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21 pet pros reveal their past careers and how the experience helps them thrive today.




PET PROFESSIONALS are a diverse bunch. Some enter the industry after formal training within a particular field, such as veterinary or grooming. Others arrive after a beloved animal inspires a career change. This latter group often brings with them experience that assists in running a successful pet business. With that in mind, we asked readers to share what they did for a living before and how it informs what they do today. The answers were varied! NFL player, teacher, radio producer and pastry chef are among the former jobs. Read on to learn more about — and from — your peers within the profession.


PetNmind, Coconut Creek, FL

What do football and medical devices have in common? They both prepared Archie to open a pet-supply store.

“I played football for a large part of my life, including professionally in the CFL and NFL. I was chosen as captain on many of those teams, and I significantly developed leadership skills during that period of my life. After football, I began a career in medical device sales and later moved into medical device brand management. During that decade, I was able to further develop leadership skills, but most importantly I honed my business acumen.”

He offers this advice to those entering the pet industry after working in others.

“Actively lean on past career and life experiences, even if the experiences don’t necessarily connect with what you have chosen to do now. Our paths in life are unique for a reason, and the skills developed during that time do translate and benefit in the present, even if the career description has changed.”



Pittsboro Pet Supply, Pittsboro, NC

A former high school teacher, Holland understands well the importance of providing information in various ways.

“We don’t all learn from reading a textbook or listening to a teacher, so I find unique ways to teach our customers about products through merchandising. We celebrate pet hydration month in June and July, so we display fountains running and pictures of our own pets drinking from fountains in our home. We let people touch the moving water, see the filters and ask questions. We teach them verbally and let them experience the fountain, which always results in heightened curiosity or a sale.”

And Holland still teaches high school students: They are her favorite hires.

“They are willing to learn, and you could possibly have them for three years! It’s so fun watching them grow into young men and women. If you train them right, they can be your best salespeople, and they love telling everyone about their job since it’s so fun.”



Wishbone Pet Care, Missouri City, TX

A former graphic designer , Bui developed the brand and creates all marketing materials for her pet boutique, salon, and daycare and boarding facility.

“When designing for my brand, I want bright and cheerful color. Something that will stand out and catch attention,” she says, adding this advice, “Keep your brand materials consistent across logo, brand colors, fonts, uniforms, store front wall color, etc.”


Woofs & Waves, Sioux Falls, SD

Olesen doesn’t have a former career that informs owning a pet business — she has a current one! In addition to running their store with husband Mark, she works full-time as a nurse.

“I love the variety of what I do in a week! It keeps me excited for both jobs.”

The ability to delegate serves her at the hospital and the store.

“In nursing, you need to use your resources! There’s just not enough time to do it all, and you work much more efficiently when you delegate to others. I’m not at our store all the time, but that doesn’t mean the work stops. I delegate our social media to one of our team members. Ordering is done by another. Most of our new team-member training is done by another. When we are planning special events or promotions, everyone plays key parts to make it all come together!”




As a  social worker , Abel excelled at communicating with and earning the trust of humans in need. She continues to do so at her pet-supply store.

“I’ve focused solely on forming relationships with customers and finding products and services for their pets.”

Abel also puts her resource linkage experience to use.

“I’m on the board of Humane Society and a resource to the community about programs they provide.”



Animal Connection, Charlottesville, VA

Before opening her store, Boden owned a full-service marketing agency that served the likes of NASCAR and Krispy Kreme. The same presentation skills she used to land such clients now help her sell holistic pet products.

Boden prefers to pitch benefits before stating price.

“A price-point discussion is a very closed-ended conversation. There is so much more to ‘What does it cost?’ when there are diet and health benefits involved. Presenting the benefits first almost guarantees a sale. And the customer feels like you not only listened, you helped solve a problem and gave them information that made them feel confident they are making the right purchase.”


GRAINNE BYRNE, Dublin, Ireland

After 30 years in public relations, Byrne decided to combine her love of pets and hiking as a professional dog walker. She brought with her many applicable skills, including the ability to market her business through appreciation.

“A couple of times a year, I drop in cakes or ice cream or chocolate to vets and groomers who refer business and who allow me to display my business cards on their premises. Referrals from vets are my best source of business.”


Space Coast Pet Services, Rockledge, FL

Haynes has a professional background that immediately inspires trust. After all, if defense contractors relied on her to keep sensitive information secure, traveling pet parents can count on her to care for their animals and homes.

She offers this advice to fellow pet sitters:

“Be aware of your surroundings and treat your clients’ homes as you would your own. Take the extra time to double-check that all windows and doors are locked. Trust your gut and communicate any concerns with your client immediately. As we say in the OPSEC (operations security) community, ‘If you see something, say something!’”



Furry Friends Inc., Colorado Springs, CO

Brookham’s previous roles in the human medical field — radiologic technologist, urgent care facilities director, supplies and equipment sales manager — now help her recognize disease symptoms in dogs who come into her pet boutique and salon.

When she does, “I suggest they go to their vet, and then we can work on nutrition. It is super rewarding to see these dogs come back in with a better prognosis.”

Brookham adds, “It’s amazing the journey you go on and find yourself in a position you never imagined. However, all the things you learned along the way seem to mesh into exactly what you need.”



Wag Central, Stratford, CT

As a kindergarten teacher for 10 years, Pantalone made every student feel special so they could reach their full potential. She does the same at her multipurpose pet facility and encourages others in the industry to follow her lead.

“Find ways to make your staff feel special so they know they are valued and an important part of your team. Show owners that their dogs are special through the services you provide. Making suggestions and recommendations is often welcome since owners treat their pets just like their own children.”



Yarn & Bone Pet Supply Co., Camden and Rehoboth Beach, DE

Moorefield worked in customer service at Macy’s for 16 years, and co-owner Morris currently juggles a position in food service management with time at the stores. What have these work experiences taught them?

“The importance of customer interaction, from a simple hello to telling them to have a great day (even if they don’t purchase anything). Stopping all tasks when a customer is present, staying focused on them in case they have a question or need anything,” Morris says.



The Bark Market, Delavan, WI

Conell has been working with animals since high school, getting her first job at a pet-supply store. She went on to earn a degree in animal sciences, work at a racehorse breeding and training facility, and later as a veterinary technician. It all prepared her to succeed as a pet business owner.

“Having a love for animals helps, but without the merchandising, management or people skills, struggles — and, perhaps, failure — will result. Even with great skills there are hurdles! A full tool box to draw from makes those hurdles easier to clear.”


Bow Wow Beauty Shoppe, San Diego, CA

Among the many hats Michelle has worn are manager of the flagship Ann Taylor in New York City and district manager of face painters, hair wrappers, and caricature and portrait artists for the San Diego Zoo, Legoland and Seaworld. She filled and managed 200 park positions alone each summer!

“Speaking in front of a large audience, recruiting staff, interviewing and hiring have all been helpful for business ownership.”

Michelle and her husband also renovate and flip houses in their spare time. This allows for DIY repairs at her pet boutique and bakery.

“I’m very handy with multiple saws and drills!”



Rover-Time Dog Walking & Pet Sitting, Chicago, IL

In her previous role with Teach for America, Rohan learned the value of professional development.

“I was lead by some of the most brilliant minds. They were inspirational managers who willingly passed on their best practices for designing strategy to overcome most work-related challenges.”

She has carried this desire to improve through to her pet care business and advises:

“Invest in your professional development and seek out a program like to build your understanding of how to work humanely with all animals. Seek out your mentors’ and peers’ must-read books and devour them, join industry associations, and become followers of animal behaviorists and ethnologists.”



The Dog Store by Your Dog’s Best Friend, Alexandria, VA

Pastry chef. Accountant. Dog groomer. All of these roles help Bivens excel as a pet store manager. The baking skills make her popular with both two-legged and four-legged customers.

“Homemade treats for events are the best! But you can’t sell them without a license usually so we just give them away. People love seeing you cared enough to put effort in, instead of just opening a box of ordered treats.”



Waggs 2 Whiskers, Bagdad, KY

During her 19 years with a metals distribution company, Catlett multitasked like a pro, creating and managing procedures, leading a team, and providing excellent customer service. She sees the latter as the most important skill carried over into her current career as a pet care and services provider.

Catlett advises, “Always be nice and create a relationship that will benefit you and the customer in the future, from the very beginning. Be you! Allow your personality to shine through and get to know them and their situation. Creating that bond with pet parents is huge.”



J & M Aquatics & Pet Center, Grand Junction, CO

Schaffer worked at a grocery store while attending college. Not only did he learn how to merchandise, but his responsibility for ordering all canned goods without a point-of-sale system gave him “the skills to keep enough stock, prevent running out of items and make sure there was not a huge back stock.” This helped keep his aquatics store properly stocked in the early days, before it got a POS system.



Bubbly Paws and Pampered Pooch Playground, Twin Cities, MN

As a radio producer, Miller got to hang with the likes of Usher and Sarah McLachlan as part of his job. He also learned valuable skills that help him best promote his pet businesses.

“You need to make sure you over-deliver anytime a member of the media reaches out, and make sure to not overly promote your brand. We do monthly segments on the NBC station here, and we never wear our business logo or talk about our business. There is a quick graphic that says ‘Bubbly Paws’ on the bottom of the screen, but the minute you start self-promotion, they will cut it out. Quick, short responses work best, and you need to make the media person be the star of the segment.”



Spending 10 years in Apple sales and marketing has greatly influenced how Ellen runs her pet business.

“‘Changing the world, one computer at a time’ years later has become ‘changing the health of our pets, one dog and cat at a time.’”

She advises, “You have to have a vision. It’s your road map to where you want to go. Then wave your flag everywhere so ‘they’ can follow you — your customers, your employees and your vendors.”

Ellen also manages her staff in Apple style: “Empowered on the front line, included in decision-making, keeping relationships healthy, respected and trusted.”



Nashville Pet Products, Nashville, TN

Twenty-plus years in entertainment marketing and promotions taught Dickerson the value of an experience. He applies it at local events as marketing and outreach manager for five stores.

“For a big event last year, we built a doggie ball pit in our 10-by-10 booth. It was a huge hit, and we had people lining up to let their dogs play! People were excited to come to our booth for the experience we offered, and it gave us an opportunity to talk to them about their pets, where they shop, and to tell them about our stores and products. Unlike most of the other vendors at the event, we weren’t trying to sell them something. Instead, we offered a fun experience, and then told them the story of why our stores are awesome!”

Dickerson also kept social media in mind when setting up the booth and ball pit.

“Everyone wanted a photo of their beautiful pup surrounded by shiny, brightly colored balls. I made sure our events banner was positioned at the bottom of the booth’s back wall, so that our name and logo were visible in every photo of the ball pit.”


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.




Webinar Replay: How One Store Reached the Top of the (Raw) Food Chain

Catch a PETS+ Live! webinar replay in which host Candace D'Agnolo hosts the owners of Ben’s Barketplace, the largest independent retailer of raw food in California. To see more PETS+ Live! webinars, visit

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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.




Loyal Biscuit Co., Rockland, ME

OWNERS: Heidi & Joel Neal; URL:; 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.


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.



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.




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.


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.


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.”


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 for Sweetpea bubbling in a tub.

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13 Unique Business Cards to Inspire You

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




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


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


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


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


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


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


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

Loyal Biscuit Co.


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


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

Flying M Feed Co.


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, the material suits the store’s logo, a burned brand. She orders a variety of tree species.

Price: 35 cents each


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

Wag Central


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


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


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


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



This business card doubles as a lead generator. Potential clients can visit, 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


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

Birds Unlimited


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


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


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

Scout & Zoe’s


“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


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


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


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


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


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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