PULLMAN, Wash.—Danielle Voorhees and Melanie Morris were thrilled when their employer said she wanted to sell Zelda’s Pet Grooming, a local institution with little competition. “Are you interested?” the owner asked.
They responded immediately: “Yes, definitely. We are.”
On paper it wasn’t promising. Dani had been a full-time dog groomer at Zelda’s for just two years and Melanie was helping out with office work while finishing her bachelor’s degree in psychology and women’s studies at Washington State University. They were living paycheck to paycheck and Dani’s last paycheck before Zelda’s was from Jack-in-the-Box.
Still, the two had talked a lot about changes they would make if they were in charge, and it seemed like an offer they couldn’t refuse. Except they weren’t sure what the offer was and they had no idea how they would pay for it.
Early on they made an appointment to meet with Aziz Makhani, a business advisor with the Washington SBDC in Pullman.
It’s great that you want to buy and she wants to sell, Makhani said, but what is she selling and what are you buying? He encouraged them to request financial records from the past three years and then get a detailed description of what was included in the sale. Equipment? Supplies? Client records? What about the building? Was that part of the sale, or would they be renting back the space and if so, at what cost?
Once Dani and Melanie had the requested documents, Makhani asked Alan Stanford, an SBDC advisor based in Spokane, to read through them as well. Makhani and Stanford both asked plenty of questions to help Dani and Melanie avoid any last-minute surprises.
In the end, the owner agreed to self-finance the sale. With the help of friends and family, Dani and Melanie were able to make the initial down payment to take over ownership. Since then, they’ve been busy.
All four existing employees stayed with the business and they’ve been able to add 15 more employees, many of whom set their hours to accommodate their classes at WSU. They’ve gone from an average of 840 clients a month to 1320 clients a month.
That first hurdle—buying the business—was a big one, Melanie said, but Zelda’s is already becoming the business they imagined it could be. “The SBDC is an incredibly useful resource for people who want to own a business and have no idea what steps to take,” she said.
While SBDC assistance was immense, Dani says they are fortunate to have a great team all around, from their accountant to their lawyer to their amazing staff. And they give a shout-out to the community as well.
Their Facebook page is filled with adorable puppy photos—the latest is a white terrier with a rainbow tail—and glowing reviews from clients.
Melanie, who graduated from WSU in May 2018, said she’s excited that she can focus on the business full-time now. She has revamped the website and is spending more time on Facebook and other social media platforms, where Zelda’s clients are enthusiastic in their support.
The learning curve as small business owners has been steep, Dani said, but if anything their dreams have gotten bigger, not smaller. Some of their clients are traveling from as far away as Lewiston, Idaho, to have their pets groomed at Zelda’s. One client, they were amazed to discover, came from as far away as Boise. It’s on a back burner, but they’ve already started talking about opening a second location.