Joanne Custy - Happy Tails Doggy Spa and Pet Boutique

Tell us about yourself

I grew up in London, Ontario and love this city! I knew opening a business here would be the best decision I've ever made, and It's so nice being part of such a vibrant community. My education mostly consists of business courses, as well as animal care courses. After working with animals most of my life in the veterinary field, I decided to open my own business! I opened Happy Tails Doggy Spa and Pet Boutique in 2016 and have loved every moment! 

Tell us about your business 

I opened Happy Tails in 2016. We started with a small retail boutique, with only one groomer on staff. We quickly realized the demand for pet grooming in the Hyde Park area and hired a second groomer within the first year of business! In 2020 we outgrew our original location and moved to a larger facility where we could have a better retail area and accommodate more dogs for our grooming services. We now have a staff of five groomers and a receptionist and have become quite the popular place for people to shop for dog supplies and have their dog spoiled! 

What are the lessons your business learned from the covid-19 pandemic?  

In order for my business to survive the pandemic, I had to learn to change and adapt to the many different challenges. I had to learn new skills, such as creating an online store and setting up new procedures for sales and service. During the lockdowns, we were permitted to continue selling our pet supplies but had to set up new ways of selling and promoting them since shoppers were not allowed inside the store. I learned quickly that I had to be more flexible and ready to change my entire business plan to accommodate the ever-changing needs and restrictions. 

What services/programs have you utilized at the London Small Business Centre, and how have they helped your business?  

When we moved in 2020, we found we had many costs that we needed to cover. With our new location came more growth opportunities. 

That also meant the cost of new equipment, tools, and retail shelving. The London Small Business Centre not only provided a small business grant to help me grow my business but also provided group meetings with other small businesses. We could discuss our challenges and learn how to grow our businesses together during challenging times. 

What led you to start this business? 

Working for years in the veterinary field eventually became mentally exhausting for me. I knew I still wanted to work with animals in a happier, less stressful environment! I wanted to work for myself and follow my dreams, and owning my place was the only way to do that. 

What were some of the challenges you faced getting started, and how did you overcome them? 

One challenge I faced when opening my business was learning to use all the different social media platforms. I quickly had to learn how to create my website, as well as how to use Facebook and Instagram properly. It was a huge challenge, but I also knew how important it was to learn how to use these platforms.   

Being a part of the Hyde Park BIA has been very helpful for me. With some of the online digital help they were able to provide me, I was able to learn how to utilize the different platforms best. Through those services, I learned how to grow my business online. Facebook and Instagram have played such a huge part in promoting my business and helping it become part of an online pet community. 

As a busy entrepreneur, what do you like to do when you take a break? 

I find it's hard being a business owner and learning to give yourself breaks! There's always work to be done and improvements to be made. You can easily get absorbed in your work if you're not careful. Making time for family and friends is so important but can be a real challenge, especially with a new business. Spending time with my family and friends is the most satisfying way to take a break from my business! 

Can you tell us about an entrepreneur you admire and why? 

I don't have a particular entrepreneur that I admire. I admire anyone that has had to overcome major challenges to follow their dreams. Opening up a business can be a huge financial and mental struggle for anyone, but people who have defied all odds and succeeded are the ones I admire the most.  

 What advice would you give to an aspiring entrepreneur today?   

Do what you love, and work with what you know. It's the only way to be happy and successful!

Learn more about Happy Tails Doggy Spa and Pet Boutique


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