Joseph Gliottone has a quick comeback to his former advertising colleagues when they ask him about his new job picking up dog poop.
"It's the same product category, but a different clientele," said Gliottone, 53, who was a senior vice president of print production at an ad agency in Boston, and earned $158,000 a year before being laid off in December 2008.
He's now a professional pooper scooper and franchise owner of DoodyCalls, which charges about $16 a week to clean up after a dog. Since starting his business in Essex County, Mass., in September 2009, Gliottone hasn't made any money yet with the 12 clients he has, and needs about 50 to break even.
Gliottone is joining the growing number of laid off managers and executives who have started their own companies instead of waiting for the recession to end and be hired again. Last year 8.6% of 3,000 high-level job seekers tracked by the outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas started companies, up from 5.1% in 2008.
It turns out the recession is having a few good effects besides creating less trash because people have less stuff to throw away.
Gliottone said in a telephone interview with WalletPop that he expects his franchise to take about another year before he's profitable enough to hire workers to do the dirty work of his business so he can concentrate on marketing. He borrowed from his 401(k) retirement account to pay the $29,000 franchise fee.
"It's definitely not a business for everyone," he said. "You have to be thick skinned about it. But it is my business."
Without a college degree, Gliottone is proud of accomplishing what he did in advertising with only a high school diploma. But a round-trip commute of more than three hours didn't make life too much fun, and he said he appreciates life more and doesn't need to earn as much money as he did.
He worked for five years as a senior executive before being laid off. He was also laid off seven and a half years ago at another large ad agency he had worked at for eight years as an executive.
"When you get up to that salary level, you become an easy target," he said.
A month after he was laid off from his most recent job, his wife was laid off from her job heading public relations for a theater. She quickly formed her own freelance public relations business, and he collected unemployment until starting his new business in September.
"I came out of a career that was so much driven by technology, I was looking for a business that wasn't driven by technology," Gliottone said.
He found it at DoodyCalls. Other than a rake and a few supplies for his truck, it's a low-tech job that allows him to be outdoors with dogs. The business is geared toward busy people and common areas, such as parks, where dogs are walked.
"Not everyone is as diligent as we'd want them to be about picking up after their dog," Gliottone said. If they were, he might not have a job. And with the job, it's a good conversation starter.
"You never run out of joke material," he said.
Aaron Crowe is a freelance journalist in the San Francisco Bay Area.
More execs starting own businesses, including scooping poop