Behind the Billboard
(0:00:01) KL: Do you think animals can help business leaders?
(0:00:04) Intro: Welcome to the Behind the Billboard Podcast, a living, breathing, interactive conversation about getting better as a leader, a team and as a person. We believe that success is all about people and we are on a mission to help you grow. Here is your host, Kris Lindahl.
(0:00:20) KL: In this episode I had the opportunity to interview a very inspiring leader, Rachel Mairose, the Founder and Executive Director of Second Hand Hounds. I really enjoyed listening to how animals can connect with human beings and really you as a business leader. There are so many opportunities out there to make an impact with animals, which also help human beings. I hope you enjoy this episode as much as I did.
(0:00:47) KL: Before we really get into details about Second Hand Hounds and where you are today, I always like to go back to the beginning and the journey of where this all started and just really talk about the beginning.
(0:00:57) RM: Yeah. Totally! Well, I was born as a second born. The firstborn was the dog, if that gives you any idea of how I was raised. They always joked that Addy, their dog, was their firstborn and I was like second fiddle. I grew up in a family that was very passionate about animals and animal welfare. Really hand in hand with animals. I remember in third grade me and my neighborhood friends would build these little rafts and we would go to this little pond by our house and go out on this raft and we would collect turtles. We would fall in the lake more than we would actually catch turtles, but we would catch these turtles and then we would paint numbers on their backs with nail polish and then track their pond migrations. It was kind of weird thing to do as a kid, but I think that I was always connected with nature. I always wanted to be outside and experiencing any interaction with animals that I possibly could get. It was in high school that I kind of made it my own individual passion by getting into the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Minnesota, which is still an active and wonderful organization that I am wholeheartedly supportive of. Anyway, I worked with bats a lot. I became aware of this intrinsic value of animals. It was like this respite from this day-to-day crud of life. Right? In high school there is a lot of drama and there is a lot of crap and it was so amazing to be able to go and kind of find my zen. I found that in animals.
(0:02:29) KL: So you get done with high school, and then what do you do next?
(0:02:32) RM: Yeah. I went to Wash U in St. Louis. Great school. I loved it. I always knew that I wanted to do something with animals obviously. I thought I wanted to be a vet and took a math class in college and had to withdraw. I was like flunking it. Kind of like a wakeup call for me because high school was very easy for me and then college was like another ballgame, so I was like, okay, I need to reassess what I want to do with my life. I studied environmental science and then environmental law and animal behavior. I spent a year studying otters and their stereotypic behavior in zoos and I didn’t really know what I wanted to do but I knew I wanted to be involved in making a change in the community and hopefully in the world, so I decided that prelaw was the new Rachel, I guess.
(0:03:20) KL: The new Rachel.
(0:03:21) RM: The new Rachel. I got really excited about it. I took a lot of pre law classes and was about to apply to law school but my boyfriend at the time, who is now my husband, was like, “Well, I really want to go to med school.” I thought a really good recipe for disaster was one in law school and one in med school. I said I will take a back seat and I will do my own thing and maybe make a baby or two, which I did, like while you are in med school. At that point decided to just spend my time volunteering. So, after college, and well, during college, I had been involved with these shelters and rescues in St. Louis. I met my first pit bull terrier and fell in love with the breed and realized there was this massive stereotype against them. Looking at the media as well and figuring out how I could change people’s perception about this breed. That was really exciting for me in college, so when I got done with college and did not go to college, I decided to find a rescue in the Twin Cities that I could really get behind. I volunteered for a few of them but I didn’t find my niche and I think a lot of people can relate to that when you don’t feel as connected as you wish you had for the rescue. I learned a lot from these rescues. My next step was well, why can’t I start one myself? I was seven months pregnant at the time. It probably wasn’t the smartest idea, but I like to joke that the hormones made me do it. I felt like I was superwoman and I could do anything. I remember sitting in my mom’s porch and I said, “Mom, I think I want to start a rescue.” She was like, “You are nuts!” Like, get that idea out of your head. You are about to have a baby. I know you are bored right now, but you will not be. I promise. It kept being a nagging thought in the back of my head and I remember going back to my mom and saying, “No, I am really going to do this, so help me come up with a name.” That was the day that Second Hand Hounds was born.
(0:05:16) KL: What year was this?
(0:05:19) RM: This was in 2009. That conversation happened in June. By August I was applying for 501(c)(3) paperwork and I had accepted the first dog into Second Hand Hounds, which was a little pit bull terrier. The pittie’s name was Toast. Super cute. Little tiny black and brown and white guy. I fell in love with him. He just had so much energy and passion and excitement. I remember writing my first business plan and saying I will never have more than 30 dogs in the rescue at any one time because I want to get to know each dog personally and I want to make sure if one of my fosters bails on me, which, we are a foster based rescue. We might talk about that more in a little bit. But, if every one of the fosters bails on me, I think I can handle 30 dogs for a couple of days. I wanted to make sure I was doing it the right way. We blew those numbers out of the water very quickly. Now, we have 400-500 animals at any one time in the rescues.
(0:06:22) KL: Could you give like a really detailed description of what Second Hand Hounds is and what your mission is?
(0:06:27) RM: For sure! So, Second Hand Hounds is a foster-based animal rescue. We are based in the Twin Cities so we utilize foster homes from all over Minnesota, really. We take animals from high kill shelters. We take animals from animal control facilities. We take owner surrender animals where people are not able to keep their animals or it is not a good fit. We also take animals from natural disasters. For example, during hurricane Harvey, we drove down and rescued a bunch of animals in that case. So, they come from all sorts of different places. Most of the animals are close to euthanasia when we take them, and then once they come to us we put them in foster homes, which are just like the foster care system for children. Our fosters take them in and care for them and love them like they are their very own until we find an adoptive home for them. We provide everything the foster homes need like food, crates, toys, vet care, all the things. The goal is that it is free for the foster home other than time and love. Then, we put them on our website and find great fits for them. We do every sort of dog and cat. We do babies. We have a neonatal programs where we get one day old little tiny babies. We have a teeny tiny French Bulldog right now that is super adorable. We have a senior program so we take hospice dogs and cats that might be able to be adopted but they still deserve that love and that compassion and care are the end of their life. I have a Great Dane from the rescue. We have purebreds. We have muts. We have literally everything you could ever imagine. Whenever someone is like, well I want a specific breed so I have to go to a breeder; I am like, “No, no, no. Come talk to me first.” I will tell you. I will be honest if that is a breed that we never see in rescue or if we can get you one. I always tell people take a shot at a rescue first, because you never know.
(0:08:18) KL: 2009 you start this really crazy idea that is in your head. You really don’t have anyone else that is a part of it at that point. As you started to grow, there are obliviously challenges that show up. Maybe talk about some of those learning opportunities or failures that happened along the way that really created where Second Hand Hounds is today. Like, if they were challenges with other organizations, or if they were people challenges. Some of those things early on. What kinds of things presented themselves?
(0:08:42) RM: Well, the animal rescue community has a very huge of predominately women, which is great and it is very empowering and I love that, but it also comes with a lot of emotion and some kooky characters to say it nicely. When I started, I had been involved in another organization prior to and I left that organization in order to do this. The third week I was actively rescuing I started having some of my supporters contract me and say they had been getting these letters from an anonymous source saying I was adopting out puppies with parvovirus, which is one of the most deadly viruses there is. Which was not true. It was shocking to me that someone would go to those extremes to knock me down and ruin my organization. At that point, I knew that I had two options. I could throw in the towel and say it is not worth the drama. Life is too short. Why put myself through this? Or I could say I am not going to let the bullies get me down. That was an important pivotal point in Second Hand Hounds where I decided not to engage the bullies which has been hugely successful to the success of this organization but also to not let them deter me from my goals. I think you want to believe that everyone has good intentions. I think that I still want to believe that. I am an internal optimist, but I decided to concentrate on the people that I knew had the good intentions and really rely on them and lean on them for support when things like that happen, because I was like, “Who the heck does this?” I had my tires slashed. It was a bad thing, right? And you think of bullying kind of as a kid thing but it really isn’t especially when you are talking about the social media age with online bullying. It can get really severe and I think people need to realize to keep their chin up. If you concentrate on your passion and what you think is right, no one can really get you down. That was a big learning lesson for me for sure. In the beginning I was a one-woman show. I had fosters but I was doing every part of the job. I was literally in labor with my daughter texting people like, “I am in labor, but I should be having her in the next two and then I will get back with you.”
(0:10:52) KL: Crazy.
(0:10:53) RM: But that was what you did! Who else is going to do it? Right? I had my daughter on October 1, and we took our first dog in in August. Literally 7 weeks after I started Second Hand Hounds I was in labor and that is not a time you can bounce out of your business. You can’t be like, “Oh, hey, I am going to take a two week maternity leave.” No. That was not an option. That was hard. It is hard work. I think starting a business in general is hard work and you have to be able to put in hours, but if you are passionate about it and you believe in what you are doing, then it is worth it, but you have to find those people around you that are helping you and supporting you and then valuing them and making them feel appreciated, that is how it grows. If I was still a one-woman show I would still be adhering to that 30-dog limit, but I am able to do it because of the people I have surrounded myself with.
(0:11:42) KL: How do you attract those types of people? How did you find people that believed in the same thing that you did and the same thing that the organization did?
(0:11:49) RM: Just being really explicit with your intentions and your values. If you are communicating those out and sending those out into the world you will get the right people back. That is not to say you will not get some of the wrong people back. I think that everyone has to expect that you will have a few bad apples so to speak and learn how to deal with those people and also learn how to decipher and then direct your intentions towards people that are not like that. Don’t let those people get you down. I don’t think there is this secret formula. Like, if I do x, y, and z I will only attract the good people. But I think you can do certain things, like I said sharing your values and your expectations. Putting out your good energy is going to attract mostly the right people and then not being discouraged when you get a few people that are not in line with your values. Then holding on to the people that you find are valuable fiercely and fighting for them and showing them everyday that you appreciate them and you need them is the way to keep them and attract new people like that. There are certain organizations, and not just in animal rescue, but across the board that love dramatics, and so they attract people that are dramatic. I am the opposite. I always tell people that I am allergic to drama. So the people that are also allergic to drama tend to gravitate towards me. Talking about it and being honest with people from the very beginning will mostly attract the right people.
(0:13:21) KL: So what size is your organization now? How many people? How many animals are you helping? Just put some of this into perspective where your organization is today.
(0:13:29) RM: Well, we rescue about 3,000 animals a year. Just over 17,000 animals saved since 2009. We have 15 staff members but we also just added 5 staff members and are opening a vet clinic, which is really exciting. We have about 2,000 active volunteers at any one time. We need volunteers for every single thing that we do as an organization so we are always looking for new people and new energy to come into our organization and help in various kinds of ways from intake to training to office hours to fostering. There is always room for more people and we are excited about that.
(0:14:11) KL: How do you get volunteers?
(0:14:12) RM: In the beginning it was like begging it was like begging my friends and family to volunteer. Like, “Oh, hey! Can you foster this dog Mom and Dad?” But the good thing about when you are giving your intentions out there and you are communicating who you are as a person, it tends to be a trickle or butterfly effect. If you are attracting a few people and they have a good experience, they are telling their friends. They are saying, “Hey, you need to come with me to Second Hand Hounds. It was a great experience. We did” x, y, z. Social media age is hugely important. I equate a huge amount of my success to social media. Not a lot of rescues were doing that in 2009. It was kind of a after thought of the organizations that have been around for 20 years because it wasn’t what they were built on. Well, Second Hand Hounds was built on social media, on our Facebook page and being able to share pictures and stories on social media and having it hit hundred of people without five minutes it shows what Second Hand Hounds is about and what we are doing and that is how we are attracting new volunteers. That holds true today, 9 years later. So, that is one way that we do it. Another way is just getting out in the community and whether that is through newspaper or fliers or anything. Right? Kind of grassroots movements and trying to reach every type of demographic and showing who Second Hand Hounds is as an organization and a group. People want to come to it. We have never had a problem find volunteers since we started. The first six months were rough and then after that it seemed to be pretty natural. I am a people person as much as I am a dog person or a cat person. I love people and I think that had come through the organization and hopefully has kept making people gravitate towards us.
(0:15:58) KL: It is so funny how so much of this comes back to the people no matter what industry you are in. It has been one commonality that I have picked up and noticed from everyone I have interviewed so far. It is always about the people. It is rarely about the cause or the organization or the non-profit or the business. So, there had to be a moment in the entire business where it was either really going to work or something was going to change. What was one single moment you could look back on and think that was the pivotal moment that opened the door to this opportunity, like, what would that moment be?
(0:16:30) RM: So in 2011, I hired my first staff member and for me that was the pivotal moment. I remember talking to my board about it and saying I really think we need to hire people and not pay them chump change. I was like; we need to be able to make this a career for somebody. That is a huge taboo in animal rescue. When I started, I didn’t pay myself the first year and when I did hire somebody, I actually paid her more than I was making myself. I always felt like it was so important in order to keep people from burning out and to keep the energy solid and to keep driving the organization forward that we needed to pay people and pay them a livable wage. I got a lot of push back from that because people think that we should be martyrs and I think there is a big difference between being a change maker and being a martyr and people don’t see that difference enough. I don’t think anyone needs to go bankrupt for their organization. I don’t think that they need to be financially struggling and keep finding volunteers who work 1, 2, or 3 jobs and do this on top of it. I don’t think it is fair for the people in the organization and I don’t think it is fair for the organization. We would not be able to save a tenth of the animals we have if we didn’t have employees. Making that decision for the organization for me was a huge turning point to hire staff members and pay them. It made it way more about the community and about them then it was about me.
(0:18:03) KL: There have to be people. You can’t impact 3,000 animals with no one. If there is no income and they have no livelihood and you can’t take care of your people, then they can’t take care of the animals.
(0:18:16) RM: Exactly!
(0:18:17) KL: Then you get into process and who is actually going to roll this out and coordinate 2,000 volunteers. All of those things need people to get there and that is a really good point. Something I have noticed and it might be generational, but it is the way we give today is way different than it was even in 2009. How is that evolving for Second Hand Hounds? What things are you trying to do differently? What kinds of things do you see will be different in the future and how will you try to continue to raise money for your organization?
(0:18:43) RM: Right. I agree with you. It has changed over the last almost ten years. Story telling is hugely important to people and that is what they want to see. They want to see directly where their money is going. By storytelling, I think that is best way to get that out.
(0:18:59) KL: The days of handing an organization a check and not knowing what is happening are over. That is the way non-profit was for years and years and years. I am going to give you a check and I am just going to trust that you are going to make the right choices with it. You know, and when you are connected to a story, there is that emotional value. It is really why GoFundMe has taken off the way that it has with social media. I can contribute directly to a cause or to someone. The challenge with the GoFundMe and the platforms like that is that it doesn’t hold people accountable to what they were raising the money for.
(0:19:32) RM: The proof is in the pudding. Right? Like here is what happened in 2019 because of your donation. Saying that in 2020 and giving an annual report or even a direct story. We have the option on our website where you can go and sponsor an animal and we actually send you a certificate with pictures of the animal. You did that, right? You saved that animal. That life. I think that is exactly right. With a 501(c)(3) non-profit you have a little more of that proof that things are actually happening. I think it is a lot because of our generation but I also think I see it spreading out to every generation because people are talking about it. Nobody knew if they weren’t into animals about that little animal rescue down the street in the 1950’s. Why would you know? But now, because of social media and people talking about it and doing that $20 donation that actually impacts a specific animal, people are talking about it and I think that is the biggest important thing. Also to be connected to your donors and your donor base without being invasive or abusing that. I want to stay engaged with people, but I also don’t want them to feel like I am the fly buzzing around their head at all times. You want to give them enough information but you don’t want to just totally flood their inbox so it becomes something they don’t even pay attention to. It is a dance. Right? That is another thing going to the future and making sure we are learning from our misses and learning from our successes. Give To The Max Day is an incredible day of giving in Minnesota for anyone who is not from Minnesota. It is a day where there is this huge platform, GiveMN, and we raise literally tens of millions of dollars for Minnesota non-profits. It gives you a change to learn about new non-profits and to donate to what matters to you. Last year our average donation was $30 and we raised well over $100,000.00. It just goes to show you that it is the amount of people that are backing you up not necessarily those huge donors.
(0:21:44) KL: I hear it often that even if it is just a dollar you have to give or $500.00 or whatever you can give will make a difference and with social media thousands and thousands of people that follow you on social media follow you on social media things can grow really quickly. So with social media there are some real positives to it but also some negatives. For business leaders that are listening that might have some influence on their social media pages, what are some recommendations of things that you think that you think they should do and some things you think they should be cautious of?
(0:22:13) RM: Yeah. I think that for social media, sharing what you are doing is important on a regular basis. Utilizing photography and people that can write. Like good writers. Huge. Anything that is going to get people to share it, those are good things. I would say even more important is things to avoid. Engaging the bullies like we were talking about before. People love to troll. The keyboard warriors. Everyone has an opinion and I think you need to figure out where you stand before you post anything divisive. Then you have to hold true to yourself without insulting or doing the same thing that they are doing to you back to them. Stay above the muck. That has always been something that has stayed in the back of my mind. I don’t have time for that. Do what you are supposed to be doing but don’t engage with anyone who doesn’t think you that are doing the right thing. Also, everyone is entitled to their own opinion. What you do is not right. It is not wrong. It is your opinion and it is who you are as a person. Stay true to that and I don’t think you can go wrong. A mistake is thinking that you can change minds through anything combative. I think constructive conversation is the only way to get opinions or minds changes. Maybe your goal shouldn’t be changing a mind. Maybe it should just be educating on your perspective. For example, I am not against breeders. A lot of people have the misperception that all animal people hate all breeders and it is not true. I support breeders that do it a certain way. I do not support puppy mills. I do support breeders that are breeding rare breeds that I am not ever going to find in rescue and that are bred for a purpose. If someone tells me they are going to breed their lab over and over and over against, I am not going to say them are wrong. I am going to ask them why and I am going to engage them in a thoughtful conversation and hopefully they can take something away from it and hopefully I can too. I think that if you always think that you are the teacher and everyone else is the student that is not good for you. I like to think of myself as a professional student and I learn from every interaction I have. Just because I am a leader of an organization does not mean that I have this higher knowledge or power. I still have the ability to learn and to listen and to engage and that has been so impactful and important to me running an organization as large as this one.
(0:24:34) KL: That is great advice. Any really impactful leader that is running a successful organization has never had a conversation with me and said they have it all figured out. Never. Not one time. It is a journey of trying to figure out and learn. There are always things to learn. I have learned so many things just in our interview today. I think it is a constant journey of becoming a better person. This is something I have noticed, and it is totally from the outside, but I have noticed certain comments at certain times. Maybe they are trolls. Maybe it is more prevalent then even I have noticed, but people say things like well why don’t they help more humans? Our country is in need. Or why don’t they go help this country or we have people that are starving. I know you have personally heard that before and I think you have a perspective that is different than I have ever heard on how that is helping more than animals. Maybe share like when you get those types of comments what is your response to things like that?
(0:25:31) RM: I think it is a really good point. There is a lot of need in the world. I can’t fulfill every one of them personally and neither can you listening or you, Kris. Right? We can’t do everything so I think it is really important to find out what resonates with you whether that is people or animals or the environment or whatever it is and then make sure that you are talking the talk and walking the walk. With that being said, I always find it funny when people say why help animals when you could be helping people because we help so many people. I personally struggle with mental health. I am very open and honest about this because I think it is an important conversation to have. I have panic disorder and generalized anxiety disorder and a couple of other things and doing animal rescue has saved my life. I can literally say that. It gives me purpose and it drives me forward. It helps me be a healthier person. I have gotten so many letters from people who say they were about to just call it quits. I had one person send me a letter anonymously that said I was really close to suicide and I found this organization and I got involved and I found purpose and it saved my life and thank you. Those sort of sentiments and letters and even on a lesser degree, I was in a bad spot of depression or my anxiety was through the roof and I didn’t know how to take a step forward but I found animals and that helped inspire me and give me purpose. We are helping people. You know? It might not be as directly impacting as saving an animal from a shelter or clothing a homeless child, but we are helping people. This is not about the organization and our mission statement. It is about the people of the organization. That is the lifeblood of the organization. That is who we are made of and who makes this organization great. When I think about the impact that the animals have had on my life and the lives of so many volunteers and fosters, it really shows that it is a two way street. These animals are not these little victims that need our help and that we come in on our white horses and we rescue. They don’t just need use to rescue them. They are rescuing us just as much and how cool is that? I do understand it, and I want to help people more and more. I think that is why the direction of our rescue is changing a little bit in 2019 with trying to offer more help to people. We get phone calls at our office on a regular basis that are people who are homeless or they need to go into an addiction treatment center or they are being deployed oversees to serve our country. I see all of these things and they don’t have anywhere for their pets to go. That is something that Second Hand Hounds wants to get more involved in because it is not just about the animals. It is about people too, and the community at large.
(0:28:32) KL: So I heard you mention vet clinic earlier. So, I hear vet clinic and I initially think okay, it relates to animals but you also said we have to stay focused, there are a lot of things we can do and there are things and needs in the world. How do you stay focused without getting distracted with so many other things you could be doing because there are a lot of needs in our country.
(0:28:57) RM: I think that is a great point. I should first explain what vet clinic means a little bit more. We spend about 1.2 million dollars in vet care a year. The majority of our expenses are vet fees, so it makes sense to try to internalize some of these by creating our own vet clinic and hiring our own vets and hopefully it will save a lot of money so we can go and do more work and rescue more lives.
(0:29:21) KL: So smart.
(0:29:21) RM: Yeah. Businesswise, it just makes sense. Then I talk about how want to do respite care and duh-duh-duh-duh. The core problem is rescuing animals that are homeless and that don’t have a family. For non-profits it is important to create your mission statement so that it is direct but it allows for room for outward growth. I don’t think an organization should become an octopus so to speak and have all of these arms in every direction, but I do think you need room to grow where it is fit. We have a three-part mission statement and the final part is to inspire change and that was put in there strategically because we want to be able to inspire change in our community and we didn’t want to put walls around what that meant to us. At the time it meant something that it might not mean in five years. I think it needs to be flexible enough that it encompasses new ideas and new vision statements and growth but in general, I think you need to stay on a trajectory that makes sense for your organization. Our core program will always be animal rescue, but what does animal rescue mean? We can define it in a different way.
(0:30:27) KL: You guys could do a lot of other things, but then it takes away from what your actual real mission is. It is super easy to get distracted really quickly. For you, it could be one note that you receive or one conversation you have with a volunteer that gives you an idea.
(0:30:44) RM: I think that is the whole thing. Leaders, in general, are idea people.
(0:30:47) KL: Yeah. Visionaries.
(0:30:49) RM: We are visionaries, so we are always excited… maybe overexcited.
(0:30:54) KL: We love our ideas. They are all good.
(0:30:55) RM: Every idea is good! And so surrounding yourself with those people. Claire is like my anchor. She is our operations director and I always say I am like the balloon floating in the sky, and she is like holding onto my string saying like, “Alright Rachel, let’s keep this grounded.” For a non-profit, my board is the same way. It is a selection of people that are dreamers but also executers so you need to have a good mix of those people in your organization because you are right. I would be doing 18 things at once if it wasn’t for them saying, “Alright, Rachel. We will get there but lets take our time and be strategic about it.” That is why I couldn’t ever do this alone. Nothing would be done like it has been if it wasn’t for the people around me.
(0:31:42) KL: It is always important to have people around you to challenge you or help you grow, or just to look at things differently and fill in those blind spots. Having that person in your organization whether you own it or you are part of an organization, it really can hone you in and bring that balloon back down to the ground when you get real crazy. I can totally relate. So I think about joy and I think about all of the smiling faces and pets and all of the impact you have made. There are some incredible things happening at Second Hand Hounds. One that stands out and one that I want to do with our organization is some of these trips that you have been doing.
(0:32:13) RM: Right. Well, another taboo in animal rescue sometimes is not staying within your community and rescuing only in Minnesota or in the Twin Cities. I have always said that we will fulfill a need where we see a need. For example, going down to Harvey and taking animals. Well, we drove a huge truck down there and gave supplies and then brought animals back up. I have never felt like geographic location was an important thing because, “Oh, you are in a different country you are not worthy of being saved,” or, “Your own country should take care of you.” There are a lot of different mindsets in the world about animals and animal welfare. So, the time that this actually took hold of me was we had a… it is called The Little Adoption Shop and it is in Beijing and they contacted me and said, “We have all of these dogs. Are they dogs that would fit in your organization?” And they sent me this picture of 40 or more little cute adorable dogs in a yard together just looking adorable and they said all of these dogs are from the meat market trade. They were rescued from a meat market truck that was going to slaughter. It just hit me in the gut, right? Like, oh my gosh! This is something that I need to be involved in. So I said, “Yes, of course! Are they friendly?” “Yes, they are super friendly.” “Are they healthy?” “Yes, they are healthy.” “Great, start sending them over.” So, they have been sending us dogs from Beijing. They are the best dogs in the world. They are the cutest. I should get you some pictures. They are so friendly. Every single one of them people have come to me and said, “This dog changed my life and I can’t believe this dog was headed for the meat market trade.” I was very interested in this and how we could make this work and not be a financial strain on the organization, so Sally Mars she is a ridiculously amazing human had come to me and had talked about rescuing dogs from Mexico. I basically said, “Hey, do you want a bigger position? Let’s make it a program and call it Second Hand Hounds International.” And she was like, “Oh, yes. I am totally on board.” She is a dreamer, like I am. We have been taking dogs internationally. It was just the one-year anniversary last week. What we do is we partner with organizations or companies or just individual people that are going on vacation already. Or, like Media Bridge sends people down on a monthly basis. Tracy is the CEO of Media Bridge and she was like, “We love this cause so we want to do more.” So she sends someone from her team down to Mexico once a month and they pick up a dog or two, or even a cat, and bring them back to Second Hand Hounds and it is a win-win situation. We look for flight angels; as we call them, so if you are traveling to Mexico or Beijing or really anywhere and want to see it there is potential to save an animal on the way back, hit us up! It is a cool way for people to get involved and do something philanthropic on their vacation or their business trip.
(0:35:16) KL: What a neat idea. So far in this episode what has really stuck out to me is your passion level for helping animals and being a part of Second Hand Hounds. For those listening who maybe haven’t connected with their passion yet or don’t feel that same connection their organization, what advice would you give to someone who maybe isn’t in that position today?
(0:35:25) RM: Yeah. I think that is a really good question. I think if you don’t feel personally connected to what you are doing in life or in your free time, well first give yourself credit that you are even thinking about it. I think that is the first step. I think a lot of people just walk through life and do a to b, and b to c, and don’t really think about their greater impact in the world and so the fact that you are thinking about it is wonderful. Second thing is give yourself time to get to know different causes and organizations and don’t expect that you have to feel impassioned or committed to the first thing that you try. I mean I have been involved in so many organizations growing up and I loved most of them but when you personally connect to something you will know it. Keep going until you find it and you feel like you actually don’t think you could live without doing that. Not everyone is going to make it a career like I did, but at the same time, you should feel so excited and energized and it should never seem like a chore it should seem like a pleasure. I call it my meditation. This is a benefit to me as a human being, not only to the community and to the world. So, I think that is important and don’t pigeon hole yourself. You can have multiple passions and multiple things that you do. When we talk about not octopusing but going out a little bit, it is similar. Second Hand Hounds does a program called Second Hand Hope and we have our volunteers with their dogs or cats go to memory care units or senior living communities and assisted living communities and just spend time with the people that live there with their animals, because a lot of those people miss having pets, and it is just cathartic and it is just this therapy for everyone involved. So, if you love old people, and you love dogs, it is a win-win. There are organizations that do this sort of thing. It might give you two our of your three passions. Really take time to invest in research and making sure you are not just like, “I tried two things and it didn’t work so I am just not a philanthropic person.” No, you probably are, you just need to find what you are really passionate about. I feel so fortunate that I found that at a young age and I get to do this on a daily basis. It is a dream come true. I hope everyone gets to have that feeling that I have.
(0:38:00) KL: Along the way, there must have been some advice that you receiving that really sticks out in your head. What was some great advice you received from 2009 to where you are today?
(0:38:12) RM: I think especially in running an organization making sure to show people you appreciate them is so important. It is hard, you guys. It is not easy. I think about how appreciative and happy I am with everyone I work with. Whether they do a huge job or a tiny job. I just don’t have the hours in the day to show people that. I think training the people you work with by leading by example to be appreciative and to be emphatic is so vastly important in the health of any organization or company because people that feel appreciated and know how much they are appreciated are going to do such a better job and they are going to treat people with the same appreciation and respect. Another big one for me is expectations. I was told that expectations are 90% of whether someone was satisfied or dissatisfied with an outcome. That piece of advice has stuck with me forever because anytime anyone is upset about something it is about their expectations were not met or they were not given expectations and so that has been something that has been really, really important to me. Making sure people know what to expect so they are not disappointed or discouraged. I also think that your opinion is just that. It is your opinion and to not think of other humans as having a wrong or a right opinion because there is not wrong or right opinion and respecting that in others. I think those are big pieces of advice I have received. In general, just keep going. Anyone who has started a business or an organization or even been involved and had an issue or a bad day, it is easy to just want to quit, right? I have had multiple people say you just need to take a breath and keep going. You are headed in the right direction. I have been sure to communicate that to others. I think sharing the advice you get with others is important too because even though you got past your bad day, someone else might not be past their bad day and now that you have learned it, share it. Give it out in the world.
(0:40:19) KL: The energy is this world has really become more emphatic and people want to be a part of an organization where people are displaying that towards them. If you are a business leader and you are not acknowledging the people you are around that is a really big mistake and you really need to change that right away because people do want to be acknowledged and they want to be a part of a community.
(0:40:39) RM: Yeah. And it is not only about verbal acknowledgement. Right? Sometimes I feel like it almost gets inauthentic and it is not but I feel like it does because if I am telling you how much I love you everyday, it is like, “Oh, does she say that to everybody everyday?” Make sure to show them in non-verbal ways as well is really important and to share their wins and their successes with others is hugely important because like you said, this is a community working together. If I am only communicating with the person I am in front of, and the person next to them doesn’t know their successes, they are not going to feel involved in this community. I hope people know how much the people at the top really care about each and every one of them even if they can’t be in front of them every single day telling them that.
(0:41:23) KL: A lot of times it is not always verbal. It is not the words, it is the actions a lot of the times. You are right, if it is just someone every single day saying, “I love you, I love you, I love you,” it doesn’t feel genuine. Sitting here right now I feel the level of energy that you love what you are doing and you love the impact that your organization is making and when you can feel that it is a completely different thing than someone who is not genuine and is just saying something and you leave and you think that person doesn’t even care about me, and so there are so many different ways to acknowledge. It is not just verbal. It is not just text message or email. That is the risk of a lot of those technology platforms. If you are just sending a text, you can’t feel the empathy. Making sure people feel that they are appreciated is such important advice. For people listening, whether they are in Minnesota or the Midwest, or really anywhere around the country, how can they help or get involved in Second Hand Hounds?
(0:42:13) RM: Yeah. Well, if you are in Minnesota, just go to our website and apply to be a volunteer or a foster. We are always looking for fosters and volunteers in Minnesota. Like I said earlier, we have a ton of different ways to be involved whether you are an event person or a marketing person, or if you want to actually take an animal to your home, or take an animal to an adoption event. There are just so many ways to be involved. If you are in different areas of the country, still, follow us on social media. Share our stuff. If you hear of a dog or a cat needing rescue in your area, feel free to reach out. What is the worst that could happen? Maybe that we are not able to help in that situation. We usually are. Always feel like we are there for a resource for people that need animal help. If you are ever are traveling to Minnesota from a different area, we could always stick a dog or a cat in a carrier and you could bring them to Minnesota. So, there are a lot of ways, but I think that with social media age, of course, we are always looking for more support and followers so we can spread our message far and wide.
(0:42:18) KL: So what are you most excited about for the future of Second Hand Hounds?
(0:43:22) RM: Two things. I am really excited to offer respite care to people who cannot care for their animals whether that is domestic abuse victims, or people with mental health issues, which hits close to home for me, or people serving our country who need to go overseas and don’t want that to mean they lose their best friend forever. That really excites me and we are kind of in the beginning stages of trying to figure out how that could work. And then I have my big old aspiration goal, which is a really want a sanctuary really badly for animals that might not have a chance otherwise. If they have behavioral issues or medical issues that prevent them from being in a foster home safely, I want to have a space for them to go. Then I kind of want to expand that into farm animals or wildlife. Again, I am the dreamer, so we will see if this stuff happens but the idea of a sanctuary for Second Hand Hounds makes me geek out, totally.
(0:44:17) KL: You are an amazing human being doing incredible things. It had been really fun to watch. Just one final bit of advice you would give to those that are looking to grow as a leader?
(0:44:28) RM: Don’t give up. Keep your head up. Don’t engage the trolls, ever. Find good people to surround yourself by, and if you have a pet, utilize them. I call my dogs my anxiety sponges and at the end of the day, even if I have had a horrible day. I go back and my dog lays on me and I take deep breaths and I just think tomorrow is a new day to kick ass and do what I was put on this earth to do. I think if everyone had that same mentality of let it roll off your shoulder, don’t hold a grudge and keep your eye on your paper and keep working hard. I think people would be happier and more things would get done. Obviously I say all of this but I don’t always follow my advice but it is a good reminder even saying it for me. I think people just need to keep those positive vibes going and make sure they are where they should be on this planet and if they are not, change it. One life. We have one life to live. Make it a good one!
(0:45:24) KL: Anxiety sponge. I have never heard that before. That is good! If you liked this episode, make sure to go ahead and leave us a five star review if we earned it. Any kind words that you have about this episode under the ratings, I would love to read them. We do transcribe the entire episode at Behindthebillboard.com. Under the show notes, you can click on podcasts, and then this episode and you can read the entire thing. Or, you can go to the Behind The Billboard Facebook page. It will be posted there if you are hearing this. I would strongly encourage everyone to get involved with Second Hand Hounds. They are an incredible organization. We are happy to be supporters of it. I just want to say thank you so much, Rachel, for being here, and thank you to all of the listeners for supporting this podcast. I love all of the feedback we are getting. Until next time!
(0:46:07) RM: Thank you, Kris!
(0:46:08) KL: Yes, thank you!
(0:46:09) Exit: If you loved this episode give us a great review. Subscribe and share us socially so we can spread the word and build the community of difference makers. If there is a leader who inspires you, send your suggestions for future guests to Kris’s team at behindthebillboard.com so we can get better.
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