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

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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!

Pamela Mitchell is the senior editor at PETS+. She works from her home office in Houston, TX, with Spot the senior Boston Terrier as her assistant.

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America's Coolest

Loyal Biscuit Co. Grows to 5 Stores, Maintains Hometown Charm

From a favorite store to five locations, this Maine store spreads the hometown element across the state.

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Loyal Biscuit Co., Rockland, ME

OWNERS: Heidi & Joel Neal; URL: loyalbiscuit.com; FOUNDED: 2007 ; OPENED FEATURED LOCATION: 2016; EMPLOYEES: 4 full-time, 15 part-time; AREA: 2,700 square feet of retail space; FACEBOOK: /loyalbiscuit; INSTAGRAM: /loyalbiscuit


IN DECEMBER 2009, Heidi Neal told her then-boyfriend Joel that if she ever were to leave banking to buy a business, it would be for Loyal Biscuit Co. The couple shopped there with their dog Fenway, and Heidi adored the store. Joel encouraged her to approach its owner.

She did on Dec. 14. Not only was Loyal Biscuit Co. in her hometown of Rockland, ME, on the market, but if it didn’t sell by year’s end, the store would close.

“We were in the right place at the right time,” Heidi says. “I had proceeds from selling my house to move in with Joel, and the owner financed the rest. We made the offer on Dec. 15, and by Jan. 19 we had bought the store.”

Since then, Heidi — with support from now-husband Joel, a Rockland Police Department detective sergeant — has grown the business, moving the flagship store into a much larger building they were able to purchase and opening four smaller locations in the state.

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Historic Charm

Dating back to 1865, the building itself makes up much of the store’s design. Red and brown brick walls meet pale wood floors. A traditional staircase leads up to a large mural of Loyal Biscuit Co.’s logo — starring Fenway and a kitty friend — as well as to offices and a mezzanine, around which pet-centric quotes display on chalkboard paint. Lime green from the original location carries through to the new, with purple, teal and orange added as accent colors. Third and fourth floors serve as storage for now.

The Neals took out a Small Business Association 504 loan, which only requires 10 percent down, to purchase the building. Owning the property not only provides location stability, but Heidi also appreciates the hometown element.

“Born and raised in Rockland, and now owning a business and building where I can look out the back window and see where I was born is pretty darn cool,” she says.

Like Family

Just as Heidi feels a sense of belonging in her hometown, she strives to create the same for staff at Loyal Biscuit Co. Employees from all five stores belong to a private Facebook group, where they get direction and praise, and can even share silly pet memes.

Company updates regularly go out via video. And each location has a budget for a monthly lunch or treats such as coffee or cupcakes.

The stores also close for a day each January so everyone can attend the team appreciation party. Heidi rents the gaming center at a centrally located resort and caters lunch.

“It’s fun. We hand out prizes. Everyone gets a gift,” she says. “We have a staff that is like family. We work, laugh, celebrate, cry and help each other when needed.”

Community Involvement

Heidi welcomes customers into the Loyal Biscuit Co. family as well. She does so by providing nutritional guidance for their pets and by only carrying products that boost health and happiness.

“There is nothing better than having someone come back to the store and tell us how much our recommendation has helped their dog or cat,” Heidi says.

Customers also find opportunities to help others in their community and state.

Each year, the store partners with a local bar in Pints for Paws, a concert and silent auction that has raised more than $30,000 for local animal shelters since its inception. Annual microchipping and monthly nail clipping events also benefit animals in need.

“Most of the events have some sort of community element to them. We raised over $7,000 last year alone from our nail-clipping clinics.”

Loyal Biscuit Co. even manufacturers and sells the Tug ME Toy, which provides work for prisoners at nearby Charleston Correctional Facility. The store — that is, Heidi’s dad — sends strips of polyester fleece to the workers, who then tightly braid them into the tug before returning them for trimming and tagging.

“Their work doesn’t require tools or scissors, just their muscle and time.”

About 2,000 toys sell each year through the stores and via wholesale. While not a major earner, it serves as an extension of the Neals’ investment in the pets and people of their hometown and beyond.

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Five Cool Things About Loyal Biscuit Co.

1. HEIDI NEAL GOES TO WASHINGTON: In 2015, she earned the Small Business Person of the Year award from the Maine Small Business Association. “It was so cool to be able to represent the state at the White House,” she says.

2. ELF ON THE SHELF: During the 2017 holidays, employee Dave Taylor wore an elf hat to work. “He looked like a real elf on the shelf,” Heidi says. Taylor now spends the season posing in different parts of the store for social media caption contests and fundraising posts.

3. STORE-BRAND TREATS: Customer-turned-employee April Thibodeau created the Fidelis Biscuit Co. treat line, which contains organic, locally sourced ingredients and comes in a refillable tin.

4. WAY TO GO, CHAMP!: Fenway took home World Championship Boatyard Dog honors in 2011.

5. HIGH STANDARDS: Heidi didn’t just jump on the CBD bandwagon. “I wanted to make sure the company we chose had a good reputation and offered training and support. If I don’t understand it, I can’t expect our staff to either and to relay correct information to the customer.” The store now carries Super Snouts CBD products.

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Best of the Best

Tiny Bubbles: This Spa Brings In $1,000 a Month Extra with Micro Bubble Treatments

Provide relief, reduce costs and boost sales.

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BUBBLE BATHS PAMPER and relax. Microbubble baths do, too, but they also deep clean and help to treat a variety of skin problems in pets.

Danielle Wilson of Bath & Biscuits in Granville, OH, has been providing this type of hydrotherapy for more than three years.

THE IDEA

Provide relief, reduce costs and boost sales

Wilson learned of microbubble bathing systems at a pet industry trade show. Originating in Japan, they use bubbles greater than 2 and less than 25 micrometers to penetrate hair follicles and skin pores. These teeny tiny bubbles attract and bond with dirt as well as with bacteria, yeast and allergens, and lift them to the water’s surface. Oxygen from burst microbubbles also boosts skin metabolism and promotes healing.

“I really liked the idea,” she says. “I was a vet tech for many years and had seen never-ending battles with skin problems.”

Using microbubbles during a groom also reduces the amount of water, shampoo and conditioner needed. All this, combined with her ability to offer 15-minute treatments as an add-on, convinced Wilson to buy a system.

THE EXECUTION

Pick, promote & treat

Wilson researched manufacturers from around the world before choosing NatureBless in Singapore. Her first microbubble bathing system cost just $350, but a year later she upgraded to a $1,100 model. Its bubble-generating unit sits on the floor, connected to two nozzled hoses: One draws in water from a filled grooming tub, and the other returns microbubbly water to the tub. The second hose can also be used to apply bubbles to body areas not submerged.

“The microbubbles make the water this milky color, from the churning action. I tell customers that they’re scrubbing bubbles,” Wilson explains, adding that while effective, they are gentle on skin.

In addition to promoting the treatment for skin problems, she also recommends it for senior dogs.

“The bursting bubbles create heat, which helps with sore muscles and arthritis.”

And for those who encounter a skunk: “It has been tremendous for de-skunking dogs. It gets down in hair shafts and pores, helping us get rid of the smell so much quicker.”

THE RESULTS

Healthier dogs & higher revenue

Wilson points to late Sweetpea the Bulldog as one of her microbubble bathing successes. After years of struggling with skin allergies, the pup came in for a treatment and saw immediate relief.

“Sweetpea was such a happier dog, not having to stop every 2 feet to scratch,” she says. “It was devastating to lose her, but really cool to know that for the last year and a half of her life, she wasn’t miserable and itching.”

Wilson charges $10 to $15, depending on size of dog, for a microbubble bath. (She has yet to try it on cats.) Treatments bring in $1,000 in extra revenue a month, plus provide savings on utilities and bathing supplies.

Do It Yourself: Start Your Own Bubble Treatments

  • Choose the right microbubble bathing system for your business. They can range greatly in cost, to upwards of $10,000.
  • Start by offering the treatment for free. Wilson benefited from positive word of mouth when she did.
  • Promote regular and seasonal benefits, from skin problems to allergies to skunkings.
  • Sell local veterinarians benefits on the treatment. Wilson has one in particular who regularly sends her clients.
  • Promote on social media with cute videos. See instagram.com/bathnbiscuits for Sweetpea bubbling in a tub.

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Benchmarks

13 Unique Business Cards to Inspire You

Old-school but effective, business cards remain a quick, cheap, easy way to market your business.

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HOW LONG DOES IT take to hand someone your business card? One second. Maybe a smidge longer if you must dig the card out of your bag or wallet. A business card remains the fastest way to share information in person. The best cards also boost brand awareness, list social media channels, and/or provide an incentive to make a purchase or use a service. These six stand out from the stack.

Homeward Bound Animal Care

GILFORD, NH

Alix Marcoux DiLorenzo touts her company’s more than 15,000 walks to date on the front of its business card. On the back, she features animals in her care — a selection of 15 adorable dogs and cats. “It’s fun to let people pick out their favorite. With so many different photos, they’re likely to find a pet they relate to in the bunch, which helps break the ice with a potential client.”

Price: 24 cents each, plus design services

Source: moo.com

Tip: Don’t settle. “I didn’t love the first design presented to me, and I let the designer know I wasn’t blown away. We worked together to come up with something that represented the Homeward Bound brand.”

Youngblood’s Natural Animal Care Center & Massage

GREENFIELD, IN

The design aesthetic of their business extends to its card. “We own an all-natural animal care center, and we love flowers and soft colors … this card reminded us of purity, nature, organic and a feeling of peace,” Samantha Youngblood says.

Price: 4 cents each

Source: vistaprint.com

Tip: “Find a design that fits your vibe, and don’t be afraid to go through few designs before you find the ‘one’ you love!”

Wishbone Pet Care

MISSOURI CITY, TX

Store color orange catches the eye of potential customers, and Tammi Bui keeps their atttention by listing multiple deals. She even tells them how to get more via text message.

Price: 4 cents each

Source: vistaprint.com

Tip: Formerly employed as a graphic designer, she shares: “People will keep a color business card longer” than a white one.

Loyal Biscuit Co.

FIVE STORES IN MAINE

This store has five locations, and many customers shop at more than one. With that in mind, Heidi Neal noted which offer self-service bathing on the front of its business card and put addresses for all on the back. “I’m also in love with our logo and wanted to make sure that was prominent.”

Price: 7 cents each

Source: vistaprint.com

Tip: Order in small quantities so as to not waste cards when updates are needed.

Flying M Feed Co.

HOUSTON, TX

Trace Menchaca upgraded from paper to wood for her personal business cards.

“As a recipient of thousands of cards, there are many that I’ve kept, but only one that really stood out: It was made of real wood. I put out traditional cards on our counter, but for distributors, vendors and business networking, I had to have these. I get tons of compliments and everyone keeps them.” From cards-ofwood.com, the material suits the store’s logo, a burned brand. She orders a variety of tree species.

Price: 35 cents each

Source: cardsofwood.com

Tip: Include “cardsofwood.com” on card to get a 5 percent discount.

Wag Central

STRATFORD, CT

A bone shape helps this card stand out, as does listing store pet Lady Lulu as Chief Tail Wagger.

Price: 40 cents each, plus initial design services

Source: ghpmedia.com

Tip: Be different. Owner Angela Pantalone says, “I definitely wanted a unique design and not something that everyone else has been using. I have yet to see another outfit with a bone-shaped card! Win!”

Bow Wow Beauty Shoppe

SAN DIEGO, CA

Leel Michelle carried her store’s trademark pink, green and Mumsie the Poodle through to its business card. The loyalty program and social media channels help fill the back.

Price: 15 cents each, plus initial design services

Source: gotprint.com

Tip: “Make your corners rounded so they don’t get damaged as easily while in wallets, purses and such.”

Dogaholics

CHICAGO, IL

This business card doubles as a lead generator. Potential clients can visit adogaholicsguide.com, provide their email address and get a free downloadable pet-parenting guide. Employees can then follow up. Candace D’Agnolo uses photos of clients on the cards.

Price: 7 cents each

Source: 48hourprint.com

Tip: “It’s nice to say, ‘Take my card and download our free pet parenting guide.’”

Birds Unlimited

WEBSTER, NY

After a cluttered business card that included way too much information, Paul Lewis decided that a just-the-basics approach worked best for his store. He has two versions, one with a grooming appointment reminder for those customers and another without for business associates and fellow trade show attendees.

Price: 5 cents each

Source: Local printer

Tip: Work with a local printer whenever possible.

Camp Dogwood

LAKE DELTON, WI

A photo of her husband, Al Edelman, and dog, Stella Blue, captures the essence of Alysa Slay’s camp for people and pets, and takes up the front of this business card. The back contains includes info.

Price: 40 cents each, plus initial design services

Source: vistaprint.com

Tip: “Don’t cheap out. Get the good paper stock and finish, make it visually appealing.

Scout & Zoe’s

ANDERSON, IN

“My inspiration for this business card was the best photo of the three of us we have ever taken,” Cindy Dunston Quirk says. “When I look at it now, especially since Zoe crossed over the Rainbow Bridge in 2014, I see and feel the love I have for both of them and the unconditional love they have for me.” The photo also embodies what her treat company stands for, she adds.

Price: 53 cents each, plus initial design services

Source: moo.com

Tip: “Opt for something a bit different, whether that is in the design, stock that is used or the shape of the card. I definitely wouldn’t go smaller than a standard size card since those can be lost or misplaced very easily.”

 

Busch Pet Products

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO

Buschie, the store mascot, appears with his kitty sidekick on all marketing materials, including this business card.

Price: 5 cents each, plus initial design services

Source: vistaprint.com

Tip: “Whatever you decide to do with your design, my best suggestion is to make it memorable, so customers will always know what your passion is.

Lucky Dogs

SKANEATELES, NY

Clean and not cluttered was the design goal for this card, DIY designed by Amy Schiek. For example, instead of listing social media URLs, she simply uses their logs and trusts that customers can find her easily through search.

Price: 5 cents each

Source: vistaprint.com

Tip: “Don’t forget to print on the back of the card! The front of our card lists the traditional ways to get ahold of us: phone number, email, and website. I used the back of the cards to call out our social media tags. Whenever we talk to customers about posting their pet photos on social media and tagging us, we give them one of our business cards to help them remember.”

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