Let’s see, I think the words that best describe me would be:InnovationPassionCourageHumorService

As a successful female professional, what were the biggest obstacles you faced and how did you overcome them?

I encountered no professional obstacles due to my being a woman.  My obstacle, if there’s been one, has been other dog trainers, most of which are women themselves.  I have found that dog training is a lot like religion – different doctrines each passionately argued by their followers. Dog trainers are a zealous lot, I must say.

I learned early on, however, to ignore petty talk and give fully to others while following my heart and experience.  Rising above politics with kindness and a smile; that’s how I clear my obstacles.

How do you think your profession will change in the next five years? Happily, dog training is not likely to be outsourced to China nor computerized anytime soon.  I think the pet business in general and dog training in particular will continue strong through the next five years and far beyond.

People love dogs and want them to be part of their families, yet they are at a loss as to how to effectively train and control them.  As women’s lives in particular become busier and busier, they have less and less time to devote to the family dog, and less patience toward his naughty behavior.  That’s when they call me.

What advice would you give to a young woman entering your profession or the work world today?

First and foremost, do not be profit-motivated.  I know that sounds strange, coming from someone being honored for business success, but clients can feel the difference between a money-driven person and one that one that truly wants to help them. They distrust the former but gladly give their business to the latter.  The irony is, when you are service-driven and clients trust you, the money comes.   I tell young businesswomen to help people solve problems.  Be honest, care, treat your clients like your best friends and expect to work long hours.  “Drive home in the dark,” as they say.  And when the money comes … be careful with it.

Who was your most important mentor? And tell us a little bit about that person:

My most important mentor was definitely my dad, Dick Gray.  He was proof that entrepreneurship can exist in any industry.  My dad was a local dairyman, but always strived to be on the leading edge of his industry. He believed in being the first, the biggest and the best. 

I saw in my dad everything that exemplifies an entrepreneur:  a passion for his profession, the thrill of pursuing a new idea or project,  pride when risks paid off and most of all I witnessed his courage and indomitable sense of optimism – even in the face of failure.  Failure is an inevitable part of being an entrepreneur after all; what you do with that failure makes all the difference.  Optimism, willingness to learn from mistakes and believing in yourself are key.  He taught me all those things.

Most admired businessperson outside your organization:

To say I most admired Benny Friedman (founder of Friedman Bros.) would be an understatement.  I was in awe of him. Benny was another self-made man. My father and Benny were school friends, and Dad told me that when his father died at a young age, Benny had to drop out of high school and support his entire family.  With no formal training -- just smarts, guts and a natural business savvy, Benny – along with his siblings -- made Friedman Bros. what it is today.  More than his business success, however, I admired Benny Friedman’s  extraordinary support of his community and his charitable giving which impacts our county to this day.  He did all of this quietly, without ever calling attention to himself.  Benny Friedman was a truly great man and should be an inspiration to us all.

Current reading: “Brand Like a Rock Star,” by Steve Jones.  Best marketing book I’ve ever read! So inspirational that I immediately put some of its advice into practice in my own company. 

Who do you most want to meet: That’s easy.  I’d love to meet and get to know Oprah Winfrey.  I admire her for many reasons.  She is the ultimate self-made women, entrepreneur and industry leader.  But most importantly, she seems to have a caring and giving heart. That’s greatness in my book.

Stress relievers: Sitting at Starbucks, brainstorming with my latte, pad and paper. Stress for me is missing a good idea!

Favorite hobbies: Riding and training my horses.  The fresh air, the oneness with nature, the rhythm and smell of the horse takes me back to my childhood on the farm.  Riding also requires full concentration in the moment – everything else is left behind.  It’s my nirvana.