New Jersey is home to many ambitious and talented women who juggle family, career, and home. A select few of these women are also extremely busy building their own companies to help better manage the balance of work and family. At NJMOM, we want to highlight these extraordinary women building New Jersey businesses, and learn the secret to their success.
Author, Presenter, Trainer, & NJMOMpreneur:
Kathy Santo Dog Training, Ramsey
Kathy Santo is the Director and head Trainer of Kathy Santo Dog Training in Ramsey, New Jersey. In addition to being a published author, accomplished competitor, presenter, columnist, and mother, Kathy teaches classes, private lessons, and oversees the training of her clients’ dogs with her award-winning techniques and expertise. She has acquired every competitive obedience title the American Kennel Club has to offer, and earned the prestigious “Obedience Trial Champion” title several times over. During her national book tour for Kathy Santo’s Dog Sense, Kathy made appearances on the Today Show, Fox and Friends, CNN, CBS Early Show, and was featured as a regular guest on the Martha Stewart Show. Kathy is known for the connections she makes with her clients and their dogs, and creating life-long relationships and friendships that make her part of the family.
NJMOM had the pleasure of speaking with Kathy Santo to learn about her love of training, what inspires her to operate her business on a daily basis, and her favorite things to do with her family in New Jersey.
NJMOM: What do you offer to your clients and how is it different than other professionals in your field?
Kathy: We offer customized dog training based on your dog’s unique personality and challenges, and we also create a personal connection with the student and their dog. Our students tell us that all the time – that we’re part of their family. And we feel the same way about them! My vision was to provide everything from training to playcare, to grooming, to a shoulder to cry on, or even a much needed pep talk.
Our mission is to help families create a dog “that everyone loves to have around.” That’s what people were thinking when they purchased or rescued a dog, but when the reality of ownership sets in, many times they became overwhelmed. With training and a lot of support from myself and my team, accomplishing that goal is something we achieve every day.
NJMOM: What inspired you to come up with the idea for your business?
Kathy: I knew that I wanted to be a dog trainer when I was very young. Competing in dog obedience trials was a great experience and was really the vehicle that brought me into teaching. The business itself happened organically – people who saw me compete at dog shows in Florida (where I lived for 8 years) wanted to train with me, and that’s how I started. Soon, I was teaching pet classes at a local shelter, and at that point, it grew from just competition training to a large, pet-oriented school. The strength of that school, as well as the one I have now in Ramsey is most certainly our dynamic, innovative teaching style that allows us to get the best from our students – both human and canine!
NJMOM: What is your favorite part about your business?
Kathy: There are so many favorite parts! First, my amazing team. Without them, we could never accomplish what we do. Every day brings more collaboration, innovation, and fun! Next, I love our wonderful students, as they are so dedicated to a positive outcome with their dogs and are willing to do what it takes to achieve that. Last, but certainly not least – the puppies and dogs! They all come to us with varying degrees of challenges, and because of that, are constantly encouraging us to innovate every day.
NJMOM: What is your background in your business expertise?
Kathy: Actually, none! From the beginning, I created a business model that felt good to me. Adding team members has brought a wealth of input and amazing ideas, and at the end of the day, I still lead and innovate based on how it feels. If it feels good, I do it. If it’s doesn’t, I don’t.
NJMOM: Who is your role model?
Kathy: Walt Disney. His relentless pursuit of leading edge thinking and innovation is inspirational to me.
“If you can dream it, you can do it.”
“All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.”
“It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.”
NJMOM: What’s the best piece of advice a role model ever gave to you?
Kathy: My grandmother used to tell me that she lived by the motto, “Treat people the way you’d like to be treated,” and that holds true for me in my personal relationships as well as in my business.
NJMOM: Do you have a favorite quote you live by?
“The secret to all success is keeping yourself happy.”
Kathy: I live this every day – it’s so very true! I believe that people should be nicer to themselves with their thoughts and actions, and then, by creating a happier you, you’ll create better interactions with the people in your life.
NJMOM: What are your favorite things to do in New Jersey with your family?
Kathy: My favorite things are going hiking any time of the year with my family and dogs, having dinner outside on our patio (even if it’s cold!), and going down the shore, of course. Having lemonade on the boardwalk brings me back to the 18 years of summers I spent at my grandparents’ house in Seaside Heights.
NJMOM: What is the best part about being a mom for you?
Kathy: I love the connection I have with my kids; we’re a very close family. Seeing them grow into amazing adults has been such a blessing. Some nights, just sitting together on the couch and talking about the day is everything. My husband and I both have our own businesses, and I know that they acquired a strong work ethic and dedication to service from watching us grow our own businesses.
NJMOM: What are your favorite businesses in New Jersey?
Kathy: There are so many! Buono Bagels on Route 17 in Ramsey has bagels that my team needs to have at least once a week. Without the Market Basket in Franklin Lakes, dinners when we’re having a “busy week” would be a lot more challenging. Going to Saddle River Equestrian and riding a horse twice a week is my substitute for going to the gym, and is the only time that I don’t think about anything other than staying in the saddle!
Jon at Rock Your Hair Studios in Midland Park keeps my hair looking great even though I have zero time to do it (and I’m usually emailing and talking to students during the entire appointment.) Christine Figliuolo of Creations By Christine Events coordinates our annual school party and she does an amazing job. We could never have the event without her handling the details.
Inserra Shoprite Supermarkets – Besides having everything I need for my daily home and school life, the Inserra’s are the kindest, most philanthropically minded family I’ve ever had the pleasure to know. Secor Farms is the best place to pick up plants during the spring and summer, and your Christmas tree in December!
NJMOM: Where do you reside and vacation in New Jersey?
Kathy: I live in Upper Saddle River, and my dog school is in Ramsey. Both have a wonderful small-town, family feel to them. My husband grew up in Upper Saddle River, and when we moved back, we bought the house he grew up in! We love to visit the shore – Seaside because I grew up down there during the summers when I was a kid, and Cape May as well.
NJMOM: Anything else you’d like to tell moms in New Jersey?
Kathy: I think New Jersey is a great place to raise a family. With relatively close access to the beach in the summer and skiing in the winter, and close proximity to New York City, it’s a place where you can find all types of fun all year round.