40 Under 40 The Class of 2017

Alessandra Connor

Co-owner, Camp K-9; Age 36

Alessandra Connor

Alessandra Connor

Ali Connor and her husband, Nick, wanted a change.

They both worked in upper management in the retail world, but the hours and lifestyle weren’t amenable to a growing family, which, in the spring of 2015, included a 2-year-old son, Reid, and another son, Wyatt, on the way.

That was the year their careers went to the dogs.

“We realized we wanted to do our own thing,” she told BusinessWest. “We tried a couple of things based on our experiences, but they didn’t pan out.”

But, dog owners themselves, they both loved animals and realized that their hometown of Westfield didn’t have a day camp for dogs — so they started one.

“We cater to customers who have busy lifestyles,” Connor said, noting that Westfield officials were excited about this new entry into the business community. “They saw what we offered was a lot different than the traditional kennel concept.”

At Camp K-9, which offers both day-care and sleepover services, the Connors emphasize getting to know not only the dogs, but their owners, in order to provide personalized care. Besides daily play groups, the facility arranges monthly events — like a Picnic in the Paw’k Pawty on April 24 — and allows dogs access to an indoor dog park and ‘fun-gility’ gym to socialize and exercise.

“We have fun,” she said. “We try to make the experience like a preschool daycare. A child might have arts and crafts or hobby days, and so do we.”

While brightening the days of their canine visitors, Ali and Nick also donate resources and energy to organizations including the Westfield Animal Shelter, Rainbow Rescue, T.J. O’Connor Animal Hospital, Westfield schools, the Kiwanis Club, Shriners Hospitals for Children, 126th Brigade, Children’s Miracle Network, Heroes at Home, Rays of Hope, and Westfield Little League, among others.

“I would love to do more, but we do what we can,” she told BusinessWest, adding that she takes pride in supporting groups that make life better for Westfield-area residents — by running a successful business that makes life easier for dog-loving families.

“There’s a bond you don’t get with other animals,” Connor said. “The companionship of dogs is so important to me, and it’s important to our customers. We were the first customers here, and as customers, we ask, ‘what do we want our dog to be doing?’”

Answering that question on a daily basis has been a rewarding experience, she added. “It’s great owning a business — a fun, family-oriented business — with someone you love.”

—Joseph Bednar