Soon after Jamie Judson opened City Bark, a boutique pet store in Detroit that offers everything from snuggle beds and feeder mats to exotic grains and interactive toys, it was clear that customers also wanted a full-service dog grooming salon and self-wash station.
To meet the demand, the entrepreneur began setting aside capital for the project and brought in an outside purveyor to help get the ball rolling. “We put a temporary Band-Aid on the issue for our customers by partnering with LC’s Mobile Pet Spa and hosting grooming pop-up events biweekly, where we did light grooming and nail trims,” Judson says, “but I knew customers wanted more.”
When COVID-19 struck in March 2020, the funds designated for expanding City Bark’s services were used as a safety net to help the business get through the pandemic. Even so, Judson didn’t want to let her customers down.
As she searched for a solution, she entered Rocket Mortgage’s Detroit Demo Days competition, which awards more than $1 million annually to early-stage companies. In a stroke of good fortune, a category called “sustain” was added last year, to help businesses that needed support during the pandemic.
After being accepted into the competition, Judson decided to focus on the business’ goals prior to COVID-19. During her virtual pitch, she noted a grooming salon and self-wash offered a solid growth trajectory, as long as customers and canines found value in the added services.
Her presentation proved to be a hit, and she was awarded one of five $50,000 grants available in her category. One judge called the decision to give her an award “a no-brainer.”
City Bark’s ambitions have now come to fruition with a new dog and cat grooming salon that also accommodates a self-serve dog washing station. The offerings are complemented by a pick-up and drop-off service: Can’t get your pet to City Bark? They’ll come and get your furry friend, then bring them home after their appointment. Product delivery options are another service available to clients within a 30-mile radius.
Judson and her team are determined to succeed, and they’ve proven to be nimble and flexible. “We were driving to Dearborn Heights, Royal Oak, Warren, all these places, and (our employees were) like, ‘Let me help out any way I can and keep this business moving forward.’ I definitely have to give a lot of kudos to my staff,” Judson says.