During my banking career, I reviewed 1000’s of business models. I always envied business owners for their courage to build their dreams as entrepreneurs. In talking with them, they were all so passionate about what they do and their lives seemed so fulfilled. In 2007 was ready for a change so I opened a little 1400 sq ft pet boutique. I continued to work in banking for the first 18 months in business, then I took the full leap! T&J's was just breaking even when I quit my banking job, so the risk was real! Thankfully, (and as hoped) our sales soared when I began working full time on the retail floor.
With unemployment numbers at an all-time low in Madison, it's no doubt it is a tough market for employers. Certainly, we feel fortunate that we are an attractive place for people to work. I mean, who doesn’t want to work around animals all day? For our holistic business, we look for animal lovers that have positive attitudes. In order to maintain a truly holistic environment, the energy needs to remain positive. Employees need to enjoy what they are doing otherwise it disrupts the energy in the workplace. Retail is not for everyone, and we get that! But for us that means you are not a great fit. This especially goes for our groomers. Dog’s and cats are extremely sensitive to your energy and will often exhibit anxiety or fear if their groomer is upset, sad, nervous and any other emotion that creates an unbalance. Because this is so important to our holistic salon, we are extremely picky when it comes to selecting our groomers for our team.
I was 11 years old when my parents started Noah’s Ark Animal Sanctuary. Rockford needed a non-kill shelter for the over abundance of stray cats and dogs, and Noahs Ark quickly filled that void. I spent many Saturday mornings as a kid volunteering by cleaning cages, feeding the animals and taking the dogs for walks. I also volunteered my time to groom the incoming dogs with haircuts, baths and general grooming maintenance.
How did your Love for animals begin?
What services does T & J's provide?
When did you start thinking about starting Tabby & Jacks?
All of us have a desire to chase something we really care about. If we're lucky, we get to wake up everyday loving what you were meant to do.
That's Michelle's story, but it wasn't always that way.
What do you look for when bringing someone onto the T&J's team?
Tell us about Noah's Ark, and that experience.
What did you do after you graduated High School?
Growing up we always had pets. With my mother’s animal loving nature, the apple didn’t far too far from the tree. Our home was a consistent foster haven for many kitties and puppies. We also provided rehab for many wild animals. In 8th grade, I raised a baby squirrel myself and I logged my experience for my 8th grade science project. I received 1st place for my work! Mother taught me how to groom when I was 12 and I had a consistent clientele of my own through high school.
Currently, Tabby and Jack’s has 3 locations in the Dane County area. All three locations provide healthy pet food and supplies to our local neighborhoods and 2 of the locations provide a small group, holistic doggie daycare. We also provide Mobile grooming, which travels to our clients' homes. All 3 locations and the mobile grooming business is running well, with a great team in place! We do not have any current plans of adding anymore locations.
Our lives and hearts are feeling pretty full! We have helped thousands of pet owners find solutions for their pets and we have been able to get them back on the road to health! Because of this, we get new clients every day that were referred by a friend we helped. Most folks in Madison now know who we are and we are so thrilled to be able to help new pet owners. My work day hasn’t slowed, but I can focus more on the bigger picture stuff and let my talented management team take care of the daily operations and customer service!
Our first location was located on Stuck street in Madison in “Madison’s Pet Corner”. Our neighbors included a veterinarian, a doggie daycare and a pet photographer. Although the concept seemed like a good idea, in reality, our location was not suitable for a retail business. After 15 months in that location, we moved to Fitchburg in the Hatchery Hill Retail center, where our business climbed into the black in just 3 months! After only 3 years at the new location, we doubled the size of our store and added a holistic doggie daycare.
What is your life like now after over a decade running Tabby & Jack's?
Michelle Lonergan ~ Founder
Tell us about opening the first location.
I went to Eastern Illinois University and received an accounting degree and CPA designation. My first job out of college was in banking as a commercial lender, which I enjoyed for 15 years. A large part of my job was to analyze different business models and their financial stability to determine if their operations were viable enough to repay their borrowing needs. It was during this time that I developed my entrepreneurial desire to go into business.
Tabby & Jack’s has a great focus on holistic services, so pet owners have a safer and more relaxing option for their pets.
Grooming: All our groomers are trained in holistic practices. We start by teaching them to maintain positive energy, as dogs and cats can be very intuitive to your energy. We keep the work environment stress free by grooming our clients “by the appointment”, so they are only with us 1-2 hours. Eliminating barking dogs from kennels improves the energy in the salon tremendously for both the Groomer and the clients.
Our doggie daycare is limited to 15 dogs and available at our Fitchburg and Middleton locations. This is a great way to socialize your pet so he or she is well mannered. Our staff is trained in Pet first aid and pack mentalities. The strive to help pet parents with certain behaviors and/or brushing up on commands. Daycare is also available for grooming clients that would like to drop off their dogs for the entire day. Instead of sitting in a cage, they are enrolled in doggie daycare where they will enjoy the rest of the day playing.
Saturday Morning playgroups in Fitchburg and Middleton: Play groups are 1 hour long and is attended by pet parent and pet alike! This is a great way to socialize you dog and meet other pet owners. Every Saturday morning at 9:00am we have the small dog play group(under 30#) and at 10:00am we have the mixed group, suited for large dogs and smaller dogs that prefer to play with larger dogs. Read Part II
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