BLACK HAWK, S.D. – Rebecca and Jeff Almy spent a year and a half trying to find a good location to expand their dog-care business. The day before they were going to close on a building near Rapid City, a train hauling bentonite overturned on a track near the property, delaying completion of their purchase for a couple of weeks.
The train accident was one of several incidents that complicated the relocation and expansion of the couple’s business, Tails ‘n Training. The biggest setback came when Rebecca’s supportive father passed away during preparation of the new site.
The Almys persevered, however, and with help from the South Dakota Small Business Development Center slowly grew the business to what Rebecca calls a “crazy busy” place.
“Unless we hire other people, we’re kind of maxed out. We want to provide a good, quality product, so we don’t want to overextend ourselves,” she said.
“I honestly would say it was one dog at a time. We’d get a dog in for one service, and the owners would be so happy they’d come back for additional services. The majority of our business has been by word of mouth and repeat customers,” she said.
Tails ’n Training offers dog training, grooming, kenneling for overnight stays and provides washing stations for people to wash their pets. July 2017 marks the second anniversary of full-fledged operations in the new location a few miles from Rapid City.
Rebecca Almy gained a few years of experience in dog training and care in upstate New York before she and her husband moved to Rapid City, her hometown. They started their business in Rapid City with washing stations and training services in 2010, but within two years they needed more room.
The Rapid City office of the SBDC played a key role in helping the business succeed, Almy said. Dona Leavens, regional director of the Rapid City office, helped Almy fine-tune plans and prepare financial documents.
“I helped her through the business-planning process, and I helped her with projections to get her to where she needed to be,” Leavens said. Almy is a “go-getter” and a pleasure to assist, Leavens said. “She was a great client,”
“Leavens was particularly helpful in providing focus to help determine what services the expanded business should offer to be a sustainable operation”, Rebecca Almy said.
Fran White, a loan officer with Black Hills Community Economic Development, also worked with Almy. White and Leavens helped Almy get financing through the Small Business Administration 504 loan program. “She had really done her homework. She had done a lot of research on the industry and the local market. She knew all her local competitors. She knew exactly what her businesses was going to look like when she expanded,” White said.
In 2016, Black Hills Community Economic Development recognized Tails ’n Training as the Expansion Business of the Year.