Business planning, Growth, How I did it, Sales and marketing

Being picky about business premises

Michelle Hammond /

Despite launching just two years ago, Mount Lawley Pets & Puppies is already changing the negative perceptions of pet shops with its open and ethical approach.

 

The WA-based business was founded by husband-and-wife team Bob and Rose Wilson, who used their retirement package to get the business up and running. It has since topped $1.1 million in revenue.

 

With a focus on small, cross-breed puppies from only a handful of licensed breeders, the business was originally Rose’s hobby; she enjoyed the interaction with the puppies before on-selling them for a small profit.

 

But with an increasing level of demand for small dogs, partially fuelled by the decreasing size of people’s homes, it became clear the puppies could no longer be kept at the Wilsons’ home.

 

“The hobby kept growing and it was clear we needed business premises, so Rose started to hunt for suitable premises where the puppies could run and play,” Bob Wilson says.

 

But finding suitable premises proved to be a lot harder than the couple had anticipated.

 

“Shires and councils refused permission to have live animals in any residential or business premises – there appeared to be no reasonable way we could expand the hobby,” he says.

 

“We went to Sydney on family business and visited many pet shops. We were appalled that people could keep pets in such cramped and airless enclosures.”

 

This confronting experience was a major turning point for the couple, who were inspired to persevere in their pursuit of the perfect premises.

 

“We committed to never having our puppies confined like [that]. Back in Perth, Rose persisted in her search and, by accident, came across a very rundown pet store,” Wilson says.

 

“As luck would have it, the owners wanted desperately to retire. The shop had a very large, enclosed back garden.”

 

“Rose did battle with the local council and they conceded that as it has been trading as a pet shop for in excess of 70 years, they could not stop her [selling] puppies.”

 

After purchasing the business, the Wilsons proceeded to construct a carpark where the garden had once been, in addition to specially designed puppy enclosures.

 

The back area of the shop was also cleared and purpose-built enclosures were erected to ensure the puppies’ warmth and security at night.

 

“The growth of the business has been a little astonishing. What was a very rundown business is now a very busy and thriving community pet shop,” Wilson says.

 

Wilson believes the success of the business can be attributed to the high level of care the puppies receive, challenging people’s perceptions of pet shops.

 

“Rose had an idea and she has worked tirelessly for nearly a year and a half to bring this idea to fruition,” he says.

 

“[Customers] are assured that the puppies come from trusted and licensed breeders, and definitely not from puppy farms [because] there is a tremendous abhorrence of puppy farming.”

 

“We have had many accolades from people all around Australia and many oveseas visitors because no one, to our knowledge, has ever let their puppies run and play in the open air, and customers can come in and pat and hold the puppies.”

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