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 a successful business. Mike Conners and his Daughter Jennifer Bartman, the owners of Haute Dogge, a pet grooming salon with locations in Franklin, Spring Hill and Nolensville, TN, are not only dedicated to grooming pets, but also to help the community. We are especially proud to recognize Mike for Veteran’s Day given he served in the United States Air Force for almost 20 years, and his wife Eileen for 24 years.
Read on to learn about Mike and Haute Dogge’s journey—and how he’s made it his mission to give back to veteran’s not only on November 11, but all year long.
Q: How did you come to own a dog grooming salon?
A: I purchased the business in January 2015, almost six years ago. I’m not a pet groomer, but my daughter Jennifer is. So, she told me about this great opportunity. We started out with one location and three employees. I mostly run the behind-the-scenes of the business, like accounting, while she runs the operations side.
I never expected to own a grooming salon. I was in the Air Force for almost 20 years and then worked for a Wall Street Bank, before moving back to Nashville. After working in technical roles, I eventually bought the business because it gave me the flexibility to take care of my wife, who had fallen ill.
Now we’ve expanded to three brick-and-mortar locations, one mobile unit, and 24 employees! We expect to keep growing, and our goal is to eventually have 10 shops and at least four mobile units.
Q: What is your favorite part about running a pet services business?
A: My favorite part is to watch the groomers take their creativity to the next level. A dog will come in that hasn’t been taken care of—perhaps he has matted fur. The groomer will take the dog to be washed and cut, and they come back looking adorable! It’s artistic. I think it’s very creative the way that the groomers can work with any dog in any condition.
My other favorite part is the love that’s given to the pets during their grooming. Seeing the animals enjoy being pet, washed and catered to is really sweet.
Q: What was one of the biggest challenges when taking over the business?
A: One of the biggest challenges was that the previous owners documented everything—calendars, contacts and transactions—on paper. About two months before I took over the business, I knew it all had to be digitalized. In my search for business software, I found 123Pet.
123Pet’s features stood out among all the other business software that I was comparing it to. It’s very simple, user-friendly and allows us to store useful information on both clients and their pets. Being able to text or email to confirm appointments has been a life saver for us, especially with the mobile unit.
To top it all off, their customer service is fantastic. We’ve had some pretty silly questions along the way, and they’re the nicest, most patient people. They help me run my business successfully.
Q: How do you and your business give back to the community?
A: I’m proud to say that we give back in a lot of ways. Being a veteran, it’s very important to me to give back to those who have served. We offer a 10% discount to all current and former members of the United States Armed Forces and all first responders year-round. To celebrate Veteran’s Day this year, we’re offering a 50% discount off all services and products to veterans on the holiday.
Our team also does charity work for nearby shelters. We’ll take dogs who have been there for a while and groom them for free so they look nice, which hopefully speeds up their adoption process. Additionally, we do our best to sponsor the local schools’ sports teams as well as academic and theoretical events. Whenever a school is having a charity auction, we always donate items for their fundraisers. We also allow schools and other local organizations to place flyers in our shop or in our store windows. We try to help any way we can.
We are also invested in the pet business community. We try to share information because there are not any “big secrets” in pet grooming. It’s mostly all about the talent and attitude of your staff. That said, we’re big on sharing advice on Facebook.
Lastly, we open our shop up to other groomers. The National Grooming Association used our space to do a certification training last year, and they’re coming to do it again in 2020. We’ve also hosted a class for creative grooming and poodle cuts.
Q: What is your advice to those who want to start or own their own business?
A: Figure out how much money you think you will need, and then triple it. You’re always going to run out.
Specific to a grooming business, you need to find people who don’t just want a job, but who want to take care of pets. We go through a lot of bathers, for example, because it’s not an easy position. Hiring people who are truly dedicated to the role is key. We give new employees a “trial day” to give them a chance to see if they will enjoy it or not.