Kim Kochman has always been an animal lover, but having family members with severe allergies prevented her from her dream of dog ownership. After surviving a bout with breast cancer, she was determined to complete her family with a dog, but one that wouldn’t aggravate any respiratory issues. She found the Australian Labradoodle, non-shedding, allergy-friendly breed with a great temperament. As she fell more in love with her own pup, she realized how many other families were in the same boat as she had been and decided to create Manor Lake Australian Labradoodles to breed them herself.
With determination and compassion, Kim has created a breeding program that is now well-recognized within the industry. Her puppies are so sought after, even celebrities have come to her for their family pets. Some of her puppies have grown up to become therapy dogs, as well. Many clients have adopted more than one dog from her.
Tell us a little about your industry and why you chose to be a dog breeder?
For a long time, because we had allergies and asthma in my family, we had a dog-free home. We had always wanted a dog, but there were so few options. I was actually recovering from breast cancer when I started really researching different breeds, particularly looking for those that didn’t worsen respiratory issues. I found the Australian Labradoodle and fell in love. We had such a great experience that we wanted to allow other families the same joy. I’ve been breeding for about eighteen years now.
Why did you decide to create your own business?
I had been doing a lot of volunteer work around when we started the business. I have always found helping others and bringing people joy is something that motivated me. When I discovered the breed, it was like a spark for me. Puppies are something that brings everyone joy and the idea that I could help families who have been unable to have a dog before really seemed like the right road for me.
What do you love most about your industry?
I love meeting our new families. It’s a rewarding relationship. Many of them stay in touch with us for several years. I’ve had clients come back for a second, third, fourth, and even fifth dog. We are known for providing dogs with fantastic temperaments.
What does your typical day consist of?
I wake up very early to feed and water the dogs. I love playing with them in the morning. Throughout the day, I review applications and run the office. I also make sure the dogs are being walked and generally taken care of.
What keeps you motivated?
Honestly, my business is a labor of love. It’s not just about providing great dogs to people—it’s about creating families, really. There are so many people that think they can’t own a dog because of allergies or another medical issue they have, yet they are true dog lovers. Educating people that there is a breed that they can bring into their home is a wonderful feeling. Seeing how much joy they have when they come to pick up their puppy is something I can’t really describe.
How do you motivate others?
I lead by example. I don’t ask anyone to do something I wouldn’t do myself. Whether it’s cleaning up after the dogs or getting outside and playing with them, I motivate others with my own behaviors. I try to be strong and decisive and I encourage that in others, as well. I also do what I can to keep the work day fun.
How has your company grown from its early days until now?
We have always had a lot of family involvement in the company. My kids have really enjoyed getting out there and helping with the dogs whenever they can. I have extended family that helps out a lot, too. We started out as a small, local company. We are internationally recognized as breeders for Australian Labradoodles. We’ve helped others establish their own breeding programs in many different countries over the years.
How do you maintain a solid work-life balance?
I try to take weekends off and go boating or fishing, something physical that is away from the office. Of course, we always take dogs with us, so I guess that’s not fully separating the two, but it’s a great way to detach and unwind from the work week itself. Within the next several years, I hope to step back a bit and let some of the extended family take a more active role in the company.
What traits do you possess that make you a successful leader?
I have always been a strong woman. I believe in myself. I know that I can accomplish anything I put my mind to. I set goals and make them a reality. If someone says it can’t be done, I’m compelled to prove them wrong. I’m driven, and I believe that has helped the people who work with and for me to become strong, as well.
What would you consider your biggest accomplishment?
The different ways we are able to give back. Lots of our dogs do therapy work in hospitals and schools. They can be specially trained to help with PTSD, narcolepsy, high blood pressure, seizure alert, and other alert-necessary medical conditions. We love to give back when we can. For instance, this year, we donated one of our dogs to an approved applicant that is surviving breast cancer. We also paid for ‘Summer Cheer Camp’ for an employee’s niece, sponsored an employee’s pig in 4H, and bought a surfboard for an employee’s daughter so that she could compete and attend after school surf class. Additionally, we intend to donate one of our puppies to a local school auction that’s coming up in the near future.