Crystal Broderson believes animals should enjoy the grooming salon, just as humans enjoy a spa visit. “Customers worry about the stress their animals go through. Here, we take a Zen approach,” she said. “We provide the same service we would want our own pets to receive.”
Crystal worked for other pet groomers after learning the trade. As an employee, she observed customer patterns and thought about the business she would someday launch. “I was doing market research without realizing it,” she said. It was clear there was more demand than supply in the area around Superior. Crystal entered nursing school and scaled back to doing grooming only on weekends, but soon questioned her decision. “It upset me to have to turn down my regular customers. I thought, why not just do what I love?” She traded nursing school for plans to open Rascal’s Professional Pet Grooming, named after her poodle.
Crystal started out renting a 500-square-foot space. “Small and basic, that was my plan!” she said. A friend created the logo and she promoted the business on Facebook. In just a few months she was so busy she could barely keep up. “The response was incredible,” Crystal recalled. As her business approached its second anniversary, she started thinking about moving to a bigger location.
SBDC helped with planning for expansion, financing
While researching how to open a business, Crystal learned about Wisconsin’s Small Business Development Centers. She spoke with Andy Donahue, Director and Consultant with the SBDC at UW-Superior. “He helped me find my direction,” she said. “I would have made a lot of mistakes if Andy hadn’t given me a step-by-step process for starting a business.”
Crystal sought Andy’s advice again as she planned for expansion. She located a space in the heart of downtown Superior that was four times the size of her first salon and considered adding a retail area. Andy recalled, “We worked through the numbers, looking at the product offerings, what she could do if she stayed in the same location, what she could do if she moved,” which would make retail a possibility, as well as adding employees.
“He laid it all out—which of my ideas were good, which weren’t,” Crystal remembered. “Seeing it on paper like that was so helpful.” She decided to give retail products a pass, for now, opting to add a self-service pet washing station instead.
Crystal wrote a business plan, with Andy’s input, and he helped her prepare an application for a low-interest loan from the Douglas County Revolving Loan Fund. Andy said the financial planning involved not just looking at her two-year history, but also projecting out three years, to see what could be supported. Rascal’s Professional Pet Grooming got the loan.
Accomplishments with the SBDC of UW-Superior:
- Financial planning
- Assistance with securing a low-interest loan
- Sounding board
Rascal’s—three years old and growing
After the move in February 2017, Crystal added two part-time employees. In early 2018, she added a third part-timer. Her favorite way to market her grooming salon is through donations to local businesses. “Our name and logo end up on a lot of t-shirts and banners” for local events like runs/walks, Crystal said. “I like helping the community while raising awareness of Rascal’s.”
Andy observed, “Crystal exudes confidence. She knew what she wanted. She had current goals but also a long-term strategy, including a network of future employees. She’s thought outside the box about what kind of niche opportunities would help her grow the business.”
“Every day is a learning experience,” Crystal admitted. “I can’t believe the speed of our growth—or how many dog lovers there are in Superior.”