Heidi HOLZAPFEL '97, Entrepreneur

For as long as she can remember, Heidi HOLZAPFEL ‘97 knew she wanted to someday be her own boss. The daughter of a local business owner and an Ellis girl through Middle and Upper School, Heidi’s entrepreneurial spark was ignited at Ellis, propelled her forward to get an M.B.A., and most recently, motivated her to open her own business. Fusing together her love of dogs and her passion for entrepreneurship, Heidi opened the Soggy Doggy Shop, a pet self-wash and grooming boutique, this past December in Wexford, PA. With hopes to create partnerships with local animal rescues and someday open a second location, Heidi is determined to grow her business and be an advocate for animal rescue in the Pittsburgh area.
Years at Ellis:Grade 6 to Grade 12
Location:Wexford, PA
Education:B.S. Entrepreneurship, M.B.A. Entrepreneurship, Syracuse University

How does your education at The Ellis School influence you as a female business owner?
Ellis definitely pushed me to be a leader, fostered my self-confidence, and provided opportunities that drove my interest in entrepreneurship. Because of Ellis, I was comfortable in leadership positions and never thought I couldn’t do something—because the thought that I couldn’t didn’t even enter my mind. Now as a woman business owner, I think of things through that same lens. I focus on my business, my knowledge, and what I bring to the table. If someone looks down on me because of my gender, that’s their problem, not mine!

What motivates you to own your business?
The fact that I want to be able to do something that I love for the next 30 years. As a business owner, I’m 51% excited and 49% completely terrified. I’m motivated to get business in the door because I have a huge sense of responsibility to my employees now, and I’m very fortunate that I have hired additional people. My degree in entrepreneurship and my passion for dogs comes to life with the Soggy Doggy. I get up every morning and I’m excited to go to work.

What lessons has owning your own business taught you?
There’s never a mistake that is too big to be corrected. When you think you know everything, you realize you don’t and you have to remember to never stop learning. You must continue to educate yourself and keep up to date on current trends to keep your edge.

Do you have a mentor? How has the relationship benefited you professionally? Can you tell me about him/her?
My first mentor was Judy COHEN Callomon ‘54, retired Ellis Upper School Director and former Interim Head of School. She taught me some huge lessons at a young age. She showed me how powerful it is to have supportive women in your corner. She told me, “always use your head and never let your feet get stuck.”

Best advice you ever received?

Surround yourself with people who know what they're doing. Hire the talent you need and make good business decisions, because you can’t do everything yourself. Your team will make your vision a reality and move things forward.

Who has been the biggest influence on your life? What lessons did that person teach you?
Alex McKelvie, Chair and Associate Professor of Entrepreneurship at Syracuse University, really prepared me for being a business owner. He has been a great sounding board for me, and has taken a vested interest in my success and the success of the Soggy Doggy. He taught me that there is always a way to solve a problem.

What is your best Ellis memory?
My freshman year we performed the play, Steel Magnolias. I was M’Lynn and to this day when I see any of my Ellis teachers, they bring it up. I liked acting and loved the fact that Ellis was supportive of any outlet you wanted to pursue. I had so much fun on the stage, and the best friendships I formed, and still maintain, from Ellis were made in the theater.

For Ellis students reading this: Is there any wisdom you’d want to pass on to them? What would you want them to know?

I would say—never be afraid to admit that you don’t know the answer. Don’t take life so seriously all the time! And do your research. Because nobody can tell you what direction to go, you need to figure that out for yourself.

Name three characteristics you need to do your job well.
Patience. Humor. Dedication.

What was the last book you read?
The Power of Broke by Daymond John  
The Millionaire Fastlane by M.J. DeMarco