How a Dog Groomer Found Her Small-Business Niche

Small businesses are thriving in the historic town of Southern Pines, N.C., and their secret seems to be effective niche marketing. You can find innovative theater experiences, one-of-a-kind clothing, and specialty dog grooming — as well as community-wide promotions.

Something about this place inspires entrepreneurs to find a unique market — and find distinctive ways to serve that market. The Intuit Small Business Blog decided to take a walk down Broad Street, the city’s main drag, to explore a few of the specialty small businesses that have set up shop there. We asked one in particular, Sandy Vandall of Canine Divine, how she chose her niche, in the hopes that she’ll inspire you to find yours.

How a Pet’s Plight Led to a Successful Niche Business

Vandall’s dog Zeus, a Siberian husky, lost a front paw as a puppy. Among the varied challenges of owning a three-legged dog, she couldn’t find anyone who knew how to groom a handicapped animal. So, Vandall learned the necessary skills to take care of Zeus herself, such as meeting the balance and strength requirements of grooming a relatively large canine with a missing limb.

Word got around about Vandall’s niche techniques for grooming pets. Soon she was taking care of her friends’ dogs with — and without — special needs, too. “One of the most important things about dealing with disabled pets is to bring the groomer to them,” Vandall explains. “There’s less stress on them, and they’re more comfortable in their own home.”

Her mobile approach also accommodates nervous dogs and pet owners who are physically unable to bring their animals to a groomer. Demand for her services was high, so she left her 9-to-5 job in 2009 to start Canine Divine, a mobile pet-grooming business.

“It was scary,” said Sandy, who had never run a business before. Managing equipment and supplies inventories, obtaining the proper licenses, receiving payments, bookkeeping, all presented new challenges. Would she retain her customers? Sandy knew she’d found a niche market, and she was no stranger to problem-solving. Her hard work and ingenuity paid off: Canine Divine became a success almost immediately, she says. “But we still need to tackle social media marketing,” she adds. “I know we need to master that to continue growing.”

Vandall recently expanded her business to include a storefront operation. She is booked weeks in advance for both in-house and mobile appointments. Sadly, Zeus passed away earlier this year, but his spirit lives on in the Canine Divine logo and small business he inspired.

About Tere Bracco

The daughter of independent restaurateurs, Tere' Bracco wishes her parents had followed her advice. Growing up Tere' knew that when the phone rang at 5:30am, she'd be bussing tables by 6. Tere' is the founder and managing partner of Heron Hill Farms, an equine training center, and Tony's Good Eggs, a poultry farm. She is the author of four books on technology in small business.
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