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When Dreams Become Reality

In the abstract, following your passion sounds simple enough. But what does that look like in reality? For Heidi Ganahl—community leader, entrepreneur, and University College alumna—it meant going all in on a venture she had always dreamed of.

Nearly two decades ago, Heidi started Camp Bow Wow, a dog day care that is now the largest pet care franchise in North America. Heidi grew the business from one location in Denver to more than 150 locations across the country, half of which are owned by women. While the dog days are over for Heidi – she sold Camp Bow Wow in 2014 – her entrepreneurial spirit continues with other ventures from female empowerment to free speech. The common thread throughout all of her undertakings? Passion.

“The way you find your passion is really paying attention to yourself and seeing what you love to do and trying to build a life or career around that,” she said. “Tap into your love for healthcare, the arts, business—whatever you’re passionate about.”

Mind-mapping, finding mentors, and net-working are all ways to help uncover and cultivate your passion according to Heidi, along with surrounding yourself with great people. “Make sure the people around you exemplify how you want to live your life.”

Heidi advises that it’s important to ask others for advice or mentorship, especially within current networks like fellow University of Denver alumni. She describes Denver as an open culture when it comes to networking and obtaining guidance from leaders with-in the community. This was something that stood out to Heidi during her time at DU’s University College.

University College was really helpful in that they brought in incredible leaders in business and the community who were leading organizations, so it was a really hands-on experience,” she said. “It taught me a lot about taking things to another level in a systematic way and solving big social issues.”

This lesson of solving big issues has been applied to the real world in Heidi’s found-ing of the Fight Back Foundation, an incubator for social entrepreneurs that tackles the most pressing issues confronting kids in Colorado. In another entrepreneurial endeavor, Heidi recently launched a new book and app called SHEFACTOR™ that aims to tackle gender disparity in entrepreneurship and business. It covers nine parts of life and helps users set goals and prioritize.

“The She Factor is like a net promoter score for your life,” she explained. “It’s for young women launching their lives and careers and it gives them a common language to talk to peers and mentors.” SHEFACTOR™ launched in May 2019. To learn more about Heidi’s journey, watch herTED Talk: The Art of the Comeback.

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