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Replicating Retail Success

“Replicating Retail Success”

Melissa Warren and her business partner, Susan Southwick, own and operate Animal Spirit, a haven for pet lovers in Cambridge, Mass.

In addition to trimming nails and shearing fur, Animal Spirit provides animal-health resources and sells pet food and accessories. Indeed, Animal Spirit has become somewhat of a neighborhood destination for pet lovers and their fur-covered, four-legged charges.

Here Melissa Warren details Animal Spirit’s current challenges:

I don’t want to turn what I like to do into something I don’t like to do. Part of that is not grooming so many dogs. Our growth is limited if we just offer grooming — we can and are willing to groom a limited number of animals a day. Whereas our competitors typically groom 30 dogs daily, we do only 10. But I am interested in other means of growth and am now trying to figure out how to make a partnership sprout into a corporation. What makes that happen?

Around our fifth anniversary, I would like to see us at two locations. But I am afraid that I will not be able to duplicate the quality of our flagship retail outlet. How can I juggle being in two places at once, and how can I effectively manage a staff at two separate locations?

Right now we are so neighborhood-oriented, and I know the names of 75% of the people who walk in. I enjoy that atmosphere, and I am having a hard time negotiating my ambition to grow and my need to be in touch with the community that nurtures my business.

How do I find employees I can trust to act as "me" at a second store? How do I know how much debt to take on to get a second outlet up and running? I started this with less than $10,000. Revenues are now well into six figures, but I am concerned about how to finance growth.