Every business has a story. And for REALIFE LLC, it’s a story of faith. After 5 years in business, we thought it would be appropriate to retell our story.
In 2002, Jason Smith, at that time 20 years old, had been out of college for two years. After graduating high school in Toledo, OH, Jason decided to enroll in Bowling Green State University as a music education major. After completing the first year of college, Jason took a hiatus when he was unable to afford going to school full-time. While out of school, he worked at Panera Bread and for Vector Marketing part-time, while living in an apartment with a friend from high school.
Jason started an a cappella group with his friends from high school and they practiced tirelessly to polish their craft so they could perform in front of audiences at Steak n Shake. Concerts every weekend at Steak n Shake were their mainstay, but eventually, this proved to be in vain for Jason. One night he had a realization, that his group’s pursuit of fame and fortune would not fulfill his life. The goal had always been to become famous and to perform in front of thousands of people. That left Jason asking the question, “Then what?”
As he toiled with a question of purpose, he eventually let his anger get the best of him and he lost control in front of his friends. After this incident, he found himself alone in his room one night when he began cutting his arm. Although he willed to kill himself, something inside him made him stop. He had a pet guinea pig. When he looked upon his pet, he said within himself, “No one can take better care of you than me.” So he rushed to the bathroom to clean his arm. When his friend found out what was going on, he called Jason’s parents and the police. Within minutes, the police and Jason’s parents showed up at his apartment. The police gave Jason a choice: he could either leave with his parents or he could leave with them. That evening, his parents drove him to Flower Hospital in Sylvania, OH, where Jason spent the week, having been clinically diagnosed with depression.
That weekend happened to be Easter Sunday. At that time, Jason did not attend church. To him, Easter was a holiday for eating candy and spending time with family. Although he missed this Easter, he did have an opportunity to speak to his sister on the telephone. She had just graduated from Basic Combat Training and Advanced Individual Training at Ft. Leonard Wood, MO. Jason could sense that something had changed in his sister based on the confident tone in her voice. This became an inspiring moment in his life.
Fast forward a few months, Jason considered going into the Army. After researching the possible jobs in the military, Jason discovered that he could be an Animal Care Specialist. He purposed in his heart to do whatever it took to become a soldier. He quit taking his depression medication cold-turkey and continued with all his might to pursue a military career. He was successful at enlisting in the Active Army as a veterinary technician. This was his chance to take care of animals, since he felt that it was his guinea pig that had saved his life.
After enlisting, there were moments when Jason thought that he had made a mistake. But with personal courage he continued in his training. This was also the first time that Jason made a commitment to go to church. “At the time, I was only going to church so that I wouldn’t have to clean the barracks on Sundays,” Smith admitted. But what he didn’t know, is that God had been setting him up this whole time.
During the seventh week of Basic Training, there was a local church in Missouri that sponsored a “Free Day Away” for the basic trainees. Jason was priveleged to attend the “Free Day Away.” The church leadership brought the soldiers into the sanctuary and explained to them that they were free to do whatever they wished, with the stipulation that the soldiers attended the night service. During the evening service on Sunday, November 24, 2002, Jason Smith accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. This would be the turning point in his life.
Jason continued going to church in Advanced Individual Training in San Antonio, TX. Then, when he arrived at his first duty station in Osan Air Base, Korea; his sergeant invited him to attend the Gospel service on base. At that time, the chaplain on duty was the Reverend Valentino McNeal. On March 5, 2004, Chaplain McNeal baptized Jason in water at Osan Air Base. Sixteen days later, Jason was on a plane to Louisville, KY. His next duty station was at Fort Knox, KY.
While at Fort Knox, Jason was responsible for the maintenance of the Military Working Dog records and semi-annual physical exams. He performed clinical duties and kennel maintenance as required. This is where he would lay the foundation of becoming a professional pooper scooper.
Shortly after arriving at Fort Knox, Jason had an urgency in his spirit to find a local church home. He found Abundant Life Church in Radcliff, under the pastoral leadership of Jimmy and Marty Squires. After completing his enlistment in the Army, Jason decided to stay in Radcliff because he had truly found a church home.
In 2006, Pastor Marty Squires prophesied that many of the church members would start businesses this year. She was one to lead by establishing Java Jireh Coffee Shop in Radcliff. Later that year, Jason researched business start up ideas using Google. His search led him to Entrepreneur magazine’s web site. Jason found that it would be in his best interest to stick with what he knew, so he researched business start up ideas involving animals. It was here where he had an “Aha!” moment. Entrepreneur magazine suggested, “You could be a professional pooper-scooper.”
“A light bulb went off,” Smith explained. “Nobody likes stepping in dog poop and nobody likes cleaning it up either.” He was confident that this was something he could do, having scooped countless piles of dog and cat poop during his tenure in the Army as a veterinary technician. Before establishing his business, he consulted his pastor who gave him permission to start the business. She prayed over him and the business. After that it was just the beginning.
Now, five years later, ReALife LLC’s PetCorps Dog Waste Removal Service cleans up yards in Hardin, Jefferson, and Nelson Counties. But the vision of the business is much larger than a pooper-scooper service.
“My vision is this: to be a leading provider of pet services in Kentucky, with the opportunity to expand the business into franchises throughout the United States. We will provide dog waste removal service, pet sitting, dog walking, dog food distribution, a pet taxi service, and a dog training and development center.”
The goal of the business is to help people take better care of their family and pets, while making a profit. But Smith is not driven by greed to store up wealth for himself. There is a greater purpose to his need for his business to be successful.
“My pastor is a missionary who travels to Mexico, Central and South America, and now to Africa doing mission work to help encourage pastors,” Smith explained. “His organization is called Jimmy Squires Missions and it has always been in the forefront of my mind and business plan to support my pastor in preaching the gospel in all the world.”
Currently, 6% of all revenue is contributed to Jimmy Squires Ministries. In addition, Smith pays a tithe of 10% of his revenue back to the church.
There is plenty of room for the business to grow and Jason plans to fulfill his vision with the help of God.