The bottom line is: if you have a business and don’t make wise financial decisions, it doesn’t matter how passionate you are, you won’t stay in business long. That’s why the SBTDC is so instrumental
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE CLUB CANINE?
Club Canine is a multi-purpose pet care facility that offers lodging, grooming, training and all-natural pet foods and supplies. Our Doggy Day Camp provides a structured learning and socialization experience for the dogs. We strive to meet each dog’s social, physical and nutritional needs so they feel safe and loved.
HOW DID YOU GET INTO PET CARE?
Our first dog was a corgi named Mindy and we did everything wrong with her. After failed attempts to raise an obedient dog, we hired a trainer. When I started learning about dog behavior and training, my respect for dogs deepened and I couldn’t get enough. The trainer thought I was a natural and offered me a job. I started training part-time while continuing a career in social work.
HOW DID YOU MAKE THE LEAP TO QUIT YOUR DAY JOB?
Working as a hospice social worker was rewarding, but highly stressful. I eventually burned out and decided to take some time off, during which I researched the pet care industry. My first business was in-home pet sitting and I did that for five years before selling to stay at home with my newborn. I eventually opened Club Canine and initially offered training and doggie day camp. In less than a year, I moved to a larger location and expanded our services to include grooming and lodging.
WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR BIGGEST CHALLENGE AS AN ENTREPRENEUR?
My strengths are in dogs and customer service; I hate numbers and percentages. I would rather do anything than deal with the books. But, in the beginning it is too easy to think you can do it all yourself. My advice is to spend the money and hire people who have the strengths you lack. The bottom line is: if you have a business and don’t make wise financial decisions, it doesn’t matter how passionate you are, you won’t stay in business long. That’s why the SBTDC is so instrumental to small businesses and start-ups. It’s free, so you don’t have to pay for those resources.
HOW HAS THE SBTDC HELPED?
When I first met with the SBTDC, I was looking for help reviewing my business plan. I had done the research, made a decision and knew I needed a loan. My counselor gave me a non-biased and educated opinion along with the information I needed to evaluate the loan options and make a wise decision. The SBTDC was instrumental in preparing me with our business plan, financial statements, income projections and all the paperwork I needed to apply for the loan successfully. If it weren’t for that visit, I never would have gotten the loan I did. They have been a lifesaver.
HOW MUCH GROWTH HAS YOUR BUSINESS EXPERIENCED OVER THE YEARS?
We grew out of the space I started in within a year. My next facility was 5,000 sf of renovated space that we almost immediately grew out of. That was about seven years ago and my husband and I started talking about building our own facility, but we knew we couldn’t rush it. Last year everything finally fell into place and we were able to move into our beautiful, state-of-the-art, 12,000 sf facility, and we could already use more space. It isn’t really about the building though, people come here for the peace of mind we are able to give them and the customer service. I started with just two employees and now we currently have 14. We’ve seen our sales increase by 30% since moving into our new facility
WHAT KEEPS YOU MOTIVATED?
Passion! If you find what you are passionate about, everything else comes naturally. I love educating dog owners and watching the quality of their dogs lives improve. Even well-meaning dog owners sometimes don’t understand what their dog’s needs are or what they are trying to say. We get to be their voice.
WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR OTHERS STARTING IN THE SERVICE INDUSTRY?
Juggling customer satisfaction and doing what is right can be really tricky. For example, it can be hard telling the customer that their dog just isn’t a good candidate for day camp since many people take that personally. You need to have confidence and believe in what you know so you can do what is best, even if this means disappointing the customer or turning away business.
We want to add an outdoor water park to enhance a pet’s stay with us as well as to offer a safe place for people to exercise their dogs. So often we see people who think their dogs are having fun at dog parks when they’re actually being bullied. We want this to be a place that’s fun but also a means to educate people.
This story was originally published in the SBTDC 2014-2015 Annual Report. Click Here to view the report.