We continue our series on Women In Business where we highlight a wide variety of businesses that are owned and operated by women all around the country. Our goal is to learn from, inspire, motivate and celebrate this strong, unique, and diverse group of women.
Our spotlight today is on Michelle Ullrich-Kownacki, owner of Paws pet boutique. Here’s what she told us.
What is your company?
Paws pet boutique in Naples, Florida.
When was your company founded?
1999 in Annapolis, Maryland
What inspired you to form your own company?
A love for animals and a desire to enrich the relationships we have with them.
What is the best part of your job?
Meeting all kinds of dogs and making their lives a little happier
What is one piece of advice that someone gave you early on that you found to be invaluable?
Believe in yourself and follow your intuition.
What is one piece of advice that would you give to someone that is thinking of starting their own business?
Be ready to work hard, keep your focus on your clients and don’t be afraid to evolve over time.
What is one future goal that you have for the business?
Creating a more robust website that connects seamlessly with the brick and mortar store
Who has inspired you the most in your business?
Our clients! Their sincere support of wanting to see our small business succeed and their appreciation of the items and service we offer keeps us inspired!
How has the pandemic affected your business?
Interacting with our clients has definitely changed. Over the last year we have relied more on our online store, social media and email channels to reach and stay connected with our clients.
While we always offered curbside pick-up, we now facetime with clients and text/email in-store product photos to clients who are not in our physical storefront.
On days that are particularly hard with the business, what keeps you going?
Seeing a client leaving really happy with a purchase they made – or receiving feedback or a Review from pleased clients. It really means a lot when someone takes the time to ‘thank you’ for their experience with Paws.
If you didn’t run a store and e-commerce website, what would you be doing?
Good question! Not exactly sure of the answer, but I would think it would include animals – perhaps volunteering with animal charities.
Where do you see your business in 5 years?
I see Paws pet boutique as a contributing asset in the local community – as well as the broader animal-loving community throughout the country. Clients will have an opportunity to enjoy in-person assistance at Paws retail location downtown and/or access Paws curated goods through our online shop. Social media will continue to play a prominent role in enriching our client relationships, communication and sales.
What would you like people to know about your business?
It is more than just a business, it is a passion to make a difference. While bills need to be paid, we also believe in a bigger picture of making every day life for people and pets a little brighter.
What is something that everyone told you/warned you/shared with you about owning your own business that is not true?
You’ll be your own boss and be able to take time off when you want!
Were people supportive of you when you started your business?
My husband, inner circle of friends and family were very supportive.
What do you say to the naysayers if you’ve ever encountered any as related to your business?
I try to focus on what I can accomplish instead of what others say can’t be accomplished.
How would your customers describe you?
An experienced Dog (and cat) Mom who is happy to help make someone’s day a little brighter.
What has been your most favorite thing you’ve done with the business to date?
My most rewarding thing was hosting a series of dog-friendly boat cruises in Annapolis, Maryland – ‘Ben’s Cruises for Compassion’ to benefit Animal Legal Defense Fund.
One Cruise raised over $20,000 to help protect the lives and advance of the interests of animals through the legal system. The Cruises were named after my terrier, Ben, who was removed from a hoarder with hundreds of other dogs, thanks to ALDF.
What is one random fact about you that you would like people to know?
My first job out of college was selling radio advertising. It was fun working with clients, writing ad copy and participating in station promotions.
You can find Michelle and Paws pet boutique here: