As 123Pet embarks on a new decade of supporting and educating entrepreneurs, we want to continue showcasing the passionate small business owners – and the inspiring companies they’ve built – that our software has empowered over the years. One such owner is Alicen Ingle, founder of Pet-Agree Professional Pet Services in Jasper, Indiana, who celebrates the 10-year anniversary of her first return customer this month.
“We celebrate my first return customer instead of the day we opened our doors because that’s what having a successful business means to me – customers who value your work and keep coming back,” she says.
For our latest Customer Spotlight, we sat down with Alicen to talk about how she’s evolved her company from a one-woman show to a nationally-recognized grooming facility, and how 123Pet has helped her create the customer-focused company she’s envisioned from the start.
Q: Tell us a bit about your business and how it’s grown over the years.
A: I own a pet grooming, lodging, supply and training facility. I started out as a one-woman show of a single mom, and now, ten years later, I have six employees and have served over three thousand pets in this vicinity. Years ago, when I first started, there was only one nationally recognized grooming program (Nash Grooming Academy) and now I’m affiliated with it as an instructor and as a satellite test site. In fact, I’m the only teaching facility in Indiana to be affiliated as such. I’m also a state-certified groomer, a master cat groomer, a master cat grooming certifier and the first AKC S.A.F.E-certified salon in Indiana. Suffice to say, I’ve come a long way.
Q: What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced as a small business owner?
A: In the beginning it’s hard. You start a business because you want it to be profitable, and you want to design a certain quality of life for yourself, but that doesn’t happen right away. When I opened my business, I was charging less than half of what my services were worth so that I could get people’s business. It took two years before I could pay myself a salary.
Q: What advice do you have for someone who wants to start their own business?
A: Look at your target market and figure out where you fit in. When I moved to Jasper, local groomers didn’t actually have any education about grooming. They thought it was fine to just pick up a clipper and groom their pets themselves, so I saw an opportunity to educate the community on the skills needed to do a successful job. I also learned that many local groomers were turning away large dogs and cats; two types of clients I knew I could handle. Because of this, when I first opened, I specialized in grooming large pets to meet my specific market needs.
Q: Is there anything people should keep in mind when working in the pet industry?
A: Loving animals isn’t enough to succeed here. In interviews, people always say, “I love dogs!” but grooming isn’t just about spending time with dogs. It’s hard – and often dirty – work.
Q: What made you decide to invest in business management software?
A: About two years in, I needed a more streamlined, digital appointment book because I just couldn’t manage all the paper anymore. At that time, 123Pet was the only software available, but it was perfect for what I needed as a one-person company.
Q: Has 123Pet helped you grow your business?
A: The software itself has really helped me implement my vision for the company. I love the fact that my groomers can look at the bookings themselves and know where they need to be, and meanwhile, someone can stay at the front of house to work and communicate with customers. It helps the workflow, which lets us focus on and meet our customers’ needs.
The 123Pet program also grows with you. You can pick different levels of investment, and you can change your plan monthly as your business changes, which, naturally, it does. The software technicians are great at helping you manipulate the program to fit your vision.
123Pet also saves me personal time because it takes care of all the tasks I used to have to do by hand. I can focus on balancing my life now that I don’t have to have my eyes glued to the business all the time.
Q: Which 123Pet features are most helpful to you and your employees?
A: The mobile aspect is a huge help with handling client communications, especially after hours. I can go into the appointment book on the app from home and instantly make any adjustments, so even when we’re closed, I can still be working.
The reporting functions are also wonderful, and they help me do retail “right.” With them, I can run reports on sales and productivity and manage inventory, so I know I’m meeting my benchmarks.