Small business inspiration can come from anywhere.
Small business owners are smart cookies. But a book geared toward “dummies” helped NFIB member Tammy Howlett find the direction she needed to launch her dream company. We asked Howlett how she got started, the challenges she faces now and what she does in her free time.
NFIB Member: Tammy Howlett
Business: Rocky Top Pets, Waynesville, Mo.
How did you become a small business owner, and why?
I was a nurse and worked in a hospital for 24 years. I was around sickness and death on a daily basis. I thought, “I really need to change. I need to do something happy.” I bought the book Small Business for Dummies—this is no joke—and it said to do something that you have a passion for, or you will fail. I had a passion for dogs, and at that time I had two poodles that needed to be groomed. I thought, “Wouldn’t it be cool to groom dogs and have a boarding kennel?” That’s how it started. I cashed in my retirement, went to grooming school, built a small boarding kennel, and I thought it was just going to be me working there. I have continued to expand and grow the business over the past 13 years. I now operate a full-line pet store and have 17 employees.
What is your biggest challenge right now, and how are you dealing with it?
Getting competent and reliable help, and hanging on to those people—that’s the challenge. I have been able to retain most of my staff. But I live near an army base, so a lot of people that work for me are affiliated with a soldier. They’re here for only three years and then they’re gone, so I end up losing some really good help. That kind of bums me out. I try to plan in advance, but it doesn’t always work out.
What is your favorite thing to do off the clock?
In addition to traveling and spending time with my grandkids, I like to garden. I have a farm and cattle. Last year, I grew corn, green beans, kale, cabbage, tomatoes, potatoes, cucumbers, squash and zucchini. I have a green thumb—I got that from my grandmother, I guess. Today, I planted some raspberries and strawberries. I preserve a lot of the stuff that I grow by freezing and canning. It’s a huge hobby of mine.