123Pet customers are passionate small business owners who excel at what they do. As part of our commitment to supporting and educating entrepreneurs, we aim to showcase our customers’ expertise in growing successful businesses. Colleen Medere, owner of Bubble Puppy Pool House, Bubble Puppy Playhouse and Bubble Puppy Grooming and Self-Service Pet Wash, exemplifies this expertise and has one of the more unique entrepreneurial journeys we’ve seen.
While working as a bookkeeper, Colleen started grooming to save money as a single mother, and eventually left her job to open her small grooming salon, Bubble Puppy Grooming, in early 2013. Wanting to make her business unique, Colleen reflected on her experience as a pet owner to identify existing needs. Around the same time, she had taken the pool down at her home and her dog no longer had a place to swim. Thinking many pet owners may have the same experience, Colleen built a swimming pool for dogs at her grooming salon, and Bubble Puppy Pool House was born. The business has since become a staple in Trenton, MI.
Continue reading to learn more about how Colleen got her start in the industry and created this one-of-a-kind business that combines a grooming salon, pool house and doggy daycare.
Q: How did you transition from working in bookkeeping to pet grooming?
A: It’s quite a difference! I worked in bookkeeping for 27 years. I was a single mom and started working as a groomer to save some money. It was pretty fun. Eventually, I was ready to move on from bookkeeping and wanted to open my own pet grooming salon. The rest is history!
Bubble Puppy Grooming and Self-Service Pet Wash opened in February 2013. Our initial differentiator was that, unlike other pet salons, we offered our clients a salon experience that allowed pet owners to see the whole process of their pets being groomed. The salon also has self-wash stations for convenience and cost savings.
Q: How did your business expand from a pet grooming salon to also a pet-friendly pool and daycare?
A: Around the same time that we opened the salon, my husband took down our pool at home. Our dog no longer had a place to swim. Luckily, we owned a decent-sized piece of land at Bubble Puppy, so we dug a hole for a pool, built around it and opened a pet pool in conjunction with the grooming salon.
While we were getting the pool up and running, the building next door was being foreclosed. We decided to purchase that as well and reopened it as a doggy daycare. Bubble Puppy Playhouse was created mostly to provide enrichment-based daycare for dogs. With a low staff-to-dog ratio, we take the dogs out on walks to explore downtown Trenton, go on runs, use agility equipment and even go swimming next door at Bubble Puppy Pool House.
Q: How do the two sides of your business, grooming and the pool, complement each other?
A: We offer a “dip and clip” special, where dogs can get groomed and swim for a discounted rate. The dual business model mutually benefits both customers and staff. A dog that’s tuckered out from swimming is easier for groomers to handle and for owners to take home at the end of the day. Plus, it’s fun for dogs to play fetch with pool toys and jump in and out of the water. Clients will even rent the pool for doggy birthday parties. There are “pupcakes” and all!
There is also a therapeutic element. For older, physically handicapped or injured pets, we have 15-minute therapy swims. This is often for dogs with arthritis or who have had ACL surgery. They still need physical activity, but they can’t walk as well. The buoyancy of the water helps them stay active without putting too much pressure on their joints.
Q: How did you choose a software to help you manage the Bubble Puppy business?
A: When I started the business, I didn’t have any software because I was the sole groomer. Toward the end of 2013, as I started to hire more groomers and expand the business, I purchased 123Pet and have used it ever since. We looked into alternatives when we expanded to the daycare, but no other programs were as comprehensive or accommodated grooming so well.
123Pet helps our business look cohesive and consistent across all its branches, as we use the software in both facilities. Customers can look at one screen to book swimming and/or grooming services all at the same time. Additionally, the reporting and marketing features have allowed us to start a loyalty program, which has helped to support the business’s good reputation.
It’s also great for employees. They can log into their phone remotely to see the calendar or confirm appointments, which has been a tremendous help for us.
Q: Do you have any advice for professionals interested in starting a pet business?
A: My biggest piece of advice would be that if you’re not passionate about grooming, then don’t bother. It’s not about the money, it’s about the dogs. For example, we offer 15-minute water therapy for the dogs and I charge $10 for that. Pet owners spend thousands on surgeries for their animals—they need a break. We also groom rescue dogs at no charge to the shelters and open our facilities multiple times during the year for shelter fundraising.