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At the Bark Shoppe: Canines + Community = Care + Commerce

For Melissa Mitchner of The Bark Shoppe in Harlem, New York — a “Dog Day” is just another day of good business.

The Bark Shoppe offers all types of services for dogs (and cats) from grooming and pampering to day care and even house calls. Creating innovative solutions for busy pet owners as well as serving the community (one that typically is under-served) with partnerships that foster relationships with young adults for job readiness skills sets this business apart.

The Bark Shoppe has a loyal following and has become a community fixture that initially grew through word of mouth and social media. For the past five years The Bark Shoppe has continuously grown — due to a 70% client retention rate and an increase in sales by 20% year over year.

Melissa cites three key elements to her success:

Be an extremely customer-focused business.

The Bark Shoppe credits most of its initial success and growth to learning what the clients (or as Melissa calls them “her advocates”) truly want. “Coach lands on the runway at the exact same time as First Class,” Mitchner said, quoting Steve Jobs. The concept of “luxury” is overused and underwhelming across many industries — especially hers. She serves a diverse demographic where she wants everyone to feel welcome. Luxury was actually a deterrent in the beginning.

Recruit a strong pack to pull you through.

“Have the right people on your bus” and do not hold onto team members that do not fit in your organization. It can delay growth. Melissa developed a solid business plan and strategy. But, also recognizes that she doesn’t have all the answers — so she surrounds herself with a team that complements her skills. “Business is all trial and error.”

Brand that Bark.

The Bark Shoppe has become the cool place for pets, their owners and an even cooler company to work for. Melissa has built a strong brand, that gives young adults a second chance at life despite a criminal record and/or lack of education. Every day she works toward fulfilling her dream of creating an environment where her team members look forward to coming to work, giving their best always — and the clients are excited and can’t wait to be part of it too!

And even more impressive is that Melissa is essentially self-funded — bootstrapping her business, with the exception of a loan from her grandmother. She is now growing further and reinvesting back into her business to fuel further expansion.

Shall we say “Go Dog Go!?”