"I always wanted to help strays," said Sanfiz, who has lived in Weehawken for 20 years. "There was once a pigeon outside in the snow in front of my home. I went out into the snow and brought it inside. I took in about six cats over the years, some dogs, a rabbit. The list can go on and on. It was like having a farm in the city."
Even after she became an adult, Sanfiz always had pets in her home.
"I've always been a cat and a dog person," Sanfiz said. "They were always around."
For the last 10 years, Sanfiz made a good living, working as a marketing manager for a major software firm. But after a while, Sanfiz started to question herself.
"The corporate world got too hectic and crazy for me," Sanfiz said. "I wasn't enjoying myself. I wanted to do something with my life that would make me happy. I knew I had to get on with my life and make a major change."
With that, Sanfiz' love of animals came to mind.
"I love animals and love working with my hands," Sanfiz said. "I figured that I could become an animal groomer. I used to cut my brother's hair when I was younger, into my teenage years. Plus, I come from an artistic family, with my mom being an artist and a painter and my father being a sculptor. I figured if I became a groomer, I could live in a happy manner."
So six months ago, Sanfiz walked away from the corporate life. She enrolled in the Nash Academy of the Animal Arts, a highly respected pet grooming school in Fairview.
"I had to go to school and see what was out there for me," Sanfiz said.
Sanfiz learned the ins and outs of animal grooming and earned her certificate as a licensed groomer. Now, it was time to find clientele.
"Being in marketing my whole life, the business aspect came easy to me," Sanfiz said.
She decided to go into business for herself and chose to start a mobile pet grooming service for those who can't bring their loved ones to the salons and shops. Sanfiz will go to them.
Her company, "Just 4 Paws," is the first mobile grooming business of its kind in northern New Jersey. "Yes, I do house calls," Sanfiz said.
Sanfiz goes to a client's home in her fully equipped pet van. The animal enters the van in front of the client's home. There's no mess, no worry about transporting the animal, no wait, no hassles.
"What's so great about this is that it's convenient," Sanfiz said. "It can be fit around the schedule. It's for older people who can't get out of the house and for older pets who can't get around like they used to. I found out that there aren't any groomers in Weehawken at all. It's convenient and flexible."
Sanfiz said that she could also establish a preferential client base for pet owners whose loved ones require constant care.
"We have priority client programs," Sanfiz said.
Sanfiz said that "Just 4 Paws" specializes in cat care - and there aren't a lot of cat groomers around as well.
"It's a very delicate procedure when dealing with cats," Sanfiz said. "It's a big plus to me, because a lot of places don't take cats."
There is only one drawback to the mobile pet grooming unit - no large dogs.
"It just can't take the exceptionally large breeds," Sanfiz said. "The mobile spa can't handle them. But we handle most sizes and all personalities."
Sanfiz said that in just six months, her business is continuing to grow. She has recently joined forces with the Pet Depot, the popular pet store on Park Avenue in Weehawken.
"I've been able to leave my business cards there," Sanfiz said. "They said that they were looking for a groomer that they could recommend. They said that people ask them all the time to recommend a groomer, and they had no one to refer them to."
Sanfiz is using her marketing skills to get the word out, producing post cards and fliers that she has distributed around town.
"A good client base is starting," Sanfiz said.
Although it's only been a few months since she decided to explore a career change, Erica Sanfiz is having the time of her life.
"I love it," Sanfiz said. "I've never been happier in my life. I'm living in a stress-free environment and meeting new people every day through animals. I can't complain. It's a nice way to live your life."
Sanfiz said that she has received encouragement in her new venture from her husband, Anthony.
"He knew I wasn't happy, so he told me to go for it," Sanfiz said. "He's a scientist [doing research for pharmaceutical giant Merck], so he's happy with what he does. He knew I had to try this. The pets are like my children. I might never get another chance to do this ever again."
For more information about "Just 4 Paws," visit the website www.justfourpaws.net or call (201) 330-1880.