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Entrepreneur caters to a four-legged clientele

Rochester Business Journal
February 8, 2013

When Renita Carapella was contemplating a shift from taking care of children to taking care of animals, it was an easy decision.
 
"I've always had a love for animals; that's where my heart always was," says Carapella, the 52-year-old owner of the Delirious Dog. "I grew up in the country, and we had a lot of animals and strays that I used to take care of. My heart led me back."
 
A former teacher in Rochester, Carapella left her job a few years ago to pursue a lifelong passion: animals. She graduated from the Rochester Institute of Dog Grooming and in 2011 opened her pet grooming business on Route 5 between Caledonia and Avon, Livingston County.
 
"Animals were always my next love, other than children," Carapella says. "I came up with the Delirious Dog because I wanted something that was me and silly and would catch people's eye."
 
In less than two years her business has flourished. While Carapella declines to specify its revenue, she says that when she first opened the business on the porch of her home, she cared for roughly 20 animals a month. That has grown to some 115 pets monthly and led to an expansion and the construction of a stand-alone building behind her home.
 
"I've grown in a small amount of time, and it's flourishing," Carapella says.
 
Business was slow at first, but with minimal advertising in the local Penny Saver and much word-of-mouth, that has changed dramatically.
 
"I took a big risk, leaving a nice career that I had," Carapella says. "I was subbing (teaching) last year to help with the income, but this year I have not subbed at all. We made it through the first year and paid the bills and everything, which is great."
 
The Delirious Dog offers pet grooming and features a separate retail shop where pet owners can purchase shampoo and conditioner, brushes, collars, dishes, cookie mixes, toys and other pet-related products.
 
"There's something for animals and their humans," Carapella says.
 
In addition to grooming, the Delirious Dog offers spa packages that include pad conditioning, facial scrubs and hair dying. Carapella also offers custom shaving and nail polish, as well as small-dog boarding.
 
Prices for spa treatments range from $20 to $85, depending on the service and the size of the pet. Nail clipping ranges from roughly $9 for cats to $13 for dogs.
 
Carapella says the intimacy and comfort of her facility and her mission to make sure pets have a good experience differentiates the Delirious Dog from its competition.
 
"I want to set a new standard for pet care, the pet's health and safety. It's not industrial when you walk in. It's warm and inviting," she explains. "No dog is happy to come in to get their nails cut. My No. 1 thing is not the human; my clients are the four-legged ones that walk in here."
 
The Delirious Dog books back-to-back appointments, rather than overlapping, to reduce the amount of stress on pets. Carapella also offers extended hours to cater to owners who work late.
 
"I always ask for feedback and if there are products they want me to carry," Carapella notes. "I involve them in the business, because that's what makes people happy and what makes people come in."
 
As the Delirious Dog's sole employee, Carapella sees growth in the company's future. She has been researching day care for dogs and would like to add a boarding facility.
 
"One of my main goals is that I want to add health and fitness to the grooming. I want to help overweight pets and help maintain them," she explains. "I get a lot of animals coming in here who are overweight. Owners love their pets, so they feed them."
 
Carapella also is looking to add a treadmill and hydrotherapy for pets that have had surgery or need water rehabilitation. She enjoys working with animals every day, but like many small-business owners, the one thing that frustrates Carapella is taxes. Even that is minor compared with the joy she gets going to work every day, she says.
 
"I'm a people person and a pet person. What better job?" Carapella says.

Small Business is a weekly feature focusing on entrepreneurs. Send suggestions for future Small Business stories to Associate Editor Smriti Jacob at sjacob@rbj.net.2/8/13 (c) 2013 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email service@rbj.net.


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