Canine Crews is a perfect fit for the dog-loving WPB Negihborhdood. They offer over 3,500 square paws (or 7,000 square feet for you humans) of indoor play space, a separate small dog playroom, outside yard and over 50 boarding suites of various sizes. Catherine Crews is the owner & founder of Canine Crews; You're a dog lover, you want a dog lover taking care of your pup, even after this short introduction, you will know that Catherine & Canine Crews is dedicated to the dogs.
Briefly describe your business and introduce yourself.
Hi, I'm Catherine Crews and I graduated from the University of Arkansas with BA in History and in Art with a minor in Biology. I have lived in Chicago since 1999 and I bring a passion for animals along with the knowledge of running a small business. In my former life, I worked over 12 years in the metal industry. The last 10 years were with a company under 15 employees; building the work ethic and patience required in working with dogs - oh, and people!
Canine Crews offers four rooms, 12,000 square feet of total indoor space, as well as a large, fenced outdoor space. Daycare is broken into groups by size, temperament and age; allowing dogs to exercise and socialize in a way that is natural to their pack mentality. Your furry friend will come home relaxed and happy and you will experience a better behaved dog. Canine Crews offers all you could need in pet care: daycare, boarding, dog walks, pet sitting, dog bus, grooming and retail!
You must have a huge heart for dogs!
Growing up, I was that kid who brought every animal home to save. I had dogs, fish, cats, birds, snakes and a white mouse I unsuccessfully tried to hide from my mother. In college, while on a trip to Eureka Springs, Arkansas, I fell head over heels for a little fluff-ball that was the runt of a litter. I adopted my dog, Barney, from the local humane society that day. It was possibly the most transient point of my life, but we somehow survived my college years (thanks to a lot of dog-sitting from my parents). Barney came with me to St. Louis and then to Chicago where he lived to be almost 16 years old! He would have loved to come to Canine Crews but I lost him in February 2009! In the spring of 2011, a new dog decided to waltz into my life and has trained me very well. Carlos (Fu Man) has become an integral part of my world as well as buddy to the staff of Canine Crews. He's a 12 pound mess of Schipperke & Poodle with a bit of Pomeranian thrown in for some fancy prancing. I call him a Schipper-Doodle but others call him Fancy Pants or Fu Man!
What made you decide to turn your love of dogs into a business?
The opportunity! I was toying around with ways I could use my knowledge outside of non-profit rescue work and when a friend mentioned this building, I just couldn't pass up the opportunity to give it a try. I spent every waking moment educating myself on the industry and studying my target demographic in WPB to find out how I could make this business a success. It was a whirlwind of time spent between the library, online and utilizing the SBA SCORE program for my business plan and financials but it all boiled down to the fact that I just KNEW I could do this and that I would be providing a great service to our neighborhoods while facilitating my love for happy, healthy animals.
What new products and services are you most excited about offering?
Our pet boutique has grown from a small corner in the facility's lobby to a thriving retail resource for pets and pet owners! We've put together a carefully curated selection of food, treats, toys, and event clothing, all with an eye toward healthy and happy pets.
Speaking of happy and healthy pets, I am also super jazzed for our debut Pet Health Expo taking place on Sunday April 27th 2014 in the large upstairs space at Canine Crews, with over 6,000 square feet of space for attendees and vendors.The event is being sponsored and co-promoted by Canine Crews, Chicago Canine Concierge, One Tail at a Time and Alive Rescue, and we plan to showcase a slew of services and products related to the health and well-being of today's pets. Companies offering healthy food, vitamins and supplements, dog training, and veterinary care will be on premise to answer questions, hand out samples, and help pet owners make the best choices for their pet's care.
During all my free time, I am also creating and launching a puppy program which launches in spring 2014. It's definitely busy at Canine Crews!
What advice you you give anyone looking to go into the pet care industry?
Do your research and invest in training for you and your staff. I spend hours every week studying animal behavior, natural foods and supplements and reviewing video of my staff to ensure we are providing the best care for our pups. Working with animals brings a ton of surprises and emergency situations and the better educated you are, the better you are able to handle. We use many professional training programs and I also am a certified instructor through PetTech for Pet First Aid and CPR; these are just a few of the large investments I have made over the years in me and my staff.
Pet Care is a service industry and your biggest challenge is not the pets, it's your staff. My secret? Monthly staff meetings. One of my favorite parts of being the BOSS is that I get to help train and mold young adults into great employees and caring souls. Nothing is better than an engaged staff that is excited about the progress a dog has made or a new program we are rolling out. You should see them get excited about their new Pet First Aid/CPR patches - they can't wait to put them on their company sweatshirts!
What are your favorite dog-friendly spots in WPB?
Wow...there are so many! WPB is such a dog-friendly place that I truly enjoy meeting friends and walking our pups around. There are tons of restaurants where you can stop and get a drink or a bite to eat on the patio and lots of retail stores have water and treats (and Carlos knows them all)! I like the shade of Penny's Noodles and Club Lucky for a great Friday afternoon sip. There are excellent dog parks that are well-maintained and tons of dog-friendly stores all around. WPB is truly one of the best places in the city for our four-legged babies.