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Better Business, Better World



Better Business,
Better World

These businesses are proving sustainable practices can be a win-win. Here’s how you can get started.


Sustainability. When you hear the word, do questions pop into your head? “What does that even mean in 2018?” “Can my business afford to adopt sustainable practices?” “Where do I start?”

First, let’s look at the modern concept of sustainability. It takes a more holistic approach that includes not only eco-friendliness but also social impact, with the latter encompassing how a  company engages its employees and community. 

As to the affordability question, consider instead how not making such investments can affect your ability to compete for certain customers. 

“Millennials are now the largest consumer population, and they are willing to pay more for sustainable products and services that align with their values,” says Caitlyn Bolton, founder and executive director of the Pet Sustainability Coalition.

She also points out that millennials have overtaken previous generations to become the largest segment of the U.S. workforce. Hiring their best and brightest should be a priority for your business, and sustainable efforts can help attract those applicants.


“Millennials are willing to take a pay cut to work for a company that integrates environmental and social purpose into its mission,” Bolton says.

So, where to start? Look to these pet businesses for inspiration and advice. We talked to pet product manufacturers that lead the industry in sustainability, much of which translates to retail and services settings. You’ll also hear from counterparts at stores, grooming shops and daycare/boarding facilities about how they balance sustainable practices with business goals.





How has Pet Camp become one of the most sustainability-minded businesses in the industry? Husband and wife Mark Klaiman and Virginia Donohue worked for the Environmental Protection Agency before founding their daycare and boarding facility in 1997.

“We already had an environmental ethos,” Klaiman explains. “In part, it’s about trying to be better for our kids. And this is our home. We know every business has an environmental impact on its community, so we look for ways to minimize that.”

In part, it’s about trying to be better for our kids. And this is our home. We know every business has an environmental impact on its community, so we look for ways to minimize that.”

The first priority was not only reduction of energy used but also reliance on outside providers. They changed 20 light fixtures in the 6,000-square-foot building to more efficient fluorescent; converted pressure washers and pool heaters and filters to use less energy at 220 volts instead of 120; and installed a 33-kilowatt solar-panel system that generates more than half of the electricity needed. Ventilation now is aided by BigAss Fans, high-volume, low-speed units that use only 58 watts.

All of the above — and other improvements — allow Pet Camp to save more than 70 percent annually on energy bills, compared to those for the facility as originally built.

To those concerned about costs associated with environmental sustainability upgrades, Klaiman recommends taking advantage of any federal, state and local incentive programs.


“Always look for help,” he says. “It’s shocking what money is available.”

Such funds helped pay for many of the changes made. The solar-panel system cost $280,000, but tax savings and California via electric company PG&E paid for $140,000. The San Francisco Community Power Cooperative paid for $8,000 of the BigAss Fan installation bill of $16,000.

Klaiman also has found a way to turn dog poop deposited on-site into a source of energy and savings. Through a composting program with the city and waste-management provider Recology, the poop blends with other “green” waste at East Bay Municipal Water District to generate methane gas, which gets turned into electricity for the treatment facility. This also allows Pet Camp to divert more than 80 percent of its waste from landfills, which reduces its Recology bill by more than $6,500 per year.

“We are unbelievably fortunate, in that we have a waste hauler willing to be creative with us,” he says, pointing out that such opportunities may exist in other areas of the country, as providers save money as well. “Landfills are expensive. The more they can divert from a landfill, the longer they can put off on building a new one.”



In a pet world gone grain-free, Crystal Wiebe embraces the ingredient as a way to practice environmental sustainability while making dogs happy. She takes spent grains from breweries — which can have literal tons to dispose of daily, depending on their size — and uses them to create treats for her Beer Paws line of products.

“Spent grains are mostly fiber and protein, which make for a healthy treat,” Wiebe explains. “Even if you feed your dogs grain-free kibble, as I do, it’s OK to make an exception with treats, which aren’t the basis for their diet.”

Her company also makes Doggy Beer, of course, which she sells by the six-pack in gently used human-beer carriers given to her by friends, family and brewery partners.

“It takes more energy to recycle than to reuse,” Wiebe says, “so if we use them a few more times before they have to be recycled, we delay that.”

Beer Paws accepts human-beer bottle caps and leather belts for upcycling. They come together as stylish dog collars, with pet parents given a choice of 12-plus breweries to choose from when placing their order.

To those just starting to make sustainability a priority in their pet business, Wiebe has this advice: “I encourage folks to think twice before throwing anything away. It just might have another life in it.”



The reverse osmosis system at Odyssey Pets purifies water for aquariums on display and for tanks in customer homes. During the process, 50 percent gets bypassed.

“Most fish stores just throw that water away. We collect it in a separate container for use,” explains Mike Doan, who owns and operates the business with his wife Sherry Redwine, and her parents, Bill and JoAnn. “It’s good, clean water. We don’t wash dogs with it because mineral content is a little high, but we can use it in other ways.”

Employees clean everything but pets with the bypassed water, from towels to floors.

“An aquarium system wastes a lot of water. This is how we control that waste,” he says.

The owners have found several ways like this to incorporate environmental sustainability while reducing their water, electricity and other expenses. In the grooming department, locally made and eco-friendly Espree products flow through a pressurized container system that limits the amount dispensed. A separate drying room allows groomers to work more cleanly and, therefore, more efficiently, with additional help from a ceiling fan that vents hair and fur onto the Odyssey Pets roof, where it becomes nest-building material for birds instead of taking up space in a landfill.



Cindy Dunston Quirk checks multiple sustainability boxes with her Scout & Zoe’s Carpius Maximus. By purchasing carp from Kentucky fisherman, she helps control the population of a prolific and invasive species that threatens ecosystems in that state and beyond.

A second-chance employer — one that employs those with criminal histories, allowing them to become contributing members of society again — processes the fish, smoking or dehydrating it into tasty treats for dogs and cats.

Finally, individuals with disabilities receive vocational training  while packaging Carpius Maximus. Quirk highly recommends implementing such sustainable practices to her fellow pet business owners.

“Be true to your beliefs and principles. It might be easier and less expensive to compromise on being green, organic, natural, etc., but you still have to abide by the choices you make,” she says. “Sticking to my beliefs of sustainable, premium human-grade ingredients allows me to say with 100 percent certainty that when a pet parent purchases a Scout & Zoe’s product, it is safe and nutritious for their fur kid as well as good for the planet and its people.”



Sisters Jessica Ellis and Whitney Kamish created their pet store with the environment in mind.

“We are about the earth and making it a better place,” Ellis says. “We want to use our business as a force for good, do good through it.”

That means looking at the environmental impact of the products it carries, but of how The Green Spot operates as well. Customers receive receipts via email. Employees use washable rags instead of paper towels. Pets get groomed with eco-friendly Earthbath products. Open Farm and Earthborn food bags come back to the store empty for free recycling through TerraCycle.

Ellis and Kamish also try to help neighboring businesses be more green. Most recently, they cleared up confusion surrounding shared dumpsters in their shopping center. “Only one is for recycling, but all three have a recycling logo, so cardboard was going into all of them,” Ellis explains. “We made these big magnets that say, THIS IS NOT A RECYCLING BIN.”

The sign identifies the correct dumpster and even offers up The Green Spot’s box cutters for breaking down items, which creates more space for recyclables and keeps cardboard overflow from being sent to a landfill.




To source ingredients any more locally, Robert Van Sickle would have to move his kitchen onto a fishing boat. Polkadog Bakery headquarters sits in South Boston, where access to just-caught fish makes the company’s dog and cat treats not only delicious, but also an example of sustainability on multiple levels.

Fish don’t have far to go after leaving the pier, and once dehydrated or baked into treats, the bakery’s five locations are within 15 miles. This proximity of supply to manufacturing to retail supports local producers and minimizes environmental impact and cost of transport.

Van Sickle built and runs his business with that and other sustainability issues in mind. He purchases whole fish but also uses skins and trimmings, keeping them out of landfills.

Employees at Polkadog are also valued as a sustainable resource.

“We pay our people well enough to live in the city, in communities they are from,” Van Sickle says. “We don’t want them to be stressed about making it to the next paycheck.”

Living near work also means they can take public transportation and not commute by car, a factor he considered when choosing the current location of company headquarters over a similar setup outside of Boston.

Customers can also contribute to Polkadog’s eco-friendly efforts at retail locations. The stores sell in bulk, offer credits for reusing bags and give discounts to those who bring back certain packaging to refill.




West Paw serves as a sustainability leader in the pet industry. It handcrafts 100 percent of its products in the U.S.A. and continuously looks for ways to eliminate waste from manufacturing.

It was the first pet company to use IntelliLoft, recycled plastic fill and fabric found in its toys and beds. Zogoflex, its proprietary plastic blend (nontoxic and BPA-free like all West Paw products), can be indefinitely recycled, during manufacturing and through Join the Loop, a program founder and CEO Spencer Williams touts as an easy way retail partners can practice environmental sustainability.

“They can provide incredible face-to-face service to a customer by saying, ‘OK, I’ll take that toy back. We’ll send it back to the company so it can be made into a brand-new toy for someone else, instead of it ending up in a landfill. Here’s another product from West Paw I recommend.’ What a powerful message in today’s market,” he says.

For all of the above and many other reasons, West Paw earned B Corp status in 2013. Such designation recognizes a company’s commitment to environmental and social sustainability, accountability and transparency.

“One of the best ways to approach sustainability is through employee engagement. We practice open-book management,” Williams explains. “It shares our company’s challenges and successes, allowing our employees to provide input that will improve our business.”

Those on the front lines help drive eco-friendly improvements in manufacturing, and additional teams have self-formed to better the lives of employees and community members. One effort that touches all aspects of sustainability is West Paw’s funding of and volunteering at dog parks.

“Open space can be a really wonderful part of an ecosystem in a community. We also believe in the power of connecting and spending time with your pet,” he says. “Helping to create spaces that dogs and people can enjoy, that benefit the environment and the community, it’s very fulfilling and brings joy and satisfaction to everyone involved. And it lines up with our business of making pets and people happy.”




Founded by Alex Fisher in 1997 as an environmentally friendly and socially conscious company, Planet Dog has set an example for how pet product manufacturers can embrace sustainability on multiple fronts.

“Twenty years later, it’s still part of our DNA. It’s what matters to us and has become even more relevant today,” CEO and partner Colleen McCracken says.

Waste from the injection-molding process that makes Orbee-Tuff dog toys gets captured and re-used for Orbee-Tuff Recycle balls and bones. All Orbee-Tuff products are made in the U.S.A. Leashes, collars and harnesses feature highly renewable hemp as well as handles made from recycled fleece. The company  recently switched from shipping boxes within boxes to paper bags within boxes.

“Now  we’re not using as much cardboard or paying to ship air,” McCracken explains. “Our retailers love it. They’re not getting so many boxes, and they appreciate that we’re thinking about the environment.”

The company celebrated a social sustainability milestone in April of last year, when its Planet Dog Foundation held the first Planet Dog Ball. The foundation, which began in 2006, funds the training, placement and support of working dogs. The event raised $80,000 for two organizations: America’s VetDogs and K9s on The Front Line.

“To date, the foundation has given $1.6 million in grants to more than 150 organizations. We’re very proud of that. It’s the heart part of what we do at Planet Dog,” McCracken says.

Eco-friendliness also runs through the entire company. To tap its power, an employee Sustainability Council meets once a week to assess ongoing efforts and make new recommendations. Their monthly lunch-and-learns feature speakers from the ranks as well as from the community. Composting at headquarters and the company store now takes place thanks to a talk led by curbside provider Garbage to Garden.



Sisters Jane and Karen Bond practice what they call “smart sustainability.” Their Eco Dog Care line of grooming products are both environmentally friendly and effective. Take their Simply Nourishing Shampoo. It does not contain ingredients that may harm the planet, people or pets. But it still cleans deeply, smells good and repels pests thanks to plant extracts.

“Whatever we put in our products also has to deliver functional value,” Jane says.

They incorporate that same smart sustainability into the operation of Eco Dog Care LA, their grooming, daycare and boarding facility. Overnight guests get their own Kleanbowls, single-use, compostable/recyclable dishes. Using the product helps prevent germs from spreading and saves water, energy and employee time that would have been spent on washing. Employees also use bioDOGradable poop bags, but as with the bowls, not exclusively.

“We haven’t shifted completely to bioDOGradable as they are more expensive,” Jane explains. “We look for products that will lessen our impact on the environment. Then knock it down bit by bit by layering them in one at a time.” That approach makes practicing sustainability more manageable, Jane says, adding, “We have to be practical, too, as small businesses.”


Join The Pet Sustainability  Coalition Even the most forward-thinking businesses need help and support when it comes to sustainability. One of the best resources is membership in the Pet Sustainability Coalition. Many of the businesses we feature here have joined, including founding members West Paw and Planet Dog, plus The Green Spot, Polkadog Bakery and Eco Dog Care.

West Paw founder and CEO Spencer Williams shares how the coaltion can move your company forward in this important area:

“The whole idea of sustainability can be completely overwhelming, but PSC exists to take that feeling away. What we want in business is a measure that can help us see if we’re making progress. Often that sole measure is profits, but more and more we realize that profits shouldn’t be the only measure.

“You take an assessment, spend an hour and a half online to receive insight into how your businesses is performing in the key areas of sustainability. Then you have a baseline, and with the help of PSC decide what the next thing is you can do, and it might be as simple as changing out lights or looking at a way to retain employees longer through better engagement programs.

“You then go back to the assessment at least once a year to see what your new score is. That provides tremendous value for a small business looking to make incremental but meaningful steps toward a more sustainable tomorrow.”

Visit for more information and to join.



Look at your business through a sustainability lens. Start by taking the Pet Sustainability Coalition assessment.

Talk to your neighbors. There may be ways to share costs and resources to reach common goals.

Find community partners. See above.

Use manufacturer recycling programs. They’re free, easy and involve customers in your sustainability efforts.

Think twice before throwing anything away. Is it something you could sell? Or use elsewhere in your business?

Think about what others throw away. See above.

Talk to your waste-management and other providers. They may surprise you with a sustainability improvement that saves you both money.

Involve your employees. They have great ideas! And implementing their ideas leads to job satisfaction and longevity.

Look for free money. Research what federal, state and local funds you can apply for when making sustainability improvements.

10 Pace yourself. You don’t have to save the world all by yourself or in one year. Create short-term and long-term goals.

This article originally appeared in the January 2018 edition of PETS+.





Webinar Replay: How to Keep That Holiday Momentum Rolling

Catch a replay of the recent PETS+ Live! webinar, in which host Candace D'Agnolo discusses how pet business owners can maintain their sales momentum after the holidays are finished. To see more PETS+ Live! webinars, visit

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Cover Stories

7 Ways to Make the Most of the January Slowdown

Avoid the post holiday blues with promotions to get cash-wielding customers through your doors in January.




DOES THE POST-HOLIDAY prove challenging for your business? It doesn’t need to be.

“January can still be a really good month,” Pet Boss Nation’s Candace D’Agnolo says.

Store owners, don’t dwell on cold weather reducing foot traffic. Instead promote coats, boots and other winter gear.

“Those are higher ticket items compared to the majority of what you sell,” she points out.

Groomers, expect a bump from those looking to get in one last appointment before 2019 prices go into effect, which D’Agnolo recommends doing on February 1, with the announcement in December.

“That gives clients enough time to hear about it and not feel blindsided,” she explains.

Care providers, embrace the slow down. Pet parents returning and paying for holiday services in January will help offset any decrease in bookings.

“It’s the perfect month to give you our employees time off, to catch up on their lives,” D’Agnolo says.

Whatever your business, complete tasks pushed to the bottom of the to-do list throughout the year.

“While doing your inventory, deep clean and organize. Toss out what doesn’t matter and get files ready for your accountant,” she adds.

Need more ideas? Check out how PETS+ Brain Squad members make the most of the post holiday period.

Offer Freebies and Discounts

In addition to marking treats BOGO, Nancy Okun of Dogs and Cats in Port Charlotte, FL, gives customers something sweet or meaty for their pet.

“We offer a free frozen yogurt and biscuits. Even if the customer doesn’t bring their dog to the store, we will give them a doggy bag,” she says. “If a cat owner, they get a free can of cat food, just to try something new.”

Angela Pantalone combines freebies and discounts at Wag Central in Stratford, CT.

“January is when tons of bills are due, and cash flow is important,” Pantalone says. “We have scheduled discounts on daycare and grooming packages, freebie trials and spa services for our pup clientele to keep them coming in the door.”

Wag Central in Stratford, CT, offers freebies and discounts to keep cash flowing in January. PHOTO BY LISA GARCIA

Promote With the New Year

Humans adapt healthier habits in the new year, and so can pets. Stacy Busch of Busch Pet Products in Cape Girardeau, MO, offers the opportunity for exactly that as well as for savings.

“We do a trade in promotion called new year, new food,” Busch says. “If a customer or non-customer isn’t feeding anything from us, all they have to do is bring in a bag of their food and let us find something better. They will get 15 percent off the first bag and 10 percent off the next two bags if they stick with it for three months. We guarantee better coat and skin, more energy and overall improved health. We’ve gotten some lasting customers with the promo!”

Busch also has a “Least Wanted” ingredients poster created to help promote the event.

January promotions at Fur Baby Boutique in Milford, DE, also encourage positive changes for pets. Sherry Shupe says, “We focus on New Year’s goals and starting out the new year with a better diet, more exercise (daycare) and a spa makeover!”


Deep Clean

Thanks to below zero temps in the Minneapolis area, business at Bubbly Paws dog washes slows in January. Keith and Patrycia Miller use the time to deep clean and freshen up their four locations.

“We pull out our drying channels and do a good cleaning behind them. Same with all of our back room shelves. Basically, it’s a great time to move things out into our public area, knowing that not many people will see the mess,” Miller says.

“We also power scrub all of the flooring (we do this about three times a year), but the one in January is always the best because you can really go to town with the scrubber and not worry about getting in people’s way or having our staff do it before/after store hours.”

Shutting a location down for maintenance projects, such as installing a new water heater, can happen in January without significant impact to the business.

“Our water had to be turned off for seven hours to change some plumbing around. When you are in the business of selling water, this is never a good thing. We just kept hoping the older water heater would make it through the holidays, and it did. Then we closed for a day to install the new one!”


Give Bounce-Back Coupons

When customers spend $25 or more at Purrfect Bark Market in Columbus, NC, during November or December, Eric Mack gives them a coupon for $10 off in January or February.

“It helps bring some back, but it’s also a reward for those who are our top customers,“ he says.

Diana Farrar of Fifi & Fidos in San Antonio, TX, handed out $10 bounce-back coupons on Small Business Saturday in 2017, redeemable in January 2018.

“We had a ton of them come back to us, and customers loved them,” she says.

Red and pink toys and treats take over Miss Doolittle’s in January.

Celebrate the Next Holiday

Cory Giles of The General Store in Collinsville, IL, turns to wild bird seed and feeders to keep sales from dipping.

“Typically we have cold and snowy weather in January, which not only helps wild bird sales, but also provides the inspiration for topical social media posts,” Giles says. “Wild bird content is popular, and informative posts are even more popular.“

He shares videos on the store’s Facebook page that show off products and include tips for keeping wild visitors well fed. Giles posts about National Bird Day on January 5 and even Squirrel Appreciation Day on January 21, as squirrel feeders and food also are available. He always keeps social media content fresh.

“For instance, instead of reusing the same post about the frequent feeder program our wild bird seed vendor offers, I periodically post about it in the context of updating how many free feeders we have given away so far.“

At Miss Doolittle‘s Pet Spa and Boutique in Pottsville, PA, Valentine’s Day decorations go up in mid-January. Missie Mattei merchandises themed treats, toys and accessories, and offers a deluxe grooming package with a champagne and strawberries theme.

“It really helps keep the flow going at a time when it usually slows down,“ she says.


Take A Vacation

Stephanie Rossini of Giggy Bites Bakery & Marketplace in Chadds Ford, PA, seizes the slowdown as an opportunity to get away. “We plan our vacation for the first week of January because we have found good travel deals and it gives us the opportunity to recharge after the craziness of the fourth quarter in retail.”

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Cover Stories

Pet Pros Share Their Expertise, Helping You Learn How To Do … Everything!

Our guide to apprehending bad fish, displaying more dog food than you have room for, triaging a sick bird, fixing a freezer, and most things in between




WE RECENTLY ASKED members of the PETS+ Brain Squad to share standout skills. Their responses, rounded up here, impressed us! We learned a lot, and laughed out loud more than once. Guest stars also make an appearance — check out Lucky Dog host Brandon McMillan and Cat Canopy Rescue’s Shawn Sears — to offer their expertise on additional topics. To take part in future stories like these, join our Brain Squad at We want your knowledge as part of the collective PETS+ readership!


ShaWn Sears | Cat Canopy Rescue, Woodinville, WA

Arborist Shawn Sears co-founded Cat Canopy Rescue to help kitties who climb too high in western Washington. In other areas of the country, pet business owners can advise customers with stuck pets by passing along his tried and true tips:

  • Give the cat 24 hours to come down — “They need to climb down backwards. Some can figure it out.” Sears discourages setting out food as encouragement. It can attract other animals, which will make up in the tree seem safer than down on the ground.
  • Don’t call the fire department — “It’s rare that they will come out and help. Dispatch doesn’t generally respond to a cat stuck in a tree.”
  • Do call an arborist if the cat has climbed higher than 20 feet — These professional climbers can safely reach such heights and offer the best possible outcome.
  • DIY up to 20 feet — Most extension ladders measure between 18 and 25 feet, allowing for pet parents to safely climb and attempt a rescue at this height. Simply scoop up the cat if near the trunk. Use a pushbroom to nudge the cat toward you if farther along a branch. Pro tip: Wear rubber-palmed gardening gloves for grip and protection.



Kirstin Morrison | Six Figure Pet Business Academy

Difficult clients often cost more money than they bring into a business. Business coach Kristin Morrison recommends firing those who do.

“Letting  challenging  clients go frees up  your time, your energy and creates space to take on an ideal client. It’s worth it.”

Here’s how to have the dreaded but necessary conversation:

  1. It’s always best to “break up” over the phone, rather than in email or text, and start the conversation with honest appreciation.
  2. Be firm, but compassionate.
  3. Try to sound breezy and light, even when not feeling that way.
  4. Don’t blame.
  5. Keep the conversation brief.
  6. Be professional.
  7. Offer a positive affirmation about your experience with the client. Something like “I really enjoyed working with your pets” can be a truthful, simple way to end the call. (Leave out the part about the humans being challenging!) Leave people better than when you found them.



Spencer Williams | West Paw Design, Bozeman, MT

In his role as CEO of West Paw Design, Spencer Williams has created more than a few pet toys. He believes all products should solve a problem or enhance the relationship between a person and their dog or cat.

“If it’s doing one of those things, it’s going to be a great toy.”

Williams recommends that budding designers do the following:

  • Draw the toy and share it with as many people as possible to get feedback. Also consider how it would fit into a product line or retail brand.
  • Finalize design and 3-D-print the prototype — “3-D printing is really cost effective now and widely available. In Bozeman, MT, our public library has a 3-D printer.” If you don’t want to invest in and/or learn the required software, outsource to an expert.



Kris MinklE | The Whole Pet, Fort Smith, AR

Marketing director Kris Minkle knows how to get maximum merchandising from minimal dollars. This sports-themed set began as part of a display she made for pet beds and other items.

A bed sheet from a discount store represents the sky. Minkle painted hundreds of dots on butcher paper to create the blurry stadium crowd. White tape and an inexpensive fleece serve as the football field, with PVC pipe and fittings making up the uprights.

“The display was a smashing success, and we sold out of our first order of beds. It probably cost less than $10 and took an afternoon to put together. I then recycled the painted background and used it as a photo backdrop for our grooming dogs!”



Sal Salafia | Exotic Pet Birds, Rochester, NY

Customers think of pet business owners as all-around animal experts. They regularly ask for information and advice — and for help during emergencies. Sal Salafia provided the latter on a recent Friday night.

“A client brought in a young budgie who was losing energy. With all of the avian vets in town closed, she turned to us out of fear that her bird would not make it through the weekend.”

Salafia raises a variety of birds and does so with regular veterinary guidance. His store has several incubators, so he placed the bird, named Ozzy, inside one to raise and maintain his temp.

“You do this because birds can lose energy critical to their survival when in a weakened state.”

Salafia then slowly fed Ozzy a mixture of Pedialyte and Kaytee Exact Hand Feeding Formula through a syringe to ensure he didn’t dehydrate in the raised heat.

“I allowed him to rest for about an hour. Upon the second check-in, he was bouncing around with an unbelievable amount of energy and eating millet.”

For pet store owners who do not raise birds but do sell bird supplies, Salafia recommends being prepared for such a situation: Learn how to hand-feed birds and have available an incubator and an avian vet who will take an after-hours call.



Nancy Hassel | American Pet Professionals

A positive mention of your business on TV or in a newspaper or magazine can give it a significant boost. But how do you get the press to even open the emails you send? Nail the subject line, Nancy Hassel says. That means grabbing their attention and getting right to the point. “Journalists are crushed for time and usually on deadline. Be respectful of that and think about what makes you open an email.”

Hassel wrote this one for APP client Harbor Pet: Media alert! North Fork Dock Diving Pet Expo & Fundraiser May 20-21, 2017. It resulted in 36 press mentions, including camera crews and reporters covering the event.

Hassel also advises not to use tactics like “Re:” when there was no initial contact. Your email may land in the trash — or worse, marked as spam.



Laura LaCongo | Notorious D.O.G., Clarence, NY

When merchandising in her store, Laura LaCongo utilizes space up to the ceiling. This display features a variety of creatures, on land and in the sea.

“Fluff and Tuff fish hang from the ceiling as if they are swimming.”

LaCongo recommends staying within weight guidelines when using ceiling clips to hang products. For this display, she used clips suitable for up to 12 pounds.


Kelly Catlett | Waggs 2 Whiskers, Bagdad, KY

Not all pets connect quickly with a new sitter. When that happens, Kelly Catlett pulls from her bag of trust-building tricks.

She tosses treats into the crates of scared, barking pups. This serves as a distraction and allows her to open the door and move away. Catlett keeps a children’s book handy and reads aloud to draw in aloof kitties. She also finds that talking to pets as she goes about other business in the home works.

“That gives the pets a chance to get used to my movements, my sounds, my voice. Remember that we are on their turf. It’s their home, and they are always so protective of it. Even though I have already met them at our meet and greet, I’m still careful to not assume they remember me and have accepted me as their caregiver.”



Cory Giles | The General Store, Collinsville, IL

Cory Giles has embraced Facebook Live as a way to promote products new to his store. Dozens of videos feature everything from dog treats and chews to cat toys and litter boxes. Items that require demonstration, such as a litter box, show best in video, he says.

“There are no tools that compare for pure product demo. Think about how much less effective a traditional text and picture post would be.”

Giles recommends the following when promoting a product on Facebook Live: State how it will solve a problem, and anticipate and address any objections. He also recommends using page insights to decide when to go live and for how long, based on previous viewer engagement. His pro tip: Check out the Switcher Go and Ripl apps for inserting graphics and video.


Jane Donley | Dog Beach Dog Wash, San Diego, CA

Dogs love to roll in anything stinky and/or sticky. In the case of tree sap, Jane Donley has a tried-and-true removal method.

“Out comes the spray bottle of De-Solv-it, an eco-friendly organic product containing a citrus solution safe for skin and hair.”

She sprays it on the dog’s coat, preferably dry, then waits a few minutes for it to penetrate the sap. Paper towels wipe the sap away, and then the dog gets shampooed and rinsed well.



Toni Shelaske says, “Stripe it.” Instead of stacking food from the same brand by protein, alternate proteins within the same stack. She says manufacturers have even begu n adding product info to bag bottoms for this very purpose.

“Striping allows us to offer customers a wider selection while saving space on the sales floor.”



Nancy Okun | Cats N Dogs, Port Charlotte, FL

Nancy Okun learned a valuable lesson from last year’s Easter Bunny photo fundraiser: Do not use fake grass on the set.

“A little one pooped on the grass. Not to worry. It was hard enough to pick up with a poop bag. A fairly large dog peed on the grass. Soaked that up with paper towels, sprayed Fizzion and thought all was well. Nope.

“Within the next 40 minutes, and we book every five minutes for pictures, we spent more time cleaning up poop and pee than taking pix. By the end, we couldn’t get the grass clean. The smell was so strong we had to leave the room to catch our breath. The bunny had to toss his sneakers in the garbage along with the fake grass.”

Okun solved the problem in 2018 by swapping the fake grass for a sheet, keeping the Easter Bunny’s “lawn” from too closely resembling a doggie bathroom.



Candace D’Agnolo | Pet Boss Nation

The business coach regularly points out to clients that they own a store — not a museum! That means moving older inventory.

“Mark items older than three months 20 to 25 percent off, and items older than six months 35 to 50 percent off. Get an influx of shoppers twice with one sale by kicking it off on a Friday; on the following Thursday, take significant additional markdowns on stuff that’s older than six months. Refresh the displays as you go, ensuring they always look the best they can. Promoting the additional markdowns will bring shoppers back who love a deal.”



Rachel Phelps |

When Preston the Westie became an internet-famous blogger, local TV stations began asking his human Rachel Phelps if they could appear in pet-centric segments.

“After a very painful first interview, where luckily the camera focused on how cute Preston was instead of his rambling mom, I knew I need to get help ASAP.”

Phelps joined Toastmasters, the nonprofit educational organization that teaches public speaking and leadership skills.

“My club meetings gave me a safe place among supportive people to practice speeches for events, conduct mock interviews, and even how to lead a press conference. I also received constructive feedback from other members and tips on how to improve.”

She recommends that all business owners join Toastmasters or a similar org.

“The way we are perceived is so important for first impressions. If we come across as confident when we speak, then people will take us more seriously and are more likely to work with us on projects or partnerships. Plus, the media loves to put people on camera who make a good impression and feel comfortable in front of the lens.”



Robert H. Smith | Jungle Bob’s Reptile World, Selden, NY

Before Hurricane Sandy in 2012, Jungle Bob’s offered exotics boarding as a courtesy to its customers. The natural disaster changed the store’s approach.

“We never lost power and suddenly had 65 extra cages of other people’s animals,” Robert H. Smith — aka Jungle Bob — says. “It was a major emergency, as people lost their homes during that storm.”

It didn’t feel right charging for the service, but the tip jar overflowed as customers began picking up their pets, some after weeks of boarding. That told Smith that they would pay for the service, especially after the store had showed such generosity in their time of need.



Laura Amiton | The Filling Station Pet Supplies, Tigard, OR

When a power surge took out the lights in two of her store’s freezers, Laura Amiton decided to try a DIY repair with help from the manufacturer.

“They walked me through the first one. I took some pictures so I would make sure to re-attach several switch cords to the same places, and then I did the second one without their help.

“Honestly, I was sweating bullets because the person on the phone made it very clear that the replacement part would blow out if anything was hooked back up again in a wrong order.

“But, it worked out, and I truly did feel like I accomplished something that generally I would have hired out for. I’m sure it saved me the cost of a technician’s time, and if it were to happen again, I feel much more confident that I could fix it myself.”



Kristen Finley | La Bella Puppy Doos, San Antonio, TX

Quicks get clipped. It happens, and then blood begins to seep from the nail. Groomer Kristen Finley prepares for these inevitable — especially with black nails — accidents. She never clips wet nails, as the styptic powder that stops blood flow adheres only to dry nails, and she creates a calming atmosphere in her salon.

“If you are nervous, the dog will be nervous as well, so go slow and be calm when clipping nails.”

Nerves can lead to high blood pressure and stronger blood flow. Finley also cuts nails only during vet office hours in case a dog has an undiagnosed disorder that keeps blood from clotting as it should.



Brandon McMillan, LUCKY DOG on CBS

Dog trainers and owners of daycare and boarding facilities know what to do when a fight breaks out. Because it happens less frequently in retail settings, store owners may be caught off-guard. Lucky Dog host Brandon McMillan shares this don’t and do.

5 Don’t try to grab the dogs by their collars — “The danger zone when a dog is fighting is right near the collar and above. Dogs don’t know what they’re biting if they go into full bite mode. I’ve seen people lose digits that way.”

5 Do make noise — “The best way to break up a fight is with a loud noise.” He recommends shaking pennies in a jar or using compressed air.

McMillan regularly employs noise during training to break a dog’s focus on unwanted behavior. He partnered with Petmate to make his own version of pennies in a jar, the Shake & Break Training Tool. Use one to break up a fight and ensure a sale.



Trish Elliott | Town & Country Pet Resort, Valley Springs, CA

Trish Elliot’s boarding facility sits in the middle of her 160-acre ranch, which also has sheep. Wrangling dogs who just want one more minute — or 10 — in the play yard doesn’t differ too much from moving livestock, she says.

Whether the dog just won’t listen, or hasn’t settled in and fears the unknown, Elliot starts by opening the gates to the play yard and their run. She then makes a big circle to approach the pup from behind.

“That small amount of pressure by approaching will cause them to move away, toward their run.”

It also helps to put a treat on their bed as a reward.



Rachel Diller | The Poodle Shop and Urban Sophisticats, Littleton, CO

Some salons hire groomers as employees. Others bring them on as contractors or simply rent them a booth. No matter the setup, Rachel Diller details it in writing. Among the factors she covers in a contract are who has responsibility for products, equipment, scheduling, pricing, insurance, client retention. Also: payment amount and who handles withholding taxes.

Diller also recommends a thorough set of salon guidelines.

“Clearly define the rules and policies. The space being offered to a worker is your space. You have every right to define how it is utilized and cared for.



Hilary Sloan |

Ella Bean — puppy mill rescue and lover of all things cashmere — has 113,000 followers on Instagram. How did she get so famous? Her human Hilary Sloan made it happen. Here’s how you can do the same:

  • Post clear, clean pictures.
  • Tell a story — “Ella chooses to cuddle up on a cashmere or faux-fur blanket above anything else in the house. She positions herself at the highest point in the room and looks down on everyone. Those quirks inform her luxury diva personality.”
  • Engage with the community — “As people come on your page and like and comment, it’s important to acknowledge that. It’s also important to acknowledge people who are creating content that you really like and respect. Ella’s account is so successful because we’re friends with so many people we’ve met on social media.”



Mike Doan | Odyssey Pets, Dallas, TX

Overnight, a fish can turn into a cannibal that can evade capture. When that happens, Mike Doan reaches for his tiny tackle, then baits the hook with mysis (shrimp-like crustaceans), and drops it in.

“Because the bad fish is also the alpha, he’ll be the first to check out the new food dangling down. Once he takes the bait, tug on the line to set the hook and draw that bad boy out of the tank. Gently, with wet hands covered in StressGuard, remove the hook. With one end of a Q-tip, dab the puncture until dry. Then dip the other end in iodine or mercurochrome and cover the wound.”

Then find that bad boy a new home where he can live … alone.



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Meet 8 Pet Champions With Business Super Powers

These heroic pet pros’ alter egos are anything but underdogs.




At a store in New York, a man stares at shelf after shelf of bags and cans, stressed about choosing the right food for his dog. A cat cowers in her carrier at a grooming salon in Ohio, fearful of what awaits outside the open door. At a home in Maryland, a woman frets over a beloved pet’s health, worried something may be seriously wrong. Who can these mere mortals turn to? Who will help their furry family members? The Super Pet Professionals! These heroes excel at education. They have a calming way with animals. Their instinct and knowledge tell them when it’s time to involve a vet. Some also have a knack for merchandising, an eidetic memory or the ability to be extraordinarily efficient. With these powers, they keep people and pets happy and healthy. Let’s meet eight such champions!

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