Every day, people use Square tools to help start, run, and grow their business — here’s one of their stories.
When Bubbly Paws — a self-service dog wash and grooming store — opened in 2011, the owners didn’t know it would be such a hit. Keith and Patrycia Miller were looking for a way to wash their 85-pound Bernese Mountain Dog, Roxy, without making a complete mess of their home. Fast forward a few years and they now have four locations and 30 employees in the Minneapolis area.
Recently, Square editor Niema Jordan spoke with Keith about the early stages of their business, knowing when to open a new location, and his advice for businesses that are looking to grow.
Square: How large was your staff when you started?
Keith: We started with four staff and one groomer, and then we just kept adding as we went. We have 30 employees now (and use Square’s employee management software), but we were a little bit leaner in the beginning.
My wife and I did tons of shifts in the beginning. It was basically saving payroll. Me working also saved paying somebody else. Plus, in the beginning, it was also good to be hands-on. You know what’s wrong, you know what’s working well, and you can move and change right away, just because you’re in the store all the time.
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How do you know when it’s time to open another location?
You know, it seems like every two years we’ve been getting a new store. We try to be very conservative with it. I’d love to open a new store every month, but I’d rather be safe than sorry. Opening a new location costs a ton of money.
Our grooming started getting booked out, and farther out, and farther out, where people were waiting sometimes three weeks to a month to get grooming. And we just didn’t have space for that. Add the demand for self-service baths and we realized it was maybe time to start looking. It just kind of snowballed from there.
How do you make sure that things are consistent across locations and that it still feels like Bubbly Paws?
That’s the hardest part. Design-wise, we have a great architect that’s done all of our locations. Other than that, it also comes down to using the same software products. Honestly, [Square Register] is cool because I can be in any store and all the buttons are in the same location. We’ve got a phone system that you can transfer between any store, so if one store is busy you can ring up the other store. And our appointment system is Cloud-based so customers can book anywhere.
How do employees help with consistency?
We have our general manager, who basically runs all four of our stores, and each one of our stores has its own manager — but we also have them work in other locations. One of our managers might be in charge of our Minneapolis store, but we also put her in St. Paul one day a week. While you have your main location, you still get to know everything about all of the stores and provide feedback.
At what point do you use business loans to help grow your business?
For all of our build-outs, we’ve always done SBA (Small Business Administration) loans because it’s a huge amount. A location may cost us $250,000.
We use a smaller loan more for our slower months. January and February in Minnesota, we’re looking at -30 degree weather, which is great, but it also means not one person is coming in to bathe their dog. So, we use that money to take care of our staff and pay them when business is slow.
What are some other ways that you would say the business has grown?
We’ve grown in size of course, but we’ve also grown in our capacity to give back to the pet world. Being a little bit bigger, you can do more for different rescues.
When Hurricane Harvey hit, we bathed close to 29 dogs that were rescued. Our employees donated their time for that. We also did a food drive. Having the power of four locations in the Minneapolis area helps. People could drop off food anywhere, whereas if there was only one store, it would be a little bit harder to say something like that.
What advice would you give to small business owners who are looking to grow?
Don’t be in a hurry. I think so many people jump into stuff without really thinking it through. You learn so much by trial and error — but really, don’t rush into things. There are many reasons somebody can fail, but when you don’t really think things out, you’re basically setting yourself up for failure.
Also, surround yourself with people that really know what’s going on. Know your strengths. For example, I don’t enjoy looking at our financials. So, two years ago, we hired a part-time CFO to help us out. And don’t be scared to reach out to other business owners in your industry for advice.
Running a business is no easy feat, but Square is here to help. We have all the tools you need to start, run, and grow your business, whether you’re selling in person, online, or both. And we’ve made all our tools to work together as one system, saving you time and money — and making decisions easier. So you can get back to doing the work you love and focusing on whatever’s next. See how Square works.