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A Vision Becomes Reality

Ethel Taylor didn’t own a dog before she started the Doggie Washerette. “God gave me the vision to figure this all out,” Taylor said of her first stab at small business.

In the early spring of 2011 with the fully completed vision in her mind, Taylor got help from the DC Women’s Business Center, which is funded through a Cooperative Agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration. At the Center, she navigated the startup path, learned to “trim the fat” from her business plan, and prepared solidly for her opening day through projections and strategic planning. Despite being a first-time entrepreneur during a recession, Taylor finished the 7-week course in August of 2011 and opened her business that same month.

“My experience with the DC Women’s Business Center has been extraordinary,” she said. “The support has been outstanding. The information has been enlightening. The encouragement has been far beyond anything I could have imagined, especially with the presence of the members who attended the grand opening of the business. The staff of the DCWBC has truly embraced the vision of the Center, and exemplified as much by their personal commitment in helping me walk through a very challenging process to attain my goals. The hands-on support has made a tremendous difference in my getting to this point.”

“I will be forever grateful to my Councilmember Muriel Bowser for introducing me the DCWBC,” said Taylor. The shop is located on Georgia Avenue in the northwest quadrant of Washington, DC, bordering Silver Spring, MD. Though she didn’t need outside financing due to her frugal saving, she recognized that her business would run smoother if she prepared accurate cash flow projections.

The Doggie Washerette features two self-serve dog wash machines, which Taylor said cost about $18,000 each. They have various settings for different size dogs, and a dryer that Taylor said simulates hanging one’s head out the window—a favorite pastime of most dog breeds. Customers have full use of the facility that includes grooming tables, clippers, cologne, and a single wash with shampoo and conditioner all for $20.

Her marketing efforts enabled her to attract a large crowd for her grand opening. People could now see how she visualized her business―a bright and clean space where pet owners could bathe and groom their dogs. Her pricing schedule ensures that even on slow days that her variable costs are covered, so her next challenge is more marketing, and she’s moving along quickly with a Facebook page where customers can post comments.

She has been featured in many local newspapers, and is receiving 95 percent positive feedback from her social media outlets. She is also forming partnerships with other entrepreneurs in her field, such as Tabitha’s Pet Taxi, a DC van service that is animal-friendly, and MamiBears Pet Care.

As the business grows and changes, so has Taylor. She now has her grooming license and is available to give your pet a haircut. Taylor credits her success so far to the DC Women’s Business Center and SBA. “Even after opening the business, they have remained available to assist me,” she said.