The Philly Happening Women Series is a reoccurring feature that will highlight inspirational female personalities, entrepreneurs, and women making a difference in the City of Brotherly Love!
From Philadelphia Style, to PAWS, to McSpain Properties, Dana Spain Continues to lead Philadelphia in new directions
Dana Spain is a true power woman.
The Philly native has made her mark in Philadelphia business, charity, and social circles.
Spain started working at her family business, Spain’s Gifts and Dollar Exports, at age seven. She worked throughout high school as a radio host named “Dangerous Dana.” After graduating from Northwestern University with a double major in International Relations and French, Spain worked as a translator before becoming director of Training and Communications at the family business. Spain helped build the business into a regional retail powerhouse.
Next, Spain’s journey led her to becoming owner and COO of Philadelphia Style Magazine and starting her own business consulting company called DLG Communications.
In 2005, Spain, a huge animal lover, founded PAWS, Philadelphia Animal Welfare Society.
Currently, she is managing partner of McSpain Properties, a company that is pioneering urban development in up-and-coming Philadelphia neighborhoods.
Philly Happening recently caught up with Spain at her South Juniper Street office. I was immediately greeted by one of her fluffy rescue cats, who lives at the office, followed by Spain, who had just come from a construction site. Her ensemble that day perfectly represented what she’s all about: a winning combination of grit and style. Jeans, a t-shirt, and construction boots were complemented by bold red nails and lips.
Philly Happening talked with Spain about her latest business ventures, as well as advice for entrepreneurs and those looking to find their way in the city that she has always called home.
P.H.: Tell us about how you started PAWS.
D.S.: I started volunteering at a local animal shelter back when I was working for my family business. I answered a question in an interview about how I wanted to open a no-kill animal shelter and then months later I got called asking if I wanted to start one. PAWS started in late 2005. It became a stand-alone charity in 2009.
P.H.: Tell us about your real estate ventures with McSpain properties.
D.S.: We are pioneering urban development. We are focusing on neighborhoods that are on the cusp of greatness—Port Richmond, Grey’s Ferry, Point Breeze—and creating affordable luxury rental opportunities.
The Fairmount at Brewerytown is our latest project. We are opening a Craft Brewery on the first floor of that building in August.
P.H.: What is your best advice for entrepreneurs?
D.S.: Know everything from A-Z about everything that you’re getting into. Trust no one who tells you that “this is the way things are done just because that’s the way it’s always been done.” Learn as you go and make something different!
In real estate, I had to learn everything there was to learn about environmental contaminates, codes, and compliance. If I don’t know all of it, I can’t ask the right questions. You don’t have to have a PhD. In it, but you have to ask the right questions.
P.H.: What is the key to entrepreneurship?
D.S.: The willingness and the ability to accept that you don’t know everything. You build a team that you can trust. Find people that are smarter and more adept. Bring in people that take you to the next level.
Also, stay true to your mission, leverage your assets and your network. Know the right people. Trust yourself.
P.H.: What is it like running your own business?
D.S.: Be ready to be up at 3 a.m. a lot working! It’s a lot of sleepless nights. It’s a lot of risk/reward/buyer’s remorse.
You have a lot of responsibility. You’re responsible for everyone else and everyone else comes first. Be prepared for self-deprivation. Whether you’re in a panic, or not, your team should never know that!
Do what it takes—you have to. If you build it, they will come!
There are a lot of ups and downs. At the end of the day, you have to be committed to yourself and the mission and tell yourself, “This is going to work and it’s going to be awesome!”
P.H.: What’s your best advice for leadership?
D.S.: Be open to everyone’s ideas. Don’t care who it’s coming from. It doesn’t matter where the idea is coming from—if other people are thinking about it, then maybe you should be, too.
Under promise and over exceed!
P.H.: What is your best advice for someone who is looking to expand his/her professional networks?
D.S.: Get on a board. A lot of charity boards have young friends organizations or junior programs that are for a younger demographic and are a gateway to getting onto the board. Join a cause that you’re passionate about.
Networking! Even if there’s a small fee associated with a networking group, it’s worth it. Philly is so small—you just need to meet one or two well-connected people and it can open doors for you.
P.H.: What is your best advice for someone looking to find his/her way in Philly?
D.S.: Follow your passions!