Editor's note: This is one in a weekly series of profiles on locally owned and operated businesses in Southern Oregon.
What do you do and how long have you been doing it? (Sue speaking) We run a full-care pet facility with 120 kennels on 5 acres. We offer individual training and obedience classes, an all-breed pet salon, boarding and doggie day care, which is the biggest part of our business. We started the business in 2007.
How long have you lived in the Rogue Valley? We moved here in 1989 from Santa Cruz, Calif.
What inspired you to go into this line of work? We have two businesses. We purchased Oregon Retrievers in 1992 and did a small amount of boarding while we raised Labrador retrievers. I was teaching obedience classes and training here in the valley, and we realized that there was a need for what we do now, but it took a while to do it. The biggest thing was to find a fairly central location because of all the different services we offer. Zoning is a huge problem, and finding zoning that allows kennels is difficult, and we wanted to live on the property.
What decision or action would you change if you could do it again? It took five years of planning before starting, and I traveled to three different states, visiting 50 pet resorts. By the time we started, we avoided a lot of mistakes.
But our little dog-facility area needed to be bigger. We outgrew it in six months. A lot of people wouldn't board their dogs until they found out what we offered, and then we started seeing more and more first-timers who didn't want to put their dogs in a traditional kennel.
What's the toughest business decision you've made? We went so far into debt and put everything we had into it. It was a dream, and we wondered if it was going to pay off and be successful. In our hearts we knew it would, and we kept going even with the hurdles. We went into this when the economy was going bad — right in the midst of it. We had a television commercial made, but we never aired it because we got so busy, so fast. You've got to keep up with animal care and keep everyone on task. We had to service two properties with one income. We were in debt to the max, but we were able to pay everybody.
Who are your competitors? No one does all the things we do in this area. There are a couple with good reputations in the valley. One is Alpha Gay, a boarding place down the street. There are just a few mom-and-pop kennels, but they are small, and that's why we are expanding right now.
What training or education did you need? You need a history of working with animals and we breed Labradors. I owned a grooming and boarding facility in Scotts Valley, Calif. I went to Evergreen School of Dog Grooming in San Jose. Tom was a dog trainer here in the Rogue Valley.
What are your goals? I would like to open a second facility, possibly at the other end of the valley, or expand ours to fulfill the needs of the upcoming population. Our daughter, Hayley, now runs the front office. Our doggie day care, boarding and grooming is expanding — everything is expanding. We're collecting equipment for an agility course by the freeway. We're landscaping and putting in a pond. I think it's necessary to live on the property with a facility this large, but finding the right zoning is so difficult, and it changed after we bought the place here. I'm glad I kept all the paperwork.
We haven't hired a veterinarian because I don't want people to bring sick dogs here. If we brought one in, it would be to give vaccines and do procedures for healthy dogs.
What's your advice for budding entrepreneurs? Plan on having zero life for the first five years. Get your financing in order. That's probably the biggest thing. And do your research.
To suggest ideas for this column, about businesses that are at least five years old, contact reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or email firstname.lastname@example.org