Animal lover turns business owner | SBDC UNF

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Animal lover turns business owner

“The SBDC is such a great resource and I would advise anyone thinking of being a business owner to utilize their services.”

Katie Kelley has always been an animal lover. After experiencing the death of her beloved 13 year old dog in 2010, she understood firsthand how people consider dogs part of the family. Three months later, Katie adopted Colin, a Sheltie puppy who was quite adventurous and active. Looking for a place where Colin could work off this energy, she found Dog Wood Park. The park offered wide open spaces, a lake and a nature trail for Colin as well as the opportunity to socialize with other dogs. After being a regular visitor of Dog Wood Park for a few months, Katie heard that the park was for sale. She immediately knew owning the park would be a great fit for her love of dogs and interest in community service.

Katie began talking with the owner of the park to negotiate a deal for the purchase of the business and the land. She had some cash of her own but needed additional capital. Katie knew her biggest challenge would be securing financing and she would need a solid business plan. Katie’s accountant referred her to Cathy Hagan, Certified Business Analyst with the SBDC at UNF. Cathy helped her craft a plan that showed what the park had done in the past and Katie’s plan for the future.

Katie first pursued outside investors to finance the purchase, but the leads she had did not pan out. She decided to seek debt financing and presented her plan to First Coast Community Bank. The SBA loan process was long and very detailed, but in the end, Katie was glad she took this route. The bank really saw the vision she had for the park. “The SBDC helped me put together a business plan that convinced the bank to loan me money to purchase the business,” said Katie. Once the financing for the business was complete, the previous owner agreed to hold the note for the purchase of the land.

As the new owner of Dog Wood Park, Katie plans to continue her involvement in the community. She has several charitable events in mind and wants to work with local businesses to bring great products to the community – particularly the dog-loving community. She is going to offer some fun classes that enhance the social experience at the park for both the dogs and their humans. Additionally, Katie wants to start a Memorial brick walkway so people can purchase a personalized brick in honor of both human and canine friends.

Katie is pleased that all of the Dog Wood Park employees are stayed onboard because they know how to run the day-to-day operations. She is focusing on stepping up the marketing efforts to get more people and dogs to the park. This will include a more active presence on social media and an update to the website She wants the site to become a one-stop place for dog owners seeking cool retail items or advice on dog ownership.

“The SBDC is such a great resource and I would advise anyone thinking of being a business owner to utilize their services,” said Katie. “After I came in for help with my business plan, I still had questions and Cathy was available to help me even more. I am excited to know the SBDC will continue to be a resource for me. I plan to attend SBDC workshops and meet with Cathy as Dog Wood Park gets bigger and better.”

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