Lea Burbidge Izquierdo (Criminology,  2014) has taken her love for animals and turned it into a successful business with operations in Toronto, New York City and Miami.

She co-founded and co-owns a company called Puppysphere that runs puppy yoga events for dog lovers. The events provide a chance for participants to attend a yoga class alongside other animal enthusiasts, play with puppies and socialize over bottomless mimosas.

The idea has taken off since it launched in 2021 and Burbidge Izquierdo’s company has hosted more than 50,000 people and worked with major brands like Barbie, Snapchat and Deloitte to host corporate and promotional events.

Participants benefit from the joy of interacting with them and the puppies themselves get an opportunity to socialize and grow comfortable with strangers.

A dog lover herself, Burbidge Izquierdo met her co-founder and business partner Francesca McFadden at a dog park in Toronto. There are 10 full-time employees in Puppysphere’s Toronto office all of whom share a passion for animals and often bring their dogs into work, said Burbidge Izquierdo.

She said the puppy yoga events were one of several dog-focused events she and her business partner were running in Toronto back when their company was called Doggos Events, but it was clear this was the idea that was generating the most commercial success.

“Being an entrepreneur, one of the most important things is to know when to pivot,” she said. They decided to focus all their energy on the puppy yoga events and make a splash in a competitive market like New York as a real test of the concept.

“We thought, if we can make it in new York, we can make it anywhere. Let’s go play with the big players and see the success rate,” said Burbidge Izquierdo. “If you’re going to fail, fail fast so you don’t waste too much time. Not all ideas will become businesses, even if you work super hard. We’ll know if it makes or breaks.”

Puppysphere opened a studio in Brooklyn and within one month, the events were selling out weeks in advance. They immediately moved to open a second location in Manhattan.

Burbidge Izquierdo said that she never would have guessed this was where her path would lead.

“From wanting to go into criminal law to running a puppy wellness company, it’s a huge switch. I always knew I had the entrepreneurial need in me. I wanted to prove how much I could do. I didn’t know that two years in, I would be living in New York and have a team with 70 people under me,” she said.

At Champlain Saint-Lambert, Burbidge Izquierdo studied Social Science Criminology option thinking she would go into law. After completing a bachelor’s in Psychology at Université de Montréal, she moved to Toronto and continued work she’s begun as a student managing social media and doing marketing for a financial technology company.

On top of working full-time in marketing in Toronto and serving in bars and restaurants nights and weekends, Burbidge Izquierdo started her first foray into entrepreneurship selling homemade candles. When she met her current business partner, they started collaborating organizing dog-friendly events like a holiday craft market that drew 1200 people.

After the success of their first event, Francesca McFadden offered Burbidge Izquierdo a job, but she asked for a partnership instead. That’s how Puppysphere was born.

Now that the business has taken off in two major U.S. cities, the owners are eyeing expansion into other American markets in the next several months.

Burbidge Izquierdo’s advice for current students and recent graduates: “There’s two ways of seeing obstacles coming your way. The first one is seeing yourself as a victim of life, of what is happening to you. And the other is seeing it as life giving you the opportunity to grow and learn. Be comfortable with failure and discomfort, they often come with a purpose. We failed a lot. Without those failures we wouldn’t be where we are now. That’s what makes you even prouder when you do end up making it.”