Turn a Hobby into a Dream Job
For Heather and Cam Rodger and their family, animals were always a passion and a part of their lives. After years of pursuing their interest through hobbies such as dog shows, obedience training and breeding, they decided to take the plunge and make their hobby their business by opening a Pet Valu franchise in Winnipeg, MB in 1998.
Heather had spent the past 24 years working as a nurse, and Cam was a long-distance truck driver. They had long dreamed of owning their own business and working together, especially since Cam’s work kept him from home for long periods. Heather had a little entrepreneurial experience from working in her family’s restaurant as a youth, but she and her husband were not experienced business-people. However, after shadowing a friend with a Pet Valu franchise, Heather started to think, “I can do this.”
Once their franchise was opened, Heather and Cam had years of hard work ahead of them to become established. Their family helped them and their staff became an important part of the business. “They’re all animal people, just like us, and they’re passionate about pets,” says Heather of her staff. “Having great employees like these is one of the things that separate us from the competition.”
As their business grew, the Rodgers invested their profits back into the business to bring in more stock. Their knowledge of the pet industry and customer feedback helped them choose products that were attractive to customers. To market their business, they stayed active in the dog community and contributed to charities such as animal rescues and other organizations.
Since opening their store, the Rodgers have expanded twice and added grooming services. Recent changes to Pet Valu have improved their business even more. “We got a boost from Pet Valu’s redesign and reformulation of its private-label foods, which they repackaged in state-of-the-art bags. Now it’s one of our top sellers.”
Heather also feels that other recent changes to Pet Valu have also helped the business. “The franchise is under the leadership of a new CEO, Tom McNeely, who sees the business the way we do. It was a real turning point for the company. Head office is now really involved with the franchisees, openly soliciting our input.”
Now that their business is established, Heather and Cam have the flexibility to be in the store when they want, but also to focus on other aspects of the business and their lives. They still choose to be in the store frequently.
“Cam works every Saturday; in fact, those mornings are his favorite time to connect with our employees and all of his regular customers. He still does all the paperwork and I still like to do the ordering,” says Heather.
Heather and Cam have put in years of hard work, but now have the business and the lifestyle they always dreamed of, combining their passion with their business. “We don’t really see this as work; it feels more like a hobby. You never have to ‘go to work’ again if your work is your hobby. Besides, I get to take my dogs to work with me every day—life couldn’t be better!”