Small Business of the Year Regional Finalist: Pet$aver Healthy Pet Superstore
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This is the third in a series profiling the seven regional finalists for 2013 Dream Big Small Business of the Year Award. The winner will be announced on April 30 at America's Small Business Summit in Washington, D.C.
Pet$aver Healthy Pet Superstore operates two retail pet supply stores in Rochester, New York, providing healthy pet foods, toys, and pet grooming services. With 33 employees, CEO Russell Herman and his wife and co-founder, Brenda, were awarded the Greece (NY) Small Business of the Year.
FreeEnterprise.com: Why and how did you start your business?
Herman: We started our business in 1993. At the time we were in another pet-related business and doing some cross-marketing with a local pet food distributor. I mentioned to the distributor that my Rottweiler, Bucky, had poor skin and was practically bald in his hindquarters. The distributor suggested that I feed Bucky a lamb and rice-based dog food that had more meat and less filler in it. In 30 days, the dog had his beautiful coat back. A simple change of diet totally changed his life for the better. After seeing what a difference changing Bucky’s diet made in his coat and overall health, I knew that most pet owners had no idea what was in their pets’ food. That is when we decided to open a small store to offer better quality pet foods and supplies.
FreeEnterprise.com: How do you compete against much larger pet supply stores?
Herman: When we first opened, there wasn’t any competition in the community. Competition from the big box stores began six months after we started our business, and we thought we had to compete with them head-to-head, dollar-for-dollar. I made the mistake of trying to be exactly like them. But that’s not what people wanted. They wanted customer service and a company that was part of the community. Once I realized that, it made our life a lot easier and gave us a stronger mission.
FreeEnterprise.com: What makes your industry unique?
Herman: The pet business is unique because people are emotional when they come into your store. If someone walks into a hardware store to buy a hammer, it’s not really that important if they don’t get the best thing possible. But when it comes to their pets, you’re going to hear about it if it isn’t the right thing.