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Georgia District Office Success Stories

Georgia District Office Success Stories

Heartsong -- Singing for those without a voice.

Georgia Small Business Person of the Year 2013
(2nd Runner-Up)
Loretta Emmons
Heartsong -- Singing for those without a voice.

President Obama’s 2013 Small Business Week Proclamation states that America’s progress has been driven by pioneers who think big, take risks, and work hard.  He also notes that when their businesses take off, they fuel an engine of economic growth and job creation that moves America forward.  Loretta Emmons of Heartsong Spay Neuter Clinic, Augusta GA, the Georgia Small Business Person of the Year (2nd Runner-up), epitomizes the pioneers President Obama describes. 

The culmination of the Emmons’ “thinking big” was the creation of Heartsong Spay Neuter Clinic in 2006.  Loretta has long been an animal advocate, dedicated to rescuing and caring for animals, so establishing a low cost high quality spay neuter clinic was no surprise to those who knew her.  

As a result of thinking big and until late 2011, due to limited space and staff, Heartsong operated with a waiting list.  To meet demand, in 2011 Loretta and Erik Emmons purchased a 4,960 square foot space, formerly operated as a childcare center.  The purchase and move to Heartsong’s new location was made possible with an equity investment by the Emmons, assistance from the SBA, Augusta Small Business Development Center, Queensborough Bank and CSRA Business Lending.  It is worth noting that, while many small businesses struggled financially during the economic downturn, Heartsong maintained its fiscal health.  During which time, the Emmons’ completed building renovations, converted the former childcare center into its new spay neuter clinic and moved to its new space in November 2011.  The new space is located on an Augusta, GA major thoroughfare (I-20 and Belair Road), allowing Heartsong to expand services and products.

Heartsong’s new facility not only increased square footage, but business capacity and vision.  From a robust pet adoption center to cutting edge surgical suites, to a vibrant retail space, positive revenue growth is a direct result. 

The Emmons’ business model has thrived in good and bad economies, and provides an economical, viable and preferred option for the area’s many 501(c)3 rescue and adoption organizations.  Georgia law requires that all pets adopted from 501(c)3 organizations be spayed or neutered, but due to reliance on donations, many rescue/adoption organizations have limited funds.  Providing organizations a low cost spay/neuter option enables the rescue agencies to serve and save more animals. 

Over the years, Loretta’s knowledge of animals, compassion for their well-being and work on their behalf has established her as an animal expert and advocate.  It is not uncommon for organizations, such as local news stations, to seek Loretta’s consult to serve as a spokesperson on behalf of animal safety and health issues.  Local animal rescue organizations and the public immediately embraced Heartsong and news of the clinic grew quickly, largely through word of mouth.  More than 2,200 surgeries were performed in Heartsong’s first year of operation. 

Heartsong’s services and products include:

  • Spay and Neutering: Cats and Dogs
  • Diagnostic Testing
  • Dental Examinations and Extractions
  • Vaccinations
  • Retail / Pet Supplies
  • Boarding and Grooming

 

Keeping operational costs under control and operating on margins that are profitable, yet do not “gouge” customers, separates Heartsong from the competition, resulting in a loyal customer base. 

An example of the low cost alternative Heartsong provides would be the cost for spaying a female dog.  On average, the cost at a traditional clinic can range between $185 to $500, compared to between $65 and $75 at Heartsong.  In addition, the existence of a low cost spay/neuter clinic, such as Heartsong, makes spay/neuter affordable for pet owners and more likely they will have their pets sterilized, which reduces pet overpopulation. 

Heartsong’s successes have not been without challenges.  At times, issues such as staffing, limited space and access to capital had to be addressed.  While Loretta has been able to hire capable, compassionate contract staff, the amount of time they could dedicate to Heartsong was limited and restricted surgery hours.  As a result, Loretta chose to use a combination of salaried employees, as well as “relief/contract” staff.  These changes have included addition of a full time veterinarian, versus contract veterinarian, and created a more stable staffing situation, as well as increased the number of surgery days and reduced wait times.

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