“365 days ago, I was on a corporate jet helping people build gas stations. Now, I work every weekend bathing dogs. I’m definitely deep in the bathtub trenches,” shares Kim Novak, owner of Sham-Paws Self-Serve Dog Wash.
Like many pet parents, Kim Novak found herself turning to her dogs for companionship when things got tough. A 27-year career in outside sales in the male-dominated gas business gave Novak business skills and helped her develop the confidence to go after her dreams when her job took a toxic turn.
“My dogs were my peace of mind when the pressure got to me. I have one American Bulldog and one English Bulldog, and I’d take them to the dog beach here in Southern California,” says Novak.
While there, she got to thinking about opening a self-serve dog wash: “I spent a lot of time at the dog beach, and then even more time visiting Southern California self-serve dog washes. And, no matter which one I went to, something was always missing. Most of the places I went were filthy. One had a raised tub but no steps. Others had fantastic equipment but not much in the way of customer service. I didn’t go anywhere that seemed to have everything under one roof.”
And, her hometown of Placentia, California didn’t have a self-serve dog wash at all.
“A self-serve dog wash made sense in the pandemic. My city had never seen one,” Novak continues. “I wanted to offer a clean, friendly, bright atmosphere with only the best products and, most importantly, provide the best customer service around town. All owned and run by a woman with a dream.”
So, in November of 2020, Novak put her business plan in place.
“I created a logo and planned to open and franchise Sham-Paws Self-Serve Dog washes. However, not everything has gone as planned,” she remarked.
The next step for Novak was finding a location.
“I found a space in a shopping center beside two popular restaurants. Everyone else was closed due to the pandemic. In Placentia, CA, you have to have a lease to file with the city,” Novak continues, “but the city can turn your idea down, so you need an out in your lease. The landlord was excited to have a potential new tenant and was willing to work with me.”
Novak planned to hire a manager to run the business while she kept her sales job and even had a person picked out. But on January 4th, she lost her job. However, she was determined, and by January 13th Novak had the necessary paperwork to move forward.
She also had some hiring mishaps along the way. The person she’d hired as a manager turned out to be untrustworthy, and her part-time groomer tried it out but quit due to the commute. In addition, she even had a worker’s comp claim.
“The Chamber of Commerce and local government representatives were all there with big scissors to celebrate, and even my pastor from Crosspointe Church prayed over the business,” Novak shares with excitement.
Her business projections showed she only needed 50 dogs a month to break even, and she easily surpassed that number!
“My luck is people love their pets. I have 1,300 clients in my database,” Novak continues, “and that doesn’t include repeat customers or multiple dogs.”
Attracting customers has been the easiest part for the business. Having two dog-friendly restaurants next door definitely helps.
“The first time people come, they wash their own dog. The second time, they bring their wife or girlfriend because they think it’s fun. The third time they hand us the dog, and they say, ‘You do it, we’re going next door for a beer and burger.’” Novak says.
Novak has also attended Chamber of Commerce events, is part of the Bulldog community and she’s found success with a local Facebook Group (Placentia Buzz). In addition, she even has a pair of walkers who pass out business cards for her.
“Peter and Carolyn Simmons walk our community over 50,000 steps a day. They don’t even own a dog, but they stop people and hand out cards for me. They’ve handed out over 2,000 business cards since March 30th,” Novak shares with appreciation.
In October, she held the first annual Dogtoberfest pet parade, and over 52 dogs came out to support the Southern California Bulldog Rescue. She’s also garnered over 2,000 Instagram followers, with more accumulating every month.
“With no experience in this field, I can proudly say this business has 41 five-star reviews on Yelp and equally the same on Google, and it has managed to support itself since the doors opened. It makes me so proud,” she concludes.
Novak’s persistence is sure to carry the success of Sham-Paws Self-Serve Dog Wash far! ✂️