Saq Nadeem presented his detailed, pet-driven business plan to his professors at the Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University in 2005.
A year later, one of his professors asked when he was going to launch his plana premier resort for cats and dogs located near major airports in pet-friendly major citiesbecause she is a dog owner and was ready to invest.
Nadeem was working at the time and traveling extensively, so he truly understood the woes pet owners face when they have to board their favorite, furry, four-legged friends. Pet owners often are impacted by the hours of operation for boarding facilities, coupled with their scheduled flights and, of course, unexpected flight delays.
It can be a vicious circle, Nadeem admitted.
"I always wanted the business plan to materialize, but I didn't know how it was going to happen," he said. "The pet industry is huge [ financially ] and, for the most part, fairly recession-resistant. I knew, at some point, that I wanted to work with pets."
However, Nadeem was working for a consulting firm at the time.
During the fall of 2006, Nadeem asked to be assigned to more local projects, primarily so he had the time to further develop his pet project.
In the summer of 2007, he went part-time at the consulting firm and then, in October 2007, he left his job at Diamond Management & Technology Consultants ( now known as PWC Consulting ) to focus full-time on his furry friends.
Nadeem opened Paradise 4 Paws in 2008 as the company's president, or "Top Dog," as his business card states. There are locations near O'Hare International Airport ( in suburban Schiller Park ) , near Midway and on-site at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport. ( Paradise 4 Paws Dallas has been selected as a finalist for Best of Dallas by D Magazine. )
"It has been more than I ever thought it would be," Nadeem said. "I have never worked harder; I have never been more stressed out in my life; and I also have never been happier.
"I really enjoy my job."
Nadeem, 34, who lives in Chicago's Buena Park neighborhood, is originally from Pakistan. He became a U.S. citizen in 2011 and will celebrate his fourth anniversary with his partner, Nick Rutan, in May. They have two dogs ( Vera and Miuccia ) and two cats ( Gucci and Versace ) .
"I love that I can bring my dogs to work, and see them whenever I want. I just wish I had more time to play with the dogs," said Nadeem, who has lived in Chicago since 2003 and was, in 2004, the first openly gay student-body president at Kellogg, which, he said, "was a huge honor, amazing."
Paradise 4 Paws combines quality and care for pets with convenience and service. That includes three levels of overnight suites for cats and dogs, dog day care, dog obedience training, cat and dog grooming, pet massage therapy, pet transportation and more. Each facility is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
Paradise 4 Paws provides airport parking with complimentary shuttle service to and from the airport. Plus, the facility offers real-time webcam access, so traveling pet owners can spot their four-legged friends from afar.
The O'Hare location has about 26,000 square feet, showcasing the latest in pet-hotel technology, including cage- and crate-free pet boarding.
The dog suites, which can accommodate about 100 dogs, overlook the indoor play areas, with its indoor grass, soft rubber and even a bone-shaped splashing pool. Select dog suites have flat-screen TVs and 24-hour webcams.
Cats, of which the O'Hare location has space for about 20, are housed separately from dogs, highlighted by an adventure jungle where felines can spend time climbing and exploring the custom-made cat trees or watching fish in the aquarium.
"I knew, going back to before we even opened, that we had to make the service very convenientand I think we have," Nadeem said. We have one-stop convenience, coupled with top-notch quality and care. Customers know that their pet is having a good time, is safe and comfortable."
Nadeem said his long-term vision for the business is to expand to more markets close to major airports across the United States, and continue to be a trusted provider of pet-care services.
Paradise 4 Paws will hold an anniversary celebration on Saturday, May 19. It will celebrate the fourth anniversary of the O'Hare location and first anniversary of the Midway location.
Visit www.paradise4paws.com or www.facebook.com/Paradise4Paws, or call 847-678-1200.