Things I Learned at School

April 14, 2015

At Evermore we embrace a creative DIY mentality and a sense of playfulness. While this has been our general attitude since day one, there was a time a few years back when Alison and I strayed from trusting our instincts and stopped enjoying running our own business. We got the notion that since we had grown a certain amount, there was a specific way we “should” be doing things and that some fantasy expert or magic bullet approach could solve any challenges we were facing on the road to success. In reality, some of the biggest mistakes we have made as a company happened when we fell prey to the idea that an outside party could possibly know how to run Evermore better than we do. 

 

Luckily, we’re fast learners—especially with the positive reinforcement that comes with being authentic and doing what we love. We have also been inspired by serendipitous collaborators along the way, people we respect and admire who have helped emphasize our own necessary lessons—like remaining true to yourself, being flexible when faced with adversity, and turning lemons into lemonade. One of my most significant muses in this process has been Anna Jane Grossman, co-owner of School for the Dogs (SFTD) in NYC’s East Village. 

 

I first met Anna Jane in 2011, on the tail end (pun intended) of our Evermore Me press wave. At the time she was a journalist writing an article for the now-defunct ReadyMade magazine. She was also transitioning to a career as a dog trainer, which was mine as well before Evermore. We had a great rapport during our interview, and the resulting article was smart and funny. We became friends, and her dog Amos became a satisfied Evermore customer.

 

Fast forward two years to fall 2013. Anna Jane and her business partner Kate Senisi were successfully running SFTD out of Anna Jane’s NYC childhood apartment.  In particular, their innovative training techniques that teach dogs to interact with iPads were garnering a lot of media attention. (At the time, Evermore was struggling, and it had been a while since we had received any major press—I hate to admit it, but I had business envy.)

 

Then, on Dec. 29th, everything changed. An electrical fire ravaged Anna Jane’s apartment, destroying her studio and the accumulation of an entire life’s possessions. She was lucky to escape with her dog (and official SFTD headmaster) Amos and her cat Sylvia. Calling this a setback would be an understatement. It would be over a year before Anna Jane had her apartment back. In the meantime, while living the life of a nomad, she managed to launch a successful Indiegogo campaign and secured the space that with a little elbow grease would become School for the Dogs 2.0. 

 

In a very short time, SFTD has grown into an amazing learning center and a social hub for all things dog. They have a newly renovated space, with a bright interior and welcoming décor, that boasts a classroom, a library filled with books and educational toys, a yard for recess, and even a laser background for graduation photos. Their mission of making positive and scientifically sound “creative reward-based training methods” both fun and accessible permeates the business. Anna Jane’s ReadyMade past is apparent in every aspect of the décor, from the hand-lettered blackboards to the student photo collages at the front desk. When she booked a dog's birthday party in the space, she mined Pinterest for decoration ideas and executed with gusto. (I provided a custom Evermore cake, based on our signature pupcake recipe—which the dogs devoured). When they noticed puppy kindergarten classes often had social chemistry between the humans as well as the dogs, they decided to host a weekly Friday Night Doggies & Drinks happy hour in the back yard—which recently got a mention in the New York Times

I’ve learned a lot from SFTD and Anna Jane, though my education has had less to do with canine behavior and more to do with how I approach my role in running Evermore. I admire many things about the way she and Kate run their business, but the most salient thing—and the thing we have to keep to reminding ourselves with Evermore—is that they have fun with it. They do what appeals to them and don’t try to fit into any pre-existing mold. 

 

P.S. As mutual fans, their small retail space happily hosts a dedicated Evermore freezer, and we sell our food directly out of the space. That means I personally have the incredibly cute privilege of watching some of our customers in their puppy socialization classes. I also on occasion man the front desk, giving out free samples during puppy class or at hanging out at happy hour (also with free samples!). We even offer a special SFTD case price (in-store only). Come by sometime to say hi, learn about their great space and classes, and sample Evermore for your own pup! Follow us on Twitter to find out when I’ll be there.

 

School for the Dogs: 155 East 2nd Street (garden level) New York, NY 10009  (212) 353-3647

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