This is another in an occasional series on small-business owners operating in San Luis Obispo County. If you have operated a small business for at least three to five years, please contact Julie Lynem at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 781-7932. Businesses will be considered on a case-by-case basis.
For Susie Robertson, understanding the needs of her human customers is only half of operating her business. As the owner of a pet shop — Squeaks, Chirps & Bubbles and LaundroPet Self-Serve Dog Wash — she has also learned to expect the unexpected from animals. Robertson recently answered questions about her passion: helping to care for furry, fuzzy and feathered friends.
Q: What are the three most important ingredients to starting a business?
A: Do not ever get comfortable, do not plan on taking much time off and remember to laugh.
Q: Explain the toughest challenges that you face operating your store.
A: I did not realize the frequency with which unpredictable things can occur. Someone might come in with a dog that has been skunked, and no matter what is going on at that moment, that dog takes precedence. You just need to get him right to the dog wash. One of our parrots, Four, is an escape artist, and he opened up the cage of another parrot in the middle of the night, and he got out. He was found walking on the windowsill of the Chinese restaurant four blocks away. Now we really lock Four down big time.
Q: What is the single biggest priority for your business right now?
A: Continuing education on new products for the staff in order to keep customers well informed. We’ll have a representative from the company come in and train the staff, and we’ll do some research online and have a quick meeting. There are changes in products, and you have to stay on top of that all of the time. We also like to be proactive on food and treat recalls. In this Internet world, we don’t want customers walking in knowing more than we do. We want to be the experts.
Q: Who inspired you to become a business owner/entrepreneur and what advice did he/she give you?
A: Years ago, I was fortunate to encounter an amazing mentor, a friend I met when I was 21. He was 23, a professional archer, and he already owned an archery shop. We met at a tournament, and we’ve been friends ever since. He encourages me to continue to look at myself as a problem solver, not a business owner.
Q: What was your — or an employee's — best idea that increased sales, profitability or both? Explain why.
A: When I purchased the shop, it had a dog grooming station but no dog groomer. I found that trying to get a dependable groomer was not as easy as I had hoped. Late one Saturday, at nearly midnight, I walked out on my back deck at home and glowing brightly above the street behind me was a sign that read, "Laundromat." I immediately was inspired to convert the grooming station to a self-serve dog wash. I registered the name "LaundroPet Self Serve Dog Wash" the following Monday morning.
Q: Where would you like to see your business in the next five to 10 years?
A: As our little surrounding towns expand, I would like to grow with them and continue to offer up-to-date services, expert nutritional information for pets, dependable boarding and pet sitting services, expansion of product lines to suit the needs of the customers and, of course, offer our trademark good ol' fabulous customer service.
Q: How have you used Internet marketing via social media to your advantage?
A: We have four Facebook pages of which three are in regular use. The Los Osos Pet Lost & Found Headquarters Facebook page, and the newly opened Morro Bay Pet Lost & Found Headquarters Facebook page are amazing community services. When a lost/missing pet is reunited back home with the family, the community rejoices! We are looking into opening one up for Cayucos as well as Cambria. With the digital age we live in, it is so easy to communicate with people about their pet's needs. Social media can be a lot of fun.