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Indies Share the People and Businesses Who Inspire Them in the Pet Industry

Sources of inspiration include everyone from peers and previous owners of their businesses to coaches and brands.




WHO IN THE PET industry inspires you? Has influenced how you do business? A fellow retailer or service provider? Someone with a brand? A business coach or consultant?”

We recently asked this question of the PETS+ Brain Squad, our group of 1,200-plus reader contributors. These independent pet retailers and service providers offered wide-ranging answers, with genuine appreciation for all who helped get them to where they are today. Here are a few responses — OK, more than a few as so many Brain Squad wanted to share.

Give them a read, and then if you’d like us to add your source of inspiration to the list, email


  • Nancy Guinn of Dog Krazy. She is by far one of the coolest people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting (finally at SuperZoo!). I have always admired her ability to juggle running multiple stores, contributing to PETS+, growing her business and staying ridiculously creative at the same time. We need more people like her … who are so confident in their own skill set that they don’t mind sharing helpful information with others. She is a true gem! Johnna Devereaux, Fetch RI, Richmond, RI
  • Penny Milligan from The Hungry Hound has been my buddy in this business for 17-plus years! We share ideas, advice and most of all friendship. It’s wonderful to have a peer with whom you feel a kinship! Nicole Cummins, 3 Dogs and a Chick, Ft Walton Beach, FL
  • I have been in a group chat online with women from all over the U.S. who also run/own indie pet shops. It started several years ago as a way to share ideas about DCM and how it was changing how we did business. It has grown into friendships that I value a lot. We constantly bounce ideas off of each other and share best practices. It has been a very helpful way to get insights from people who understand and who are also an outside perspective. Kat Forry, A1 Pet Emporium, Oklahoma City, OK
  • We had a mentor, Janet, who owned her own store, and she was an amazing help to us opening. We are so grateful to her. We feel so lucky to have met her before she retired. We also have had some amazing distributor reps, but one in particular, Steve, was just amazing. He was our Animal Supply Company rep and so ethical and honest and helpful. He spent so much of his time helping us, regardless of whether or not it was his product. Jennifer Larsen, Firehouse Pet Shop, Wenatchee, WA
  • I adore Jessica Ellis and Whitney Kamish, the sisters who own a store in Omaha, NE, called The Green Spot. I also follow Pet Boss Nation so I get a lot of ideas and support from that group. Katie Titterington, Arnie’s Pet Foods, Lincoln, NE
  • Back in 1996 when I first opened a feed store, I asked another retailer who was located about two hours away what words of advice she might have. I have never forgotten what she said: “Figure out what you do best and enjoy the most, and then do THAT better than anyone. Don’t worry about what everyone else is doing. Laura Backus, Purrrfect Bark, Columbus, NC
  • Nicole Cammack of NorthPoint Pets. I am really inspired by her going back and getting her PhD to try and improve the research and knowledge in canine nutrition. I think it’s awesome! Nancy Guinn of Dog Krazy I have been really impressed with some of the training suggestions and marketing ideas that she has shared through the magazine, not to mention the successful multi-store business. Cassie Nilsson, The Mill Stores, Whiteford, MD
  • 100% Nancy Guinn. I owe my existence as a retailer to her and Chris. But more than that, I still incorporate what she taught me when I worked with her. I hear her voice in my head when trying to figure out how to handle a situation or deciding what to order. She is my guardian angle, watching over me making sure I stay on track. Cindy Samartino, Wiggle Butt & Whiskers, Leesburg, VA
  • Shane Somerville is an indie store owner near me. I see her on our Facebook groups all the time, and I always appreciate the effort and heart she puts in to her store, Paddywack, and her crew. We have a lot of similarities in our business because of where we are, and I love to see how she deals with things. She’s forward thinking and really cares about her community and their needs. She’s a real pet boss! 🙂 Melisa Wynn, Paws & Fins Pet Shop, Bainbridge Island, WA
  • Carly Patryluk! From House of Paws in Regina, SK. She is my idol! She is the master of social media and creates all sorts of neat infographics. Jennifer Marshall, Northwoods Pets, Rhinelander, WI
  • I’ve only talked to Marshall Grattan from Pet Station a few times, but he really helped me a lot when I did speak to him about which POS system to use or pet wash station to add. Chance Lauritzen, Your Pet’s Market, Cotati, CA
  • B.C. Henschen. He was introduced to me years ago by Connie Swaim (she is an excellent dog trainer), and I will forever be thankful that she did. He has been my mentor for quite sometime, and I value to guidance, leadership, kindness and exceptional knowledge. He took me under his wing when nobody else would, and he is still one of my dearest friend, along with his wife Kat, to the this day. There is never a time I can’t call or text him for product advise, support or if I need a listening ear. I look up to him greatly and will forever be thankful he has guided me on this business venture … anyone who knows him is blessed. Samantha Youngblood, Youngblood’s Natural Animal Care Center and Massage, Wilkinson, IN
  • Carly Patryluk! She is so amazing and creative! How the heck does she get it all done? Lisa Kirschner, Sit, Stay, ‘N Play, Inc., Stroudsburg, PA
  • Nancy Guinn … She has her shit together! Robin Jerdee, Beast Buffet, Monroe, WI
  • My friend Phyllis, who has a women’s boutique in our area. She has been an inspiration in many facets of my business, including displays and how to make it thru the pandemic. I don’t know if we’d be here without her help and advice! Loree Shirazi, The Original Paw Pleasers, San Diego, CA
  • I like looking to other businesses like Lizzi & Rocco’s, Pure Pet and lately The Modern Dog Company (she does such a good job on Instagram with her videos). Each store has its own specialties. Lizzi & Rocco’s is only 30 minutes from our store, and the owner inspired me to open my store five years ago! Pure Pet does an amazing job with their Facebook live videos. And as mentioned, The Modern Dog Company makes me want to start my own line of accessories/products! Brittany Schlup, Premium Pets, Jefferson City, MO
  • I learn from so many fellow retailers every day in both the PETS+ group and in other places online. I am inspired a lot by my two good friends Julie Sterling of Julz Animal Houz in Marysville and Burlington, WA, and Jen Blankers of Lucky Dog Outfitters in Tacoma and Gig Harbor, WA. The three of us chat a lot, comparing ideas and products, discussing hiring and firing, strategies, and of course a bit of venting! Both of them have two beautiful locations full of great products, and they inspire me to hope to have my own second location someday. Shane Somerville, Paddywack, Mill Creek, WA
  • I met Burton Patrick while involved with a marine aquarium trade group. He at one point had eight pet stores in the Pittsburgh area. He always had respect for anyone who ran their own business, and he was willing to share his time and knowledge. Liz Harris, Creatures Featured, Madison, FL
  • Everyone in the industry is an inspiration. We all collectively have been through distributor consolidation, price increases, the ripple effects of the pandemic. Everyone who gets up and goes another day is inspiring. Mike Dan, RedRidge Pet Market, Richmond, VA
  • I haven’t met either of them in person so this might be weird, but I have been inspired from afar/via Facebook mostly by Nancy Guinn of Dog Krazy. Everything I have read about how she runs her business is inspiring to me. She gives me hope that multiple locations can be run successfully without feeling totally burnt out! And I also appreciate and admire Trace Menchaca. I love how much fun and personality she brings to our industry and how willing she is to share her knowledge! I am also grateful for the PETS+ Facebook group (thank you, Pamela!!) and Candace D’Agnolo for her Pet Boss Facebook group. These two groups definitely helped me keep my sanity (especially from 2020 on!) and have given me so many great ideas over the years. Jennifer Guevin, Holistic for Pets, Sarasota, FL
  • A local entrepreneur named Adam Weitsman. He’s a man on a mission, and he has great vision for the future. Hardest working guy I’ve met, but still stops to greet the little guy. He’s super successful, but keeps his feet on the ground and has shown humility and generosity consistently since I’ve followed his path. He should be an inspiration to many business owners. Brett Foreman, EuPAWria Holistic Pet Center, Owego, NY
  • My wife, Amy Schiek, is another person who inspires me daily. We would not be in this business without her. Her work ethic, energy, enthusiasm, and love for pets, our customers, employees, and our community inspires me daily. Patrick Schiek, Lucky Dogs, Skaneateles, NY
  • Modern Companion — Love the in store retail, very creative. Ripley & Rue — Bold and rebellious. Janelel Muller, Wheaten Greetin’ Room & Groom, Oakland, NE
  • I have always loved B&B Pet Stop in Mobile, AL. Great family run business, and they always have energy, enthusiasm and ideas to share. Rachel McGinnis, Leo&Lucky’s, Parrish, FL
  • Seriously, Carly Patryluk is always an inspiration! I love reading about her events and ideas. Beth Kidd, Dogs By Design, Irwin, PA
  • I was very inspired living in L.A. by Rosie Bunny Bean. Comora Tolliver, Barkers Anonymous, Hendersonville, NC


  • Dr. Karen Becker, Dr. Judy Morgan. Both vets are awesome with pointing out healthy items to recommend to my customers. Bob Negen. He helps with promotion, creating team engagement and business tips. Julie Hilt, Animart Pet, Beaver Dam, WI
  • Candace D’Agnolo and Madison St. Gelais. They both inspire me to be more creative and think outside the box, AKA four walls, of our business. It’s easy to get bogged down in the day-to-day of running a business. Candace and Pet Boss Club/Nation give indie pet businesses the resources that once only big biz had access to. Madison inspires me to wonder where in the world she gets more hours in the day than anyone else, LOL. She’s creative, passionate, educated, has a great sense of humor, and inspires me to get off my tail and make things happen! Pamela Modica, Lazy Creek Pet Food Center, Lexington, SC
  • I have been mentored by Amy Dunnavant, who had a pet bakery in Little Rock. We met in passing almost nine years ago, and since that time she has been instrumental in opening our pet bakery and helping us troubleshoot any problems. I am not sure she even knows what an inspiration she has been to me, but there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about how lucky I am to have her guidance. Our bakery would not be what it is today without her. She always gives me the confidence to keep going. Jennifer Thomas, Lucky Dog Pet Grocery & Bakery, Lawrence, KS
  • Dana Scott from Dogs Naturally Magazine. I find I research information from her website more than anywhere else because of the success I’ve had in using the herbs and oils she recommends. Her trusted advice and wisdom about dog health has been a very reliable resource. If you don’t want to make your own concoctions, her products are outstanding. Julie Johannes, Happy Hounds Pet Supply, Bigfork, MT
  • Susan Garrett, a professional dog trainer and dog agility competitor in Canada. I have been an online student of her dog training programs since 2011. She has not only made huge innovations in the positive dog training and online dog training worlds, but is a wonderful person. She has changed the way I look at dog training and the way I look at building my team of employees. Katherine Ostiguy, Crossbones, Providence, RI
  • Dr. Marty Becker of Fear Free Pets. Adina Silberstein, Queenie’s Pets, Philadelphia, PA
  • Business coach: Candace D’Agnolo from Pet Boss inspires me daily! Her advice is invaluable and has helped me grow my business quicker than I ever imagined. Retailer: Nancy Guinn from Dog Krazy, even though we have never met! I admire how she has scaled her business. It’s palpable that she has both passion for what she does and fun with it at the same time. She validates that my business can absolutely be scaled into multiple locations, without losing the aspects of passion, creativity and fun. Margo Tortorelis, My Natural Pet, Brooklyn, NY
  • Tony Silva and Rick Jordan. Two leaders in aviculture for a long time. Paul Lewis, Birds Unlimited, Webster, NY
  • He is not in the industry. However, he consults with many who are … Tony Robbins. Janice Anderson, Anderson Acres, Bakersfield, CA
  • Bob and Susan Negen from Whizbang! Retail Training. Their practical, strategic advice always hits home, and their straight-forward, calm delivery is everything. I don’t get overwhelmed. Janet Cesarini, Pupology, Georgetown, TX
  • The Dog Gurus, What A Great Dog in the Dallas area, Candace D’Agnolo with Pet Boss. Kim Sykes, K9 Manners & More, Broken Arrow, OK
  • Candace D’Agnolo, Bob and Susan Negan: great coaches, and I don’t think I’d still be open if it wasn’t for them … or if I was, I’d be struggling. Inspiring: Carly Patryluk and Nancy and Chris Guinn. They show up for their businesses and teams every day and don’t mind sharing. Elaina Stanley, Three Happy Hounds, Fernley, NV
  • Pet Boss Club members and Candace D’Agnolo! I’ve done 1:1’s with Candance and always find them helpful. The other Pet Bosses are creative and have tons of ideas. Also, the Savvy Groomer as she helped me connect the dots on grooming pricing. Cynthia McKinney, Loyl’s Natural Pet, Houston, TX
  • I have some holistic vets I follow who inspire me to stock my shelves with the highest quality products I can. I like to see what brands they support and recommend to their clients and the reasons why. Dr. Judy Morgan is a big one, and Dr. Laurie Coger is another. Dr. Karen Becker as well. Nikki Tongg, Faux Paws Pet Shop, Summit, NJ
  • Linda Claflin. Groomer Zoo alumni. Pam Sine, Pet Silhouette, Hobe Sound, FL
  • Dr. Karen Becker. Having an alternative medicine vet to follow allows me to give my clients alternative recommendations. Jill Hall, Grateful Paws, Leadville, CO
  • Bob and Susan Negen, WhizBang! Retail. Even after my over 20 years of owning an advertising agency before the next 21 years of owning a retail biz, I find I am always inspired by their creative sales ideas. They are some of the most giving people in the retail world and truly care that their retailers are position to make growth in their field. You can teach “an old dog” new tricks and I appreciate their my years of guidance from them. Pattie Zeller, Animal Connnection, Charlottesville, VA
  • Susan Thixton, founder of the Association for Truth in Pet Food, is one of a handful of consumer advocates fighting to hold the pet food industry accountable. I base my food selections after gathering facts about the products and manufacturers. Denise Strong, Pawz On Main, Cottonwood, AZ
  • Candace D’Agnolo has been a lifesaver. I found Pet Boss Club at the beginning of Covid and at a time where there was so much uncertainty it was incredibly helpful to have someone with experience and positivity to help guide me through it. Jennifer Hall, All Things Pawssible, Charlottesville, VA


  • Billy Hoekman. I knew Billy when he managed a store that is close to ours and always admired his determination to help pet parents. Self-taught nutrition, which over the years has proven to be almost a cult following. He is my Yoda, and I’m glad to have communications with him from time to time. Also anyone that is a single operator with multiple stores. I aspire to become one, can’t get myself to make the jump in fear I lose my original. Chris Mitchell, Crown Hill Pet Supply, Seattle, WA
  • I opened my store in February 2020, right when COVID hit the United States hard, one month before COVID shut the state of Oregon down. I was so scared. I thought we were doomed. That’s when she showed up. She had been visiting another store, and the owner had told her about my store so she decided to drive on over to see if I was open and I was. She walked in around noon and stayed the entire afternoon, closed the place down with me. When customers came in, she quietly stood back and waited. Her name is Kathy McDowell. At the time, she was the rep for Phillips. She is now the Fromm rep for the Northwest region. Over the past three years, she has stood by me through thick and thin, she has come to my aid when I didn’t have anyone else to go to. When I was installing new shelving in my new-to-me store, she came out to help, on her own time, because she believes in me and what I am doing, because for some unknown reason, she thinks I am making a difference in people’s lives. I don’t see it, maybe I’m not supposed to, who knows. Kathy has not only been the best rep ever, she is now one of my best friends. She will never know how much she has done, means to me. When I mention it, she just shrugs it off, chuckles and keeps on working. I love her dearly. When she was offered the job from Fromm, I was the first one she called. I am very proud of her. If anyone deserved that job, it is her. She has worked hard and is loyal. Errin Jolley, Purrz and Paws, St Helens, OR
  • I am inspired by the indie brands that continue to rock in a very competitive market. One in particular is Dr. Chris Bessent, creator of Herbsmith and Simple Food Project. Not only is she close by (in Wisconsin!), but early on she rallied indie pet retailers together for a lunch-and-learn as she launched her OTC Herbal pet line. I will never forget the respect and gratitude I felt as she shared everything she knew (and still does!) with all of us. Herbsmith is one of the bestselling lines of supps I’ve ever sold. That says a LOT! Traditional Chinese Medicine is not an easy sell, but Dr. B has been supportive all along! Karen Conell, The Bark Market, Delavan, WI
  • So many have provided inspiration over the years its hard to narrow down to just one. Jacqueline Hill is foremost in my thoughts right now. She really changed raw feeding for the better, and we learned so much from her over the years. Cindy McConnell, A Natural Pet Pantry, Osprey, FL
  • Any American-made company inspires. West Paw has products and support down pat! Stephanie Cox, Central Animal Inn, Herrin, IL
  • Pet Food Experts employees (shout out to my rep, Krystal Dia. She’s the best.). Overall though, everyone I have spoken to/had experience with have been great. Professional, friendly, helpful, organized. Some other companies could take a lesson from them for sure. Corey Heenan, Boutique and Pet Spa, Altamont, NY
  • Brands like Green Juju, Small Batch, etc. inspire us to sell and promote the healthiest stuff out there. They are the innovators that work tirelessly to create incredible products and do the insanely difficult work of educating their retailers on why they made it, why it’s awesome, and how to sell it. My staff inspires me. My customers inspire me. I’m usually mostly inspired by things outside of the pet industry that can be applied to our industry. Krista Schmidt, St. PetersBARK!, St. Petersburg, FL
  • Jacqueline Hill inspired me. I was so sorry to hear of her passing. She was such a force for the raw pet food industry. Kate Quirk, Clipper’s Canine Cafe, Ellicott City, MD
  • I have always been fascinated with Polka Dog. Their origin story. Their products. Definitely a goal. Scott Tripp, Wagabōnz, Galveston, TX
  • Mine Pet Platter‘s Carol Smeja. Excellent Product, excellent speaker. She and her product changed our feeding protocol in our lodging/day camp environment. It was an amazing transformation. Roncy Roehm, Canyon Pet Lodge, Puyallup, WA
  • I have been in the industry for 40 years. There have been so many the list would be endless. Probably one of the best is Marc Hirschberg from Multipet because his innovation in the industry taught me to be on the cutting edge. As far as service providers, Bob and Susan Negen from Whizbang! have been great inspiration to all retailers. Doug Staley, Pet Palace of New City, New City, NY
  • Our reps whose companies have struggled through the pandemic. Always working with us with discounts and promotions even when supplies were hard to come by. Lauren O’Hanlon, Ruff House, Fort Lauderdale, FL
  • There are so many but three that come to mind are Dr. Julie Anne Lee from Adored Beast. I heard her speak at a Dogs Naturally Raw Summit a number of years ago, and she really impressed me with her approach, particularly for people with dogs going through a cancer diagnosis. So much compassion. Her Adored Beast Apothecary products have been instrumental for us in helping so many of our dogs and cats. Dr. Judy Morgan is a tireless advocate for our pets. She’s so helpful in sharing her knowledge of pet nutrition. Billy Hoekman is another one of our nutrition heroes. His wealth of knowledge is so deep, and he’s willing to share so much of it to help our pets thrive. He’s developed great new products with both Answers Pet Food and now Green Juju. He’s another tireless advocate for our pets. Jeff Jensen, Four Muddy Paws, St. Louis, MO
  • Jill Nezimek from Katie’s Pet Products. This goes back to when we were first opening 12 years ago. She gave me some great advice about ISOs and Open Stock. Don’t always buy into the ISO if you think you won’t sell it all or you have just lost that discount. Still use that advice today! Thanks Jill! Andrea Demmons, The TailGait Market, Asheville, NC
  • Lisa Leady inspires me. She is always available to ask questions to. Is always eager to share her knowledge and experiences with anyone. She is truly a gem in the pet industry. Kristie Kingsland, As the Tail Wags Grooming and Training, Oviedo, FL


  • Without a doubt, my staff!. Without them this place would not exist. Three years ago when I had to buy my ex-wife out of our business, most of my current staff stayed on. The staff supported me and helped me through a very difficult time. And today business is better than ever, and we are prospering. I feel very blessed and honored to have such a great group of employees. Paul Lewis, The Green K9, Mount Dora, FL


  • The original owner of this business has been such a huge influence on me in all aspects of life! Julie Hunter founded Bend Pet Express 29 years ago, and when she brought me on board 10 years ago, I was stunned to be able to work for a small business that treated employees with respect and a livable wage, and rewarded passion! Though Julie has passed away, her mission of helping people and pets continues to influence all of us. Stephanie Wright, Bend Pet Express, Bend, OR
  • Former owner of my former store. Always had wisdom to pass along. Even if it was bad, I learned form it. Kevin Brown, The Pet Place, Boone, NC
  • My former employer, Steve Scott owner of Alabama Pet Foods. He taught me the ins and outs of the pet industry and how to separate your store from the competition through customer service and customer education. Unfortunately, he passed away in December of 2021. David Price, Fuzzy Buttz, Calera, AL
  • Deb and George Hart. They opened Dusty’s Den 25 years ago and have been wonderful and terrific during the transition. They still come by to store and check on me and talk with customers. They are truly the best. Jennifer Pastorini, Dusty’s Den, Sonora, CA


  • OK, I know this is going to sound like I’m a brown noser, BUT I’m inspired by PETS+. I appreciate that the organization inspires positivity and unity within the indie community and encourages us to be our best selves. I love the Facebook group and how it doesn’t matter if you’re a newbie or seasoned business owner … there is always something new to learn from the group. Sheila Spitza, Wet Nose, Geneva, IL
  • The Brain Squad and PETS+ in general keeps us active and opens conversations. We also have a really close relationship with Vicki Pagan and her manager Bree at Nature’s Pet Market in Ashland and Medford, OR. We bounce ideas off of each other. What got me into the industry was being attacked at age 11 by a German Shepherd. Jennifer Flanagan, Nature’s Pet Market Sherwood, Sherwood, OR
  • All the amazing indie owners of the PETS+ Facebook group! That group of people has given me so much advice and useful information. I love that you can ask a question and someone is willing to reach out and offer advice. Crisi Fetters, Local Pet, Victoria, TX
  • I am motivated by Whizbang! retailers as well as the PETS+ Facebook group. The camaraderie experienced through the Sample Box is amazing, and the people with experience always give me another angle to think about. Stephanie Steelman, Wings Wags and Whiskers, Amarillo, TX
  • We look to the PETS+ Facebook group! I always get a good answer by searching the group or asking a question! Gloria VonZech, The Principled Pet, Collingswood, NJ
  • I love how Pamela Mitchell includes us with things pertaining to PETS+. And Candace D’Agnolo from Pet Boss Nation has fabulous ideas. I wish I had Carly Patryluk from House of Paws to do my social media posts! Theresa Moreno, For Healthy Pets, Montgomery, AL
  • So many people inspire me. Pamela Mitchell of PETS+. Her commitment to her readers is unmatched. Frank Frattini of The Hungry Puppy. He tells it like it is and is a no nonsense business owner. Very straightforward and very giving at the same time. Shawna Schuh is such a breath of fresh air. I always learn a better way to handle things when I listen to her speak. Dave Ratner of Dave’s Pet Food. He’s who I strive to be more like. He still hand writes notes, remembers you and builds you up. My list is endless. I’ve met so many inspiring people in this industry. You can learn from everyone if stop and listen. Nancy Guinn, Dog Krazy, Fredericksburg, VA
  • Pamela Mitchell! Patience, perseverance and grace under pressure! Jennifer Baker, Grateful Dog Bakery, North Ridgeville, OH
  • So many people & stores. It’s great to have the PETS+ Facebook group, where we can ask questions, give feedback and offer advice. Jennie Dudley, Hairy Winston, Mount Pleasant, SC

What’s the Brain Squad?

If you’re the owner or top manager of a U.S. or Canadian pet retailer or service provider, you’re invited to join the PETS+ Brain Squad. Take one five-minute quiz a month, and you’ll get a free T-shirt, be featured prominently in this magazine, and make your voice heard on key issues affecting the pet industry. Sign up here.



NASC Media Spotlight

At first it was just an idea: Animal supplements needed the same quality control that human-grade supplements receive. But that was enough to start a movement and an organization —the National Animal Supplement Council — that would be dedicated to establishing a comprehensive path forward for the animal supplements industry. In this Media Spotlight interview, NASC’s president, Bill Bookout, talks to PETS+ interviewer Chloe DiVita about the industry today: Where it’s headed, what’s the latest focus and why it’s vital to gain the involvement of independent pet product retailers.

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