Running a small business is tough, and although the pet market has been booming lately, pet product stores can still be hard to keep in business. The recent growth in the market has had many entrepreneurs diving into the business, which has overpopulated the industry in some areas. With so many pet product stores in one small area it can make it hard for any of them to survive.
Susie Atherton, owner of Canine Creek shared her story at a recent meeting of the Greater Tehachapi Economic Development Council. Her inspirational story shows how diversifying a business to meet the needs of the people in the community is all it takes to make a business thrive.
Atherton started Canine Creek back in 2004 as a dog-washing business with no retail sales. As her customers began to ask for more pet products she slowly began selling dog food, treats, and dog supplies. Then she branched out into supplies and food for all types of pets.
In 2006 she even received the Small Business of the Year award from the Greater Tehachapi Chamber of Commerce. Pet Product News, an international publication, recognized Canine Creek with their Retailer of the Year award in 2009. With all of this great publicity, you would think things would be easy for the busy entrepreneur, but unfortunately there were many struggles she needed to overcome.
After growing out of her original space, Atherton ended up in a battle over mitigation fees at a shopping center and eventually ended up with an expensive lease on a new location. At the time, she thought things would be great because her business was thriving and her presence in the community was strong.
Many people in the area knew her from the four years she spent spearheading the local dog park and from serving on the Greater Tehachapi Chamber of Commerce. Canine Creek also sponsored many local events so local pet owners were very familiar with the business name.
Sadly, in 2008 Atherton was already in the hole from relocating her business to a bigger facility, and then the economy crashed later that year. She continued working 70 hours a week and her suppliers were generous enough to extend her credit so she could continue ordering pet food.
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She listened to her customers and began stocking the things that they needed most. By diversifying her business and listening to her clientele she was able to not only keep her loyal customers, but also bring in new business. As trends in pet products changed, so did the supplies stocked at Canine Creek.
As natural and organic pet foods grew in popularity Atherton began to order more. As pet technology became more popular she began to stock the items her customers requested. Once she was able to get out of her expensive lease and move to a more appropriate location, things began to turn around.
Thanks to the personal connections that she made with her customers, their pets, and her staff, Atherton felt an obligation to continue fighting and make her business thrive. In the last year she was able to pay back all her debt and Canine Creek is now cash-positive and going strong.