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This content was published: December 16, 2008. Phone numbers, email addresses, and other information may have changed.

PCC helps pet hotel collar big money

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When times are tough and money seems scarce, client-lender contacts and networking through Portland Community College’s Small Business Development Center provides a crucial framework for small business growth. Stay Pet Hotel is a prime example of how the SBDC can help clients build bridges with lenders.

Owners Kim Hormby and James Taylor decided to take the entrepreneurial leap and open Stay Pet Hotel in 2006, a luxury dog boarding facility. They turned to “the entire squad of cheerleaders” at PCC’s Small Business Development Center Taylor said. “We had an entrepreneurial seizure,” he says – a phrase they picked up in the 10-month Small Business Management Program put on by the SBDC. It comes from “E-Myth” author Michael Gerber, one of the texts they read in the program.

The couple gives credit to Portland Community College’s SBDC for help in securing a $600,000 infusion of capital in early 2008. They plan to remodel and enlarge their NE Columbia Boulevard facility, adding a new two-story building to quadruple client space and upgrade the playground facility. They also will double the workforce to 10 once the construction is completed.

The hotel is an evolution of Hormby’s original venture, Waggin’ Wagon, a mobile dog playgroup, pet sitting and walking service. She started the operation in 2002 and turned to the SBDC’s Heidi Yorkshire several years later for help with business growth and expansion.

“Heidi asked, ‘What is your ultimate vision?’” said Hormby, who was then inspired to share her dream to own a boutique pet hotel, offering personal service and competitive rates.

In early 2006, Hormby took a course from adjunct SBDC instructor Pete Eggspuehler, who works as a project manager for Portland’s Beam Development. He encouraged them to look into the purchase of the facility they were renting to exercise their Waggin’ Wagon dogs. The property included a house, a run-down kennel, an aging arena and grounds.

“Pete said, ‘You’ve got to buy it.’ That was the light bulb,” Hormby said. She came home and told her husband they needed to sell their home in North Portland and buy the property and open a hotel for dogs.

“I said she was nuts and we dropped the subject,” Taylor laughs. At the time, Taylor was working as a customer service representative at Powell’s Books and at Waggin’ Wagon.

“He had to jump on board, because it was a rolling board,” countered Hormby. They met again with Yorkshire who also encouraged the purchase.

Eggspuehler said, “In class, we talked about purchasing instead of leasing as a viable approach, especially in terms of thinking down the road about retirement. Too often, owners pay themselves last.

“I knew the area and I checked out the property. Its proximity to the airport made it ideal. Nobody has the location they have.”

The SBDC instructor also stressed the supply shortage (stay-over pet facilities) in the Portland metro market, and believed the timing was right. In 2006, Dog Fancy magazine named Portland “Dog Town USA.”

“Kim and James are very personable and are thoughtful in their approach,” Eggspuehler added.

They break ground in March 2009. Plans are to tear down an aging 1,600-square-foot arena on the approximate half-acre property and construct a two-story, 5,000-square-foot steel structure. It will bring their capacity to 50 suites, up from the current 17 spaces. The lower level will be an indoor play yard. Stay Pet also has 8,000 square feet of outdoor play space, an office and registration area; and an attached bungalow where the couple lives with their own family of several dogs and cats – (Stay Pet is looking into boarding cats in the future.)

When Hormby and Taylor took the plunge, they used proceeds from their house sale for the property’s down payment, and procured an additional bank loan to renovate and open. The property needed a lot of mending. It took approximately $80,000 to open the doors, along with sweat equity. They built fences, put in a new lawn, painted, resurfaced floors, installed kennels, cleaned the inside and outside inch-by-inch, plus wiring, plumbing, and more.

They opened in December 2006, just in time for holiday travelers to board planes and board family pets at Stay Pet before flying out to visit the human family members in other parts of the country.

For more information, go to www.staypethotel.com for information. Check out PCC’s Small Business Development Center for classes and advice on how to successfully launch and grow your own small business,call the office, located at the Lloyd Center Mall, at (503) 978-5080.

About James Hill

James G. Hill, an award-winning journalist and public relations writer, is the Public Relations Manager at Portland Community College. A graduate of Portland State University, James has worked as a section editor for the Newberg Graphic, Wo... more »