(Season 1, Episode 8)
1. How did you end up being cast on Start Up? Did you submit or were you contacted?
I was contacted for the show. I was told that the show was shooting somewhere else in Washington DC and asked was there another creative business they would recommend. I realized the person they asked I had only met once at a Small Business Administration (SBA), DC Women's Business Center sponsored event. I am so happy she remembered, not to mention recommended me! Thank you, Monique Greenwood!
2. How did you feel after watching the episode, and is there anything you would've said or done differently?
After watching the episode I thought of how many things I could have said if I wasn't soooo nervous. Of course, Gary makes you feel very comfortable, he saved me, and the editing of course. But seriously, I wouldn't change anything. That's where I was back then. I've come a long way.
3. What response did you receive from being on the show?
When the show was airing, I was getting calls from friends in Martha's Vineyard on vacation to family in Richmond, VA. I even got a few calls from the mid-west from people who were inspired. They thanked me for doing the show.
4. Have there been any major hardships or great accomplishments with you or your business since appearing on the show?
Yes, I have had major hardship with the business since appearing on the show. When the Start Up crew came I had not long finished grooming school. I was adding full grooming services to the self-serve. I went to school so that I would know if the groomer I hired was doing a good job or not, or if I was at some point without a groomer I could step in. Well, I enjoyed it and was good at it, so the full groom took off very quickly. To be honest, it is what has sustained the DOGGIE WASHERETTE for all these years. Don't get me wrong the self-serve definitely had gained an awesome reputation and had some die-hard regulars. Unfortunately, the new paradigm for a lot of cities especially the District/Maryland/Virginia (DMV) is pet-friendly, living especially in the inner city. Initially, I was approached by a big developer to put another DOGGIE WASHERETTE in a retail space that had a couple a hundred pet-friendly apartments over it. I was lining up all of my ducks to take advantage of this opportunity and the next thing I know the developer starts giving me the runaround. Anyway, not in that location, but PETCO has a new concept for their urban store called Unleashed. They offer self-serve baths half my price and the last time I checked, a couple of months from this email they had 14 locations in the DMV. They put one in walking distance of my shop. Needless to say, I heard Petsmart who is their main competitor, is soon to start their self-serve venture.On top of this, the main apartment development from which most of my customers were coming put their own doggie washtubs in their basement for FREE to their tenants. I tried to arrange and re-arrange my schedule to accommodate the few self-served customers who remained, but paying an employee $11.50/hr (DC's minimum wage) for four hours, just in case one person showed up was pulling from the bank very quickly. in April 2016 I decided to close the self-serve and focus only on full grooming.
I have also had personal hardship since appearing on the show. In October 2015 my husband was diagnosed with Stage IV cancer. His doctor was watching his numbers but out of nowhere, things went haywire. Every test had the worst results possible. It was in his bones, organs, everywhere. Needless to say, we were all devastated.At the time I had 5 active employees, one was taking a few weeks off. What to do? My feet felt like the floor had dropped from under them, and everything about my life was up in the air. How would I make it, these peoples livelihoods were dependent upon me, and they had people depending on them. How would I be able to support my husband through treatment, how would his body respond to the extreme chemo, I knew I would need to be there to take care of him physically and emotionally. So many things were running through my head, "Close the shop. Let the employees run it." After much prayer, I decided to lay most of the people off. It didn't happen all at once but by July 2016 it was just me and one groomer. All I could do is what I could do. Well, it's been going better than I could have imagined with just the two of us but business is steady and good. My husband went through his chemo with miraculous results by the grace of God and is doing well in his continued treatment.
5. What was your favorite part of being on the show?
My favorite part of being on the show is feeling like my hard work and sacrifice was/is worth it. Even that someone would want to hear me talk about it.
6. What is the most valuable lesson you've learned in business?
The most valuable lesson I've learned in business is to delve into your industry. Always continue to educate yourself, truly become, "The Expert". Get involved with your industry associations. Be flexible, keep growing and changing when necessary. I am now studying to become a Certified Grooming Aesthetician and work with vets to help dogs with skin and coat challenges. I'll be in Arizona in a few weeks to take my test. It's a whole new trail to blaze in dog grooming in the DMV!
7. What advice do you have for other "would-be" small business owners?
I would advise a would-be small business owner to have a support system. If one is able to live with someone who will carry you for a while "if need be". If you are a husband and wife or couple. I would recommend one keep their "day job" if you will until the business gets on its feet. I would also recommend where possible to create an on-line business, it seems to be the way things are going these days.
8. If you could move your business and live anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
Personally, if I could move my business anywhere in the world right now it would be HOME. I am blessed that my husband is doing well. But I would like to be with him and not have to give up this business that I sooo love, helping dogs be healthy and beautiful.