Small Business Spotlight: Juan Bolona ’13

Soho Paws

Website | Etsy | Instagram 

Photo of Small Business Owner Juan with Soho Paws company logo

2020 was a particularly tough year for our UCF alumni small business owners, so we're spotlighting a few Knights from our Business Directory to spread the word with Knight Nation.


Meet alumnus Juan Bolona ’13, owner of Soho Paws:

What inspired you to start this business?


In 2019, I bought a Boston Terrier, Melo, and wanted to outfit him in the hottest new fashion pieces for pups, but I noticed a gap in the dog clothing and accessory market. I had to either spend my entire month’s income on his harness and leash set, or I had to get the cheap option to the left of the dog bones in the supermarket. I wondered why there wasn’t a reasonably priced, aesthetically pleasing, and high-quality option. That is when Soho Paws was born!


What is the best part about running your own company?


Without a doubt, creating the products that I sell and choosing the individuals I work with. I love exploring my creativity when I conceive new products with my design partners. This is an awesome outlet from my 9 – 5 job, which has little creativity. One of my partners is actually my best friend, who I met at my first job in Miami, and we have great mutual respect for each other, so it’s a trusting relationship.


What is your mission statement or goal?


Every product sale from Soho Paws helps feed shelter dogs. Our goal is to donate one pound of food per product sold.

Dog walkers from Soho Paws

What was the biggest thing you learned during your time as a Knight that you apply to your life today?

Being part of UCF taught me that there is not a pre-defined path to follow; you have to make a path for yourself. I met people from all over the world who were studying all sorts of topics and would go on to build careers in a range of fields. I always remind myself that pivoting is possible as long as you have passion for what you are doing.

UCF Alumnus Juan Bolona at UCF Tennis Match

Why did you sign up for the Knights Network Business Directory?


I wanted to share my business with students that might be able to relate to my career path. We are always looking for interns to join our company and would love to have a Knight join our team! Also, any students or alumni with dogs should check out our Etsy shop.

Soho Paws team

 ​How has the pandemic affected your business?


In March and April of 2020, our orders were delayed several months because our supply chain was interrupted. We took that time to focus on our advertising strategy and form partnerships with local animal shelters.


Why is it important to support small business owners?


Small businesses create a vibrant and diverse community for consumers to have a wide array of options. If the community does not support them, however, it’s hard to keep the business running. We want to provide fun and affordable options with quality materials, so it is imperative we reinvest proceeds from sales back into our business.


Where do you see your business in 5 years?


Our dream is to open up a storefront in the Soho neighborhood in New York City and expand our product line to include food and well-being products for dogs. Also, we want to expand our shelter relationships across the U.S. and substantially reduce the number of dogs in shelters.


Where can we find you on social media?


We are active on Instagram and Tik Tok, @Sohopaws.

Find more Alumni-owned Businesses on UCF Knights Network​!

UCF Knights Network is our alumni professional networking platform that promotes career and professional development, entrepreneurship, job opportunities, and mentorship. Once you've signed  up (it takes only a minute to do if you sign up with Facebook or LinkedIn!), you can access the official UCF Alumni Business Directory via the platform.


Add your alumni-owned business for a chance to be featured in our next small business spotlight!


This service is offered at no cost to our alumni, it's simply a perk of being a grad! So, join today to reconnect with fellow Knights, support alumni-owned businesses, and expand your professional network.