‘Hard to adapt’ family dog ​​inspires Burlington entrepreneur

Photo: Debbie Safran, owner of Houndstooth, a small pet store in Burlington. Courtesy photo.

by Amanda Kuhnert Debbie Safran adopted her first greyhound over a decade ago and immediately began having trouble finding accessories and clothing to fit her dog’s long, lean build. Early on, she had the idea of ​​opening her own store, where pet owners could find everything for their dogs and cats – even those with unique physiques – under one roof.

“Although Burlington is so incredibly pet-friendly, we didn’t have a dedicated pet supply store in the downtown hallway,” she said.

Safran realized its long-held vision in the fall of 2019, when it opened Houndstooth, a small pet store on College Street. The pandemic hit a few months later.

“I had to abandon the original store vision early on,” she said. “I had to change my priorities and learn e-commerce and social media marketing much earlier than expected.”

Instead of the monthly in-person gatherings she had planned to educate pet owners and raise money for local nonprofits, she began experimenting with Instagram Live events.

“We had a lot of fun with our spring and winter shows – it’s a chance to showcase some of the clothes and the personality of the boutique,” ​​she said. “We also do monthly doggy yoga on IG Live.”

Photo: Debbie Safran, owner of Houndstooth, a small pet store in Burlington. Courtesy picture.

Recalibrate after a bumpy start

While it has focused on pivoting its business model to survive the pandemic, other areas have been neglected. “As a new business owner, operating in a pandemic no less, I knew I was making a lot of mistakes — a lot of costly mistakes that I couldn’t really afford,” Safran said. “I didn’t give myself the time to sit down and learn how to budget or plan properly. So I was doing a lot of panic buying.

Safran reached out to Sarah Kearns, an advisor at the Vermont Small Business Development Center, for help with budgeting and inventory management.

“VtSBDC helps me understand what I’m doing well and how I can make subtle improvements that will have a huge impact on the success of my store,” she said.

Together they are looking for creative ways to move inventory around and highlight some of Houndstooth’s unique features.

Kearns also put Safran in touch with an accountant who teaches her QuickBooks so she can more easily track her expenses.

Black Friday, November 25, will mark Houndstooth’s third anniversary. The store offers products for dogs, cats, and humans who love pets.

For more information: houndstoothvt.com(link is external).

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