Megan Gourlie of Dogtown Cincinnati
How did you start your business?
I started Dogtown Cincinnati with an idea and hard work. After writing a solid business plan and finding the best location possible, I worked with the city to maximize the use of our proposed site and convinced Huntington Bank to fund our startup with a loan. There was a long construction process, but in the end we opened with a strong start and are thriving.
How did you come up the idea for your business?
Dogtown Cincinnati is a pet care business that caters to exactly what I needed before I opened it. I had struggled to find a place to take my dogs that was centrally located, had flexible hours and would actually make me feel comfortable about leaving my dog there. The concept I had was built to address the specific needs of who I was. I was sure that other people had similar needs and desires for pet care, so I did some early research to confirm that.
What resources here did you take advantage of and how did they help?
I worked with the local SCORE chapter (SCORE is the Service Corps of Retired Executives), which specializes in helping small businesses start up and succeed. In March 2012, I was named the SCORE featured client of the month. My SCORE counselor is C. Dennis Murphy.
Now that Dogtown Cincinnati has been open for a year, we are in need of expansion. I applied to be a Bad Girl Ventures finalist and am currently attending their classes which are geared toward teaching women the ins and outs of business by recruiting professionals in different fields to provide education on different topics.
In addition, Huntington Bank believed in my business plan. They decided to fund my startup company through the federal SBA loan program which supports small businesses.
What does a typical day in your business look like?
Between 5 a.m. and 9 a.m., our lobby is busy with drop offs. You’ll see on our valet camera – we have 15 webcams online -- that some of our customers pull up in front and don’t even need to get out of their cars because we come out to them and bring their dogs inside. Throughout the day, the dogs go from our inside daycare playroom to our outdoor playground at regular intervals and are pulled out of daycare for their meal times. They play with toys, on our playground equipment, and with each other.
From 1 p.m. – 3 p.m., the dogs go to nap time in our bedroom-like boarding rooms and sleep while we clean the other areas of the facility. In the evening, starting around 5 p.m., it gets busy in the lobby again with pick-ups. Customers can resupply with dog food, toys and treats in our small shop before they go home for the night with their well-exercised dog.
The dogs who are with us in the evening, or who are staying overnight, go to the boarding rooms to sleep and watch TV around 9 p.m. At this point, they are very tired and sleep like a charm!
What’s next for you and your company?
Dogtown Cincinnati is very successful. We have a building that is 1/3 finished, and our first goal is to expand our daycare within the building. Eventually, we also dream of turning our addition space into a 24-hour emergency veterinarian with its own entrance from the street. This part of the business will have all of the same ideals as our current business, but will offer the expanded services of pet health care. Once Dogtown Cincinnati is at full capacity, we will look at other ways to expand, such as additional locations in the suburbs and in nearby cities.
Interview by Robin Donovan