Business in Boardshorts Podcast
EP3 – Carra Smith
December 9, 2020
Location: Mobile, AL
Guest Name: Carra Smith
Business Name: Dog Days Barkery
Business Website: DogDaysBarkery.net
Host: Welcome back or welcome to the Business In Boardshorts Podcast. Today, my guest is Carra from Mobile, Alabama. Carra, how are you doing?
Guest: Good. Thanks. How are you?
Host: Good. Good. So, can you tell the audience a little bit about your business?
Guest: Yeah, at Dog Days Barkery, it is a locally owned, family owned, and operated pet store. Here in Mobile, we make cakes, cookies, ice cream, all sorts of fun stuff for dogs. And then, we also sell pet food, cat food, treats, toys, supplements, anything you kind of need for having a pet.
Host: Did it always start that way where you had the full smorgasbord? Or, did you kind of start in one area and then just grow to what you have now?
Guest: We started pretty much out of the gate how we are. We’ve grown a little bit into more kind of gift items and things like that over the years. When I moved home to Mobile, no where really sold what I like to feed my pets, so my dad bless him. He is very gung ho with any idea and my mom was a little apprehensive, but we opened up. I went and brought in this idea in March, and we opened in October, so we move pretty quickly, and we’re still here four years later. We’ve morphed a little bit, but we generally have stayed true to where we started.
Host: So, when you said you move back to mobile, where were you prior to that?
Guest: Lexington, Kentucky. I live there, gosh, four years, five years. I moved there after I got married to my husband. We lived here he moved for a job, and so we got married and I followed him. We love it, we miss Kentucky, but Mobile is home.
Host: And, would you say to go back to your 10-year-old self would you have ever been envisioned opening up a business that you’re have?
Guest: No. We we’re cat people growing up, we had dogs I was little, and then we move to cats. And then, when they unfortunately passed, we didn’t have any pets for a long time, and I had never thought I would be here. I moved to Kentucky and my husband and I decided, we’d been married a month, and we’re like, “Let’s get a dog.” so we did. And so, that kind of started my passion for animals and creature comforts as it were, stuff like that. But, no at 10 I certainly never envisioned myself here but I couldn’t be happier where we went, where I wound up, so very pleased with that.
Host: And, as I was reading your website, you’re really big on the customer service angle. Could you talk about that?
Guest: Yeah. We treat our customers as we would want to be treated. We, I aim to help anyone that as much as I can. We are friends with a lot of our customers, they’ve turned into friends, or we know their pets more than we know them kind of thing. Like, we recognize the dogs that come in more than we do the humans. I’m like, “I know that face, but I know your dog.” We just try and exceed expectations. That is my big thing as customer service because if you, your name is first, if something happens to your name, that is your reputation, and people are more likely to spread bad news than good news. I would rather exceed those expectations, make people happy as I possibly can, and that’s what I’ve drilled into my staff as well.
Host: Yeah, I love that. I’m really, really big on the customer service thing as well in that personalized nature, which it sounds like you do as well. What would you say is the most enjoyable aspect? If you look at everything between working, working the pet seller, or behind the scenes stuff, or the customer’s, what is your favorite area?
Guest: Definitely, just helping the customers and meeting their dogs. A lot of the dogs too we’ve grown up with, like they’ve come to us as puppies, when we just opened, and now they’re turned three and four years old. We had one that his parents moved to South Carolina and they still come and visit when they’re home visiting family. It’s nice to see that relationship evolve. We’ve unfortunately had customers that have passed. That’s just the nature of this business but that–. And then also, I do all the decorating for our cakes and cookies. I always say I’m not an artist, I did not go to art school, I do the best I can, but I do have fun with that aspect of creativity. That’s not usually who I am. I cannot draw or paint like my husband can, but I do the best I can, and I think I did a pretty darn good job. Those two things, definitely the pups and the artistic getting to express that side of myself.
Host: One thing I found interesting too, when I was reading their site was talking about the gluten-free options, just mainstream media here that’s a big buzzword with humans. I haven’t really thought about it from the pet’s angle. What what is that, like from a dog or cat angle?
Guest: Well, it’s everything that we make is grain free, so no wheat. My dogs eat grain free, of which is in the pet world right now is a huge going on with medical thing. Grain free causes a heart condition in pets, but my dogs do best on grain free, and so I wanted to feed my dogs with they be best on. We have a lot of customers who request grain free and I’m like, “Oh, well, you’re already set”. Like, “You’re safe with everything with us.” It’s just how we feed our dogs and what we believe is best. Dogs don’t eat all those fillers and things like that. Wheat makes my dogs super itchy. And also, we live in a very humid climate down here so anything I can do to mitigate the itches and scratches, and all that. I do my best to do.
Host: Hey there, it’s CT. I’m going to do my own show because I’m now open to new clients, or I have a waitlist for website design and marketing strategy sessions. If you’re trying to throw in your marketing dollars down the drain, and want a website that actually drives new business, let’s hop on a call. You can book a free hour with me at ctkaupp.com/bib, that’s C-T-K-A-U-P-P.com/bib. Yeah, let’s talk about that. For somebody that’s never been to Mobile or Alabama in general. Can you kind of just give a lay of the land and what is it like?
Guest: Hot. Mobile is on the coast. We live on Mobile Bay. We’re about an hour, hour and a half from Gulf Shores, which is on the water, and Dauphin Island from here is probably 45 minutes to an hour. I grew up about 20 minutes from Dauphin Island so we are a very hot, humid climate. We get hurricanes, so we just had hurricanes that hit about two or three weeks ago. That’s not anything out of the ordinary for us. As you get more to North Alabama, you’re going to have some hills, and the occasional like mountain-ish. It’s going to be a little cooler, and sometimes it snows, and people lose their minds over that. I remember, in third grade, I believe I was it, snowed here, and we were all just like, “What in the world?” So, we made a snowman that had grass in it and dirt because it wasn’t actually snow. And then, it snowed actually a few years ago, one night in December, so that was and again was it, didn’t stay long it stayed overnight, but it is still an exciting thing for us if that ever happens. But, usually a lot of rain and humidity.
Host: Now, did the entire city shut down when it snow?
Guest: Yes. For the most part…
Host: It probably snowed about like, a half a inch?
Guest: Less probably. I live about 5-10 minutes from the store, and so we actually had our Christmas party that we host for customers. We just had dog adoptions, and we had nail trims, some things like that going on in store. Our stores fairly small so we usually had the dogs set up outside and things like that, well it was so cold and icy. Limbs were snapping, which that does not happen here, so we had to bring everyone inside. It was a cozy event, cozy day, but we survived. But yeah, not quite as bad as sometimes but most people are like, “Whoa, now.” Like we don’t have asphalt roads, and snow tires, and all that kind of stuff, so it’s definitely an adventure when that happens.
Host: Yes, it’s always interesting coming from the Midwest to hear these stories from the South when there’s snow. It’s all relative.
Guest: It is, it is. Yeah. We can handle a hurricane, we’re tough folks, but snow shuts us down. We draw the limit.
Host: I have a question from the audience here. What was the first moment that you can remember when you knew you had made the right choice to start your business?
Guest: Oh, gosh. I think honestly, my parents are huge motivators, and they’re my business partners. We own it down the line and so just having them to bounce things off of. My mom is our CFO, as we call her. My dad’s just the he says silent partner. But, he’s always there to back me up, be a sounding board, things like that, so I think just having their faith in me is very reassuring. And I think, they now, say they didn’t have a dogs and it was a joke when I got married as now that all the kids are in the house, you’re going to get a dog. Well, mom’s like, “No, we’re not gonna get a dog.” Now they have three. We’ve expanded like that as well, but I just having them and them saying they’re proud of me and stuff. That’s always nice to just have your parents words of encouragement and things like that. I think also just getting to help the customers that we do, and having them say, “Oh, my gosh. She really recommended this great product that has helped my dog.” That’s always nice to hear. The good stuffs always just extra nice to hear.
Host: And, I’ll get you out on this, a two parter. What is the best business advice you’ve received and what’s the best life advice?
Guest: The life advice I would definitely say from my dad, like I said, He’s just a great sounding board. We call him Big Tom, Big T, because he has a bunch of nicknames, and he is just a hoot, basically, but he is always there. I’ll just call him I’ll be like, “Hey, are you home?” We live in the same neighborhood, actually, so he’s like, “Yeah, come on over.” So, I’ll just sit in the recliner with him, and he says nice to me, and I just say, “Okay, this is the problem that we’re having. What do you recommend?” Anything really, he tells me, it’s something to ponder and think about, and it puts good little earworms into to think, okay, is this the best decision, what should we do, and he’s always there to back me up no matter what. So ultimately, like he’s like, “You run the show. You do what you need to do but this is what I would think.” That’s always nice and business advice.
Most of my family’s in real estate of some sort so my grandfather built a bunch of neighborhoods and stuff in Mobile. He’s just a really great person to talk to. My grandmother, she was super helpful and always think what would my mom do and things like that. But, coming from a lot of successful business people, it’s a lot to live up to, so I would just say follow your passion, and a lot of people were skeptical when we opened the store. They were like, “You’re gonna do what now?” Just follow your heart. Like, I knew I was like, “Mobile, can handle this.” I’ve got three, now four dogs. I’m passionate about it. I know it can work. It just you have to do it. And fortunately, like I said, my parents were gung ho, and we jumped on it. Sometimes you’re like, “What did I do? Oh, my goodness.” But, day in and day out, it’s great, we have a great support staff and support system, and we just do the best we can, and keep it going. The train is rolling, and it’s not gonna stop.
Host: I love it. I think there’s a lot of entrepreneurship synergy between us and family ties, and all that, and family support. That’s really cool. My listeners want to check you out online or in person. Where can they do that?
Guest: Yeah, so we’re on Facebook and Instagram. So, it’s Dog Days barkery. We are at 5552 Old Shell Road, if you’re in Mobile for Mardi Gras, or football, or something like that, come see us. We always do themed stuff. We have bandanas and cookies. We can ship. Check us out on Facebook or Instagram so we can mail stuff to you. We do a lot of bandanas sales. I think the farthest we’ve shipped so far is Chicago. We do have a website. It’s dogdaysbarkery.net but definitely, Facebook and Instagram is updated more often. It’s just more accessible for us.
Host: Awesome. Have a great day and I appreciate your coming on.
Guest: Oh, thank you. You have a great one.
Overview: Dog Days Barkery is a family-owned and operated pet supply store in Mobile, AL. Carra Smith began making dog-friendly cookies, cakes and ice cream in their store kitchen in 2016. They also sell dog and cat food, toys, supplements, collars, accessories, and much more. Carra’s dogs were the inspiration for their store and remain the driving force behind what they do. Everything they sell they think of animals first and that propels them to do and sell the best. They are honored to watch their customer’s pups grow up and, more than likely, will remember their name more than their humans!
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