Justin’s Canine Campus opened in 2014 as the self-funded project of owners Justin Bonn and Carrie Lindley. While the pet industry has been experiencing explosive growth, Justin and Carrie are specializing their services to meet all their client’s needs. Ten businesses in their marketing area may offer similar services, but they are one of only two that provide daycare, training, and grooming services.
Justin and Carrie knew they had what it would take to start-up and run successful business in the pet industry because they had extensive firsthand experience and knowledge.
Justin Bonn had spent over 23 years working with dogs in various environments. He has managed dog daycare centers across the country, specialized in behavior evaluations for animal shelters and rescue groups, and has provided animal advocacy and rescue for animal control. Carrie is a practicing Medical Social Worker at St. Joseph’s Hospital, where she has worked for the last 21 years. She has a background in business management and her canine experience includes obedience training, canine fostering, and breeding.
With all their combined skills, it was no surprise that the first six months of their business saw them averaging a whopping twenty-five dogs per day. By the end of their first year they were averaging forty dogs per day, with continued monthly growth thereafter. During their second year of operation they expanded their services by hiring a full time, well experienced groomer. Their business was debt free after just one and a half years of operation. After just three years they had reached maximum capacity and had to start a wait list for new clients.
Justin’s Canine Campus has multiple local awards including the most recent 2020 Small Business Excellence Award, 2018 Syracuse New Times Best of Syracuse award (in both Dog Daycare and Training categories), and the 2018 Best of Liverpool Award in the category of Pet Sitting & Exercising Services. After so much achievement and growth in the past 6 years, they knew that it was the time to expand.
Justin and Carrie were referred to Keyona Kelly, Certified Business Advisor at the Onondaga Small Business Development Center located at Onondaga Community College, by their real estate broker. Carrie stated that “Keyona was incredible to work with and helped us with everything! She helped us develop our business plan, understand the numbers, and prepare for our presentation to board members for the loan.”
Everything was going well, they were approved for their loan and waiting on the town for zoning changes when COVID hit suddenly in March. So, like so many other business owners, they had to put their plans for expansion on hold and pivot to meet the changes in their industry. Carrie explained, “we began training a new employee now (rather than waiting until we expanded) as a second groomer which has increased our grooming appointments and profit. We implemented a new option for training clients that allows them to book phone consultation appointments for a set fee. We have implemented several safety measures to protect our team and clients: Masks required for all in the building, a limit to the number of clients allowed in the lobby, hand sanitizer provided throughout the building, thermometer on site for employee use, and posted COVID safety guidelines for employees and clients.”
Justin and Carrie are now in the process of moving forward with their expansion and they are planning to
Carrie explains that “By expanding we will be able to eliminate the wait list for daycare, reduce the wait time for grooming appointments (we are currently booked six to eight weeks out and would like to reduce this to less than four weeks), increase our group obedience class size to accommodate more people, offer daytime private lesson appointments (which will reduce the wait times for these appointments, as well), and offer a new individualized training program during daycare. The expansion will create job growth as we anticipate needing another groomer (we are currently training an employee to fill this role) and the need for 2-3 more daycare employees.”
Justin Bonn and Carrie Lindley created a great small business with a loyal customer base by exemplifying one of the cardinal rules of building a successful business: know your industry. As challenges created by COVID drag on, Justin’s Canine Campus will remain dedicated to their customers, their staff, and excellence in their industry.
Visit the Justin’s Canine Campus website today!
Article published in the 'The Central New York Business Journal' on November 30, 2020
Article by Keyona Kelly, Certified Business Advisor at the Small Business Development Center located at Onondaga Community College. Contact her at email@example.com
Read articles and advice written by our very own Onondaga SBDC Business Advisors!