Pet Shots Affordable Animal Clinic – From Mobile to Bricks & Mortar

In 2009, the FSBDC at UNF shared the success of Dave and Pat Watkins when they started Pet Shots Mobile Vet Clinic.  Every Saturday (and sometimes Sunday), they would set up shop in front of a retail storefront to provide vaccines for pets whose owners had limited income.  Their mission was to help people keep their pets healthy and happy by providing veterinary care and services at prices that were affordable for everyone.  The mobile clinics are staffed by veterinarians and vet techs, offering vaccines, brief physical exams, and access to pet medications.

Today, the mobile clinic is still on the move, setting up shop every weekend.  On any given Saturday, they can be found in Duval, Clay, St. Johns or Nassau counties – pet owners just need to check the clinic’s web site for times and locations – and look for the yellow banner.   The Watkins estimate they have been able to help more than 40,000 pets get the care they need in tough economic times.

But the Watkins didn’t stop with the mobile clinic.  In 2011, they purchased a building in Jacksonville Beach and opened Pet Shots Affordable Animal Clinic, a brick and mortar clinic providing the same affordable care – and more.  Full time veterinarians and caring staff provide physical exams, vaccines, surgical procedures, and dental cleanings for furry friends at the beach.  They even provide services for the “non-furry” friends with a veterinarian who specializes in exotic animals.  And in 2013, they purchased another building on the west side of Jacksonville and opened a second clinic.  They have grown from two part time employees when they started, to eleven full time and four part time staff members.  “Along the way, the mobile business has changed,” said Pat.  “With the free standing locations, we are able to upgrade and provide greater care for our patients – lumps, bumps, ears, skin and the ability to provide scripts and pharmaceuticals – we can do it all.”

When Dave and Pat first met Cathy Hagan, certified business consultant at the FSBDC at UNF, they came with a lot of entrepreneurial experiences and the heart for helping pet owners and their pets.  Cathy helped them work through the initial challenges of securing locations for the mobile clinic.  The Watkins have always adhered to proper permitting of signage and getting the property owners’ permission before setting up a mobile clinic.  This is a constant battle but one worth fighting so the clinics can go on.  Beyond the legalities of doing business, Cathy encouraged the Watkins to develop a business plan to guide the growth of the company and to document processes to improve the efficiency of the mobile clinic.

The Watkins continue to work with Cathy and the FSBDC, seeking marketing advice as the opened the two clinics.  They have also benefited from referrals to professionals from the Small Business Resource Network.  Cathy introduced them to Vicky Zelen at Zelen Risk Solutions when they were having trouble finding insurance.  Vicky has been with them ever since, addressing their changing insurance needs as the company grows.  Cathy also recently introduced them to Joe Lemire of Elyk Innovations, a web site developer who is going to help them revamp their existing site.

“The SBDC has been vital to our company’s growth since the beginning,” said Dave.  “We value Cathy’s input to give us encouragement and at the same time, be a reality check.”  The Watkins will continue to turn to the FSBDC at UNF as they pursue their mission.  “Cathy is our business therapist.  She has been a wonderful sounding board for our business,” said Pat.  “And it’s an added benefit that she is a dog lover.  She shares our passion for helping animals.”
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