I did an interview with Tanya Mahrous Tobias and Toby Tobias of Second Life Atlanta (www.secondlifeatlanta.org)
Why did you start Second Life Atlanta and how did you do it?
We started it 6 years ago because we wanted to do something to help animals and organizations that help animals. We loved our Dalmatian called Lucky and it really was just a Lucky-inspired leap of faith. We saw the concept in Nebraska and brought it to Atlanta to help promote adoption, education on spay/neuter and help animal rescue. The financial pie for animal rescue is only so big and we wanted to figure out a way to generate revenues. Also, Second Life is a place for people to volunteer and directly impact shelter animals without having to be inside the shelter where they might want to just adopt every dog they see in there.
What is your favorite dog breed?
Rescue. Also Dalmatians, because of Lucky.
Do you have any pets?
We have 2 dogs that were both rescued off the streets of Cairo, Egypt. One of them, Riley, is the Chief Smile Officer in the shop and often comes to work with us.
What does Second Life do?
We take in gently used items (household, clothing, furniture, collectables, electronics etc) and sell them in our 2 shops located next to each other at 1 and 89 N. Clarendon Ave, Avondale Estates just a few blocks from the DeKalb Farmers Market. With the proceeds we provide grants to animal rescue groups. Over 60 non-profits have received grants of $760,000 in the past 6 months.
Do you have any advice for me?
Keep doing what you are doing. Never stop fighting for animals. It just takes one person to make a difference. Stay strong and don’t let others change who you are. There will be people who will be extremely supportive and there will be sceptics. Stay strong and believe in yourself. You are a unique voice because of your age.
How can I help you?
Spread the word. People can clean out their closets and help animals at the same time. Donate your items and save lives. Second Life’s 2017 goal is to provide $1,000,000.00 in grants to organizations that help animals and educate on spay/neuter.
How do you decide who you give money to?
There is an online grant application that you fill out.
Do people donate to you?
Yes. We are thankful for all donations we receive and everything in the store is donated.
How do you advertise your company?
Word of mouth and Social Media. We also do print advertising in local publications but as a non-profit our money needs to go into operations and animal rescue.
Do you have more dog or cat customers?
There is a good split between dog and cat owners as far as our donors are concerned and dogs often come with their owners to shop. We have some foster cats in the shop from Paws Atlanta and shoppers can also drop off food in the shop for Pet Buddies Food Pantry.
How many customers do you get?
It is difficult to put a number on that but every day we do different sales to attract different people like military days, senior days, New Wardrobe Wednesdays. Once a month we do a big 40% off everything sale day.
When you were growing up what did you want to do?
Tanya: I wanted to be a travel writer. I’ve always loved animals and have had rescues all my life. Animals, travel and photography are my passions.
Toby: I was expected to go into engineering but realized in college that that was not for me.