Brookside Barkery and Bath was opened in 2003 in Kansas City area.
Tell me about your current business. What are you doing exactly?
Brookside Barkery and Bath is an all Natural pet food store specializing in cats and dogs. We also do all natural grooming and self-serve pet washes with no chemicals.
What were you doing before this, and is this your first business?
I was in business and development side of working with architectural firms. My own pets inspired me to start Brookside Barkery and Bath!
Did you write a business plan? Was it an effective tool for you?
Yes, I participated in the Kaufmann program "FastTrac." This allowed me resources to develop and implement my plan.
Who did you hire to help you? Bookkeeper, Accountants, Lawyers …? Would you suggest others do the same?
We did hire an accountant and an attorney to help with the initial legal issues. I also have a background in accounting and to this day I still do the day to day accounting, we do have an accountant who handles all the taxes and month end accounting.
What outside resources were helpful for you? Business incubators, Chamber of Commerce, SCORE, ….
Kaufmann Foundation and Women's Business Center, also the local library..
Did you operate your business from your home? What were the challenges and benefits to this strategy?
The first year, I did everything from my home until we were able to find a location and acquire funding for the build-out. I did all the research on the industry, attended industry trade-shows and started my industry networking.
This allowed me time to acquire the funding which was my biggest challenge. We even won an award for Missouri Small Business for "Against all Odds." We were the first in this area to combine a retail along with self-serve bathing and the bankers were uncertain. I had to leverage everything we had along with credit cards, which I don't recommend. We did pay everything off, but, we had our moments. Today, our growth was up 33% from last year, not bad!
Did you have a partner when you started your business? How did you select a partner?
At first, my sister-in-law was my partner, she wasn't able to put anymore capital or any time in developing the business, she sold to another partner who was able to work full-time and provide the needed capital to grow. We are still working hard and I'm fortunate to have a great working partner.
Have you hired additional staff? What is your greatest human resources challenge?
Today, we have 38 staff, 8 of which is full-time. Our greatest challenge is in our Olathe Kansas store, where it's difficult to keep our young staff working. Our other stores have very little turnover.
Do you own a business with family members? What do you think are the benefits and challenges to running a family owned business?
My husband started working in the business full time last year due to the economy, we were fortunate since he already was involved to work for pay.
For women entrepreneurs, what specific advice would you have for young women who would like to become an entrepreneur? Are there specific advantages, disadvantages to being a women business owner?
I don't feel I have an advantage or disadvantage. It's what you're willing to make of it. Long hours and passion about what you are doing.
Green business is all the rage right now. Has it really been practical for you as an entrepreneur to incorporate green business practices?
Definitely, since we are an all natural shop, we really try to limit the toxins and footprint and we encourage recycling. We finally just went to bio-degradable shopping bags!
With the current economy in a slump, what cost saving tips would you have for a new entrepreneur?
Do your homework, be prepared to be without money for a while. Be prepared to wear many hats, from front person to back of the shop cleaning toilets.
Have you outsourced any portion of your business? Has that worked for your business?
We were finally able to hire a marketing group a couple of years ago, this has taken the burden out of making those tough decisions on advertising.
Finding employees to work in a new and growing business can be a challenge. How did you find your employees?
We are fortunate, our employees for most part are college educated in some type of field, one thing they love is animals and they are willing to do what they love and enjoy being around animals and making a difference. Our employees seek us out.
Social marketing is consistently being written about in the small business space. Has it worked generating business for you?
We do have Facebook , I'm not one to be tied to my phone or computer keeping tabs on everything and everyone, my best success is actually being involved personally in different animal agencies.
What have you done that has been very effective in helping to grow the business?
Excellent customer service, dedicated staff and contributions back to the community.
How has your experience in running the business been different from what you expected?
After sacrificing for 3 years, my rewards are my customers who come back and thank us for what we have done for them. Recently, my inspiration for our business "Aspen" our St. Bernard passed away. We sent out an E-mail letting our customers know. The following two weeks and more, my husband and I received hundreds of e-mails on how the Barkery influenced their lives through their pets. This is something I never expected. Great Huh!
Is there anything you wish you had done differently? Everything has a reason, I wouldn't do anything differently, since my outcome is so good.
Thanks for your time, Delena. If you want to hear more about her story, check out the new book BoomerPreneurs, How Baby Boomers Can Start Their Own Business, Make Money and Enjoy Life.