UA student raises sugar gliders and the bar
While many people only dream of having their houses filled with adorable animals, freshman education and pre-business student Brennen Feder turned that dream into a reality.
For six years, beginning when he was only 12 years old, Feder bred, raised and sold sugar gliders as his own business.
“My whole life, I’ve always been obsessed with animals and raising all different sorts of animals,” Feder said.
Feder got his first sugar gliders when he was 12 after seeing the animals for the first time at the Pima County Fair. After two years of raising them, he decided to pursue breeding and selling them as well.
“I’ve always been a business person,” Feder said. “I realized I was putting in so much effort and work for them, I’m like, 'I think I can get something in return.'”
After buying two more sugar gliders for breeding and ending up with three babies, Feder placed an ad on Craigslist. He received 40 offers within two days.
His parents allowed him to convert a downstairs section of the family home into a breeding area. Feder had 10 cages in his house, each eight feet tall.
He applied for a license with the U.S. Department of Agriculture at age 14. Inspectors came to assure that both the home and the sugar gliders were suitable for breeding.
Once he was approved, the teenage Feder invested all the money he had saved over the years into his business.
“Everything I did was several hundred dollars,” Feder said. "So I had a few hundred dollars saved up. I’d buy another pair of sugar gliders, start breeding them, sell the babies, and once I recuperated the money I would reinvest it and keep it going.”
Throughout high school Feder would spend between two and 10 hours a day caring for his sugar gliders. He prepared meals for them and cleaned their cages, as well as ensured that the animals were social enough to be pets.
“They were always my number-one priority,” Feder said. “At the end of the day, if I didn't have enough time, the animals were going to get my time over the homework … In the end, it really paid off.”
Feder raised other animals as well. Over the years, he estimates he helped 30 chinchillas, 200 hedgehogs, 500 birds and over 400 sugar gliders find a home.
He made each buyer sign a contract promising that if they no longer wanted the animal, they would bring it to him rather than abandoning it at a shelter.
“I’m very against breeding animals that are found in shelters a lot," Feder said. "And so I really stuck to only working with animals that I knew are in high demand and they would never end up in a shelter."
Buyers were often shocked by his young age. However, Feder’s comprehensive knowledge of sugar gliders earned him credibility and served as a resource for his clients, who would contact him with additional questions after they brought home their new pets.
Feder no longer raises sugar gliders now that he is in college and not living at home. The benefits of his business, however, still continue.
Over the course of six years, Feder earned approximately $40,000 in profit, which he is using to pay for school.
He believes his business taught him several useful skills.
“Perseverance, I think, is definitely one,” Feder said. “Being able to be accountable, I would say, is the other … Trusting in yourself in and your abilities, I think, is also a big part of it.”
Feder also credits his sugar glider business with helping land a coveted Coca-Cola Campus Ambassador position.
During the final interview for the ambassador position, he was not able to complete an in-person interview as there were no interviews in Tucson. Feder was nervous about the disadvantages of a Skype interview.
“The first question on the interview was 'You have 60 seconds to go find something in your house that has meaning to you and bring it back,'” Feder said. “I went and grabbed two baby sugar gliders, and they went nuts.”
In addition to being a Coca-Cola Campus Ambassador, Feder works for the regional branch Swire Coca-Cola and for WorkAbility as a job coach for people with disabilities.
He is also a member of Freshman Class Council and will serve in the Associated Students of the University of Arizona as a Representative for the College of Education next year.
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“I’m a workaholic,” Feder said.
Feder plans to go into higher education and is interested in being a professor one day before going into administration. However, his time with sugar gliders is likely not over.
“I definitely plan on getting back into it at a certain point, just as a little hobby thing,” Feder said. “It was so much fun. I would buy them back in a heartbeat if I could have it in the dorms.”
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