Video posted on March 16, 2016 at 6:10 am CST

For Laura Sharkey, if it weren’t for hard work and education, she wouldn’t have made it as a small business owner.

Growing up “poor in a neighborhood that was not poor” on Long Island, she was the first person from her family to go to college and earned a Ph.D. in microbiology and immunology. However, life in the lab wasn’t all it was cracked up to be and she found herself searching for something more. She’s found success and fulfillment running her own dog training business and hopes to provide opportunities to those she employs so that they too can get ahead.

“Running a small business is still a struggle. I’m a rags-to-middle-income story at best! Once you fall behind as a small business owner, it’s not easy to catch up and it takes years,” Laura said.

To Laura, now the American dream doesn’t mean being rich – it means living a comfortable life and creating opportunities for her employees to get ahead in their lives.