Finding a Calling: Why a Philly Pretzel Factory Owner Enrolled in a Rigorous Vet Tech Program

Jules Sulpazo (St. Basil’s Academy – Philadelphia) studies Veterinary Technology at Manor College.

Jules Sulpazo, a Veterinary Technology student at Manor College.

Jules Sulpazo enjoys the quiet nature of a car ride. Amongst the chaoticness of life, the pockets of silence give her the energy to push forward.

“That’s your time to say, ‘Oh my God, I’m so tired. I don’t want to do this,’” Sulpazo said. “That’s your time to rally. It makes you appreciate the little things.”

As the owner of a Philly Pretzel Factory in Abington and a full-time Veterinary Technology student at Manor College, those quiet moments are few and far between.

Sulpazo’s days begin at 4:30 a.m. taking care of her cat, Georgia, and her dogs Archie and Agnes. She packs a quick breakfast and catches her first moments of quiet.

By 6:30, she’s prepping the morning deliveries and pushing pretzels to the front of the store. Doors open at 8, then it’s a quick manager’s meeting before class.

Sulpazo stays at Manor until the early afternoon taking classes and working with the Horse Care Team in the horse barn near campus. She drives back to the store for a final managers meeting and final preparations for the next morning.

Once home, she takes care of the animals and finds time for a short mental break – exercise, reading, or an episode of Hot Ones. Then, it’s a few hours of homework before bed at 11:30.

Even reading a list of Sulpazo’s day is a tiring act, but the Northeast Philadelphia loves the grind.

“If I didn’t like all the parts of my day, I don’t know how I’d feel, but I love being here,” Sulpazo said. “I get to go to a business I’m proud of owning. I get to come to Manor and participate in active learning. I get to wake up and my puppies are excited to see me. Getting through the busy days is about framing how you view the world.”

‘I Needed to Take a Breath’

Initially, Sulpazo struggled to find her calling. She graduated from St. Basil’s Academy and enjoyed studying the sciences. She enrolled in a local university to study chemistry in 2013 but dropped out after a year because she didn’t love it. Two years later, she enrolled in a community college to study nursing, but again, she took a break.

“I was in class and thought, ‘Those professors love what they do, but I don’t,’” Sulpazo said. “It served as an inspiration for me to go find out what I loved to do.”

Sulpazo moved back home in 2016. That’s when her mother and stepfather asked a question – “You seem to not be finding your path. How can we help you find it?”

Sulpazo loved working with animals. She already assisted in teaching corrective behavior classes for dogs. But, jumping into the veterinary field felt rushed. In hindsight, it became the best decision Sulpazo made.

“I had enough knowledge of myself to know I sat in two different colleges at this point and I didn’t feel right (in college),” Sulpazo said. “I needed to take a breath. If I had gone to another school, I don’t think I would’ve given it as much effort as I am now.”

Jules Sulpazo

With both parents accountants by trade, Sulpazo decided to franchise a business. Franchises, she said, were a safer investment because the brand name is already out there. For someone starting off with no real business experience, it offered the least risk.

“This world is very economy-driven,” Sulpazo said. “No matter where my career took me, I knew I’d need these business skills and I couldn’t sit in a classroom and learn it.”

The pair narrowed down potential options. There was the uninspiring vending machine company. Rita’s Water Ice sounded fun, but Sulpazo didn’t love certain language in the contract.

Driven by the thought of her stepfather’s favorite treat – soft pretzels – Sulpazo became a co-owner of a Philly Pretzel Factory in Abington. She was 21-years-old.

The first year became the toughest, Sulpazo said. She dealt with staff turnover – employees who didn’t love having a 21-year-old for a boss. She handled payroll issues and needed to purchase new equipment.

She’s survived by “getting into business with the right people” – mainly, her stepfather. He’s the one “you can run to with your arm chopped off and he’d be calm,” she said.

“Owning a business can be cutthroat,” Sulpazo said. “You can either succumb to that or keep your childhood ambitions. I wasn’t going to be cutthroat. I believe in treating people well. Just because the world changes, doesn’t mean I have to be changed by other people’s actions.”

‘She Believed in This School, So I Did’

While owning the business, Sulpazo continued teaching dog behavior classes. Every so often, the owner, Lisa Birkenstock, encouraged Sulpazo to seek a career working with animals. When she did, Berkenstock, a former Manor College professor, encouraged her to look into Manor’s veterinary technology program.

With the curiosity of a return to college fresh in her head, Sulpazo spoke with a friend about the possibility. The friend, also an adult learner, asked, “Don’t you just want to know the information that they’ll teach you?”

Soon after that conversation, Sulpazo applied and later enrolled at Manor College.

“Manor was recommended to me by someone who I respected as an idol,” Sulpazo said. “She believed in this school, so I did.”

Unlike her previous college experiences, Sulpazo found a home at Manor. Her mature outlook as an adult learner provided the focus she needed and Manor helped her find the calling she desired in veterinary technology.

“As an adult learner, I craved finding a community of people that want me to succeed,” Sulpazo said. “I thought that in college, I couldn’t find a community of people that I had common ground with. Here, these are my people. It was a huge influence in coming here and coming back to school in general.”

Sure, she still appreciates those quiet car rides between college, work and home, but Sulpazo believes the crazy times outside of the car now have value.

“There are still days that it’s a struggle,” Sulpazo said, “but that struggle is worth it because you’re working towards something you want. This never feels like work. It feels more like a passion. You just have to stay strong, reach out for help and know where your priorities lie.”

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