After spending most of his career in the trucking industry, Carl Rochford was laid off in November, and it could not have come at a worse time.
He and wife, Brenda, had just moved to Chattanooga from Alabama with their two school-age children. But the family decided to stay.
“That’s my philosophy, as they say; you take those lemons and you make lemonade out of it, and you look at ways of turning a situation into a positive,” Mr. Rochford said.
That opportunity turned into the Aussie Pet Mobile, a pet grooming service that travels to wherever its customers are. The service is no ordinary pet grooming, either, Mr. Rochford said.
He said the service is more like a pet spa, with offerings such as “pawdicures,” teeth brushing and a 15-step spa treatment among its long list of services. The mobile spa operates from a converted Mercedes Sprinter van — complete with a ramp for elderly pets — where dogs or cats are washed, dried and pampered.
The couple declined to disclose how much they invested in the franchise, but they said their business model shows them recovering that investment within the next two years. Mr. Rochford said business has been strong so far.
Aussie Pet Mobile has visited Brenda Adams’ home in Ooltewah twice so far this month. The first time the Rochford’s bathed her younger dog William but came back a couple weeks later to groom Nellie, her 7-year-old dog. Mrs. Adams said she likes the service because it keeps her dogs from getting too excited or nervous.
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At A Glance
* Business name: Aussie Pet Mobile of Chattanooga
* Owners: Brenda and Carl Rochford
* Business concept: “Premium” mobile pet grooming
* Start date: April 2008
* Fast Fact: Americans will spend $43.4 billion on pets this year, according to the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association.
“I don’t want my dogs put into cages,” she said.
Rates for the services start at $35 and vary depending on the dog’s size, breed and skin and coat condition.
So far, until the business grows and they hire more employees, the couple has been working together. Both participated in groomer training courses offered through the franchise.
“We want to know what all is involved so when we are talking with customers later down the road, (we can) understand what the groomer is going through or what the groomer is doing,” Mrs. Rochford said.
Starting the business, which officially began in April, was something the family talked about doing for four years. They bounced around different ideas, but they always came back to some business that involved pets. Mr. Rochford said that ultimately they returned to a familiar saying: If you want to be successful, do something that you love.
“And we are very much pet lovers, and love dogs and cats,” he said.
The couple also has a 13-year-old son with Asperger’s syndrome, which is part of the autism spectrum, and they wanted to have a business that he could one day work into, Mrs. Rochford said.
Their 11-year-old daughter also aspires to be a part of the business someday, and already is referring her pet-owning classmates to Aussie Pet Mobile.
“She says, ‘Dad, can we take to pet mobile van to school?’” Mrs. Rochford said.
The couple hopes to expand their territory — currently including most of the Chattanooga area — in the next year or two and said they would even consider buying another franchise.
‘When I lost my position, we were faced with, I can go and get a new position outside Chattanooga and move the family again and disrupt the family and leave a community we came to quickly love,” Mr. Rochford said. “We decided maybe this is the time to do a business, and we just love it here.”