Seventeen years and one LiftFund loan later, Debra Sullivan has achieved her dream of financial independence. However, she admits that she couldn’t have dreamed of her small business success years ago when she was working in an office building databases. Her life changed when she lost her job as a result of a merger – not once, but twice within two years.
“My son was 16, I was a single mom, and after the second merger and layoff I lost everything,” Debra said. “I lost my cars. I lost my house. I filed for bankruptcy. I didn’t want to go back into the corporate world, so I started researching low cost startup businesses.”
Inspired by childhood experiences of working with her parents at dog shows, Debra decided to open Happy Houston Pets LLC, a group of dog-focused small businesses in 2000. Within a year and a half, she was managing the business full-time. Debra is particularly proud of her business Jackson’s Place: a unique, cage-free dog daycare and bakery named after her late Golden Retriever, Jackson.
“I didn’t know anything about starting a daycare… I gave myself a year to see if it would take off,” Debra said. “My proudest moment was 18 months later; I was officially in business, it wasn’t just a hobby anymore and I had to move to a bigger space.”
Debra’s journey with Jackson’s Place was just beginning. She soon outgrew her second location, and needed a loan to help renovate her next location to make it dog-friendly. Between her previous bankruptcy and medical bills, Debra knew she didn’t qualify for a traditional loan. Her accountant referred her to LiftFund, where she secured the capital she needed. When she retires, Debra plans to leave it to her son, John. ”The business will belong to John and his family,” she said, “I hope it continues on.”