“It has been nothing short of amazing,” said Bark and Bubbles Doggy Day Spa’s owner and founder Dajuana Young as she greeted clients, family and friends arriving for the business’s first anniversary party at its 1433 East Hyde Park Boulevard storefront on August 1.
“We started out pretty low and slow,” continued Young. “Then it just picked up. So, right now we've serviced over 1,530 clients.”
The success of a new small business has never been a sure thing, with an average of only 50 percent of small businesses making it 5 years after opening, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data reported by Fundera. During COVID-19, operating a business has been even more difficult, with closures during the first year of the pandemic up 200,000 nationally over normal numbers as reported by The Wall Street Journal.
Reflecting on the year, Young said, “You know, it actually was a more positive thing, more African Americans wanted to support more African American businesses, so we got a lot of support from the African American community.”
“With the pandemic just happening, we had to implement things that would keep people safe,” Young added. “So, with our POS (point of sale) system, we had to implement ways of sending out invoices so people could prepay and pick their dogs up in the vestibule.”
“We started to pass out gift bags with face masks and hand sanitizer. You know, with my nursing background, we just wanted to keep everyone safe.”
In the United States small businesses provide 41.2 % of all private sector payroll according to Fundera.
Bark and Bubbles currently employs two full-time and two as-needed groomers.
Donald Howard, a former West Sider who now lives in Hyde Park, is one of those groomers.
“I get paid based upon the clientele,” said Howard. “The more people I can bring in, the more I can make.”
When Howard first started grooming, it was a bit slow. But then, Howard added, “as more people came to see me, the more my work got out there, the more people came in, and so, it's been pretty good actually.”
Howard then told a story about one of his clients.
“I had one client (with a dog) who came in (when) I was grooming a cat,” said Howard. “And for the most part, I'd rather not have no dogs in a grooming salon while I'm doing a cat, because I don't know how that cat is going to act.”
“And so the customer came in, and I said, ‘Hey man, can you do me a favor?’ ”
“The customer was like, ‘Oh I don't understand why you got attitude.’ And then I was like, ‘Ma'am I don't know what's the problem, but just give me a second and let me finish this cat, I'll be right with you.’ ”
After Howard finished grooming the cat, he checked the dog in for grooming.
“When she came back and picked up the dog,” continued Howard, “she’s like ‘Oh my god I love him. You did such a wonderful job.’ ”
“Yes, she liked the way her baby looked and that just changed the whole perspective on the whole everything,” said Howard.
When Young started Bark and Bubbles, she opened the business in part to build a legacy with her son, Dylan Diaz.
After a year of being open, Young said, “I want to say that my niece gravitated more to this idea than my son did.”
“I started August 1, of 2020,” said Rachel Calvin, Young’s niece. “Essentially, I was managing the whole Dog Spa. I was greeting new clients, talking to the owners of the dogs. Actually, I was taking care of the dogs when we would do any services, like actually bathe the dog, set them up for grooming appointments and things like that. It was quite easy, I would say.”
“With (Dylan) being home from school, he's picking up more hours,” added Young. “He’s getting more involved in the business, as far as helping out and (learning) how to groom dogs and things like this.”
“It's pretty fun,” said 16-year-old Dylan. “I get to wash like a lot of dogs. It's actually a good learning experience. Like it's actually a fun job.”
“So I think his future in dog grooming is bright,” said Young.
Looking to the future, Young is planning to address her business’s biggest challenge, “finding consistent groomers.”
“That has set forth my next goal for Bark and Bubbles Doggy Day Spa,” said Young. “To make it the Bark and Bubbles Doggy Day Spa Learning Institution for Grooming.”
“I want to pitch that to CPS (Chicago Public Schools), as something that's accredited in a trade, because grooming can be a six-figure business.”