Krista and Jeremy have won the Small Business, Big Ideas Contest and will be receiving $10,000 to help turn their idea into a reality.

Tell me a little about your business.

Jeremy and I currently run a pet shop in Southwest Center City, Philly that’s called The Philly Pack Pet Shop. We are also dog behaviorists who specialize in helping people and their dogs find harmony in their lives together. We teach basic principles of discipline, leadership, and energy.

How did you get into the business?

Growing up, I was always obsessed with dogs. My family always thought I’d become a vet. I knew that wasn’t the path for me, so after a lot of volunteer work with dogs, I ended up working with a professional dog walking service.

Once I started working with dogs full time, I realized just how many people were struggling with their dog’s behavior. I knew I could help because I seemed to have an ability to deal with difficult dogs, so it seemed like a natural move to get involved in dog training. Jeremy and I started the dog-handling end of our business in 2006 and it took off pretty quickly. In 2010, we opened the pet shop as a stepping stone toward our goal of opening a behavior center.

The Philly Pack Pet Shop

What motivates you?

Jeremy and I both love dogs and enjoy spending time with them every day. Beyond that though, there is something rewarding about helping someone keep their dog in their home. We deal with dogs that have some serious issues, who are often struggling with fear and who are confused about their place in the world.

A lot of owners have tried what they call the ‘pure positive’ training method, which involves rewards with treats and lots of excitement to encourage certain behaviors. Unfortunately, with a lot of dogs that kind of training just isn’t adequate and it can end up in a dangerous situation – both for the dog and the people it’s around.

If someone doesn’t help out in this kind of situation it often ends in canine euthanasia, so my partner Jeremy and I are truly motivated by a desire to connect with these dogs and their owners and help them find a harmonious way of living.

In my experience, a lot of the problem stems from dogs being treated too much like humans. We treat dogs like dogs and explain how owners can provide clear direction and leadership. In doing so, dogs are able to understand what is expected of them and they’re able to make better choices. We believe when dogs exercise impulse control, they are able to achieve a balanced and calm state of mind.

So, how is business going?

The pet shop has done well and we have built up a really loyal following in our area, so that’s been great. The Pet Shop business doesn’t allow for the biggest margins, especially on top selling items like food – so the services end of our business is really important. The behavior end of the business has always been our main focus, and we will continue to help owners address their relationship with their dogs.

So, what was your Big Idea that won the prize?

We are planning on building our very own canine enrichment center, where we can provide a full range of support services for dogs in our area. We’ll be offering services like canine socials, overnighting, training, and general socialization. We think it’s going to provide a much-needed service to our local area – and provide an important additional revenue stream to our business.

Traditionally, we’ve done a lot of in-home sessions with people and their dogs and that still remains important but we think this center will provide a great place for people to connect. Dealing with a difficult dog can be a very isolating experience, so we look to provide resources and a sense of community, so people can connect with a network and get advice about the best way forward.

The Philly Pack Pet Shop

So, what are the next steps?

We are planning on opening up the training center at the end of the summer. The money from ShopKeep is amazing – it’s going to help us get fencing, proper equipment for the center, better flooring – and we’ll be using whatever is left over to update our website.

We’re also starting to work with another trainer, who will expand on the services we offer and the range of dogs we’re equipped to deal with. Jeremy and I have always worked very well together because we have natural strengths with different types of dog. This move will help us expand that range even further.

This is really the next phase of The Philly Pack, and we’re excited to make our training, walking and overnighting services more accessible to our local community.

We’ve worked really hard to get where we are now. It’s been our dream to open this facility from the moment we started up this business.

About the Author

Paul Nugent is a small business advocate, and Head of Marketing at ShopKeep point of sale’s UK headquarters. Paul uses his background in the startup space, along with his POS system expertise, to allow small business owners to make informed decisions within their specific budgets.