November 6, 2023
Meet Jill - Co-Founder of End of The Leash Pet Boutique and Watch My 6 Service Dogs
As we reflect on the bravery and courage of veterans, we find inspiration in the career journeys they have taken beyond the uniform. This Veterans Week, Prince's Trust Canada is showcasing women-identifying veteran entrepreneurs and shining a light on their remarkable stories.
In this spotlight, we sat down with Jill McLellan, a Canadian Veteran who served as a Captain in the Army Reserves for almost a decade and is now the co-founder of Watch My 6 Service Dogs, and co-owner of End Of The Leash Pet Boutique.
Hi, Jill! thank you for taking the time out of your day to share your story. Can you tell us more about your businesses. What inspired you to start them and what is your mission?
"Watch My 6 started in 2017. After my release from the military due to PTSD, I met my business partner, Tina, who began helping me train my service dog, Max, to assist with my psychiatric needs. Upon discovering that the cost of service dogs was nearly $50,000, we developed a program to provide volunteer trainers, which costs roughly $750 for individuals. Our primary focus is on Veterans and first responders.
Then, in 2021, the opportunity to open a pet store presented itself. We noticed a demand for another pet shop in Petawawa, especially one with a strong focus on customer service. All of our staff are military spouses, and we offer a military/first responder discount throughout our entire store. We aim to be recognized for our exceptional customer service and providing a wholesome experience."
Can you share with us a bit about your military background and what led you to join the armed forces?
"I served in the reserves for nine and a half years right after high school before I was medically injured and released. I've always had a desire to contribute to the development of Canada's youth, so I decided that I wanted to get into training."
Were there specific skills or lessons from your military experience that transferred well to your entrepreneurial journey? If so, what were they?
"Making decisions under pressure, the ability to probe and problem-solve quickly – these are skills that not many people possess. Being able to address and resolve issues as they occur or before they escalate is particularly valuable in business. In the military, you're always required to think on your feet and have multiple plans for every scenario. Additionally, I held an officer role, so those organizational skills transitioned exceptionally well."
Can you share with us a moment that encapsulates the spirit of your organization?
“Being a finalist for the CANIE awards this year has been phenomenal. There are so many amazing Veteran-owned businesses and this year’s finalists are beyond amazing and people I’ve looked up to in my journey, so the fact that I’m even considered equal to them was kind of a holy **** moment. We were also nominated for the RBC woman entrepreneur awards this year, although we didn’t get past the nomination phase, but there were also like 30,000 applicants, so the fact that we were even nominated by one of our customers was lovely.”
Is there any message you’d like to give to future Veterans transitioning to civilian life who are considering becoming entrepreneurs?
“I’d truly suggest taking Prince’s Trust Canada’s Operation Entrepreneur boot camps. Some people jump into businesses underprepared and I’m seeing these businesses fail because they didn’t have the tools they needed. So, not working on a business plan or learning about marketing, finances, etc. can be an early path to failure. If they had just known about and enrolled in the programs available to them, they’d have a better chance at succeeding.”
How would you say that PTC has helped you in your entrepreneurial journey?
“I can truly say that the pet shop would not be here today, and my nonprofit would not be where it is today. Before the boot camp in Regina, we had a very small bank account, we weren’t renting a space, we weren’t taking many people. Now, it’s completely different.”
To find Veteran-Owned businesses like End of The Leash Pet Boutique and Watch My 6 Service Dogs, visit the BuyVeteran.ca directory. With over 600+ Veteran-owned businesses on the directory across Canada, it’s easier than ever to support a Veteran-owned small business.
Prince’s Trust Canada’s Veteran programming makes the transition from military service to entrepreneurship accessible by providing expert advice, resources and mentorship Veterans need to become successful business owners. To learn more, visit the Veterans & Military page on princestrust.ca.