Courtney McWilliams, owner of MaryMac’s Doggie Retreat, posing with dogs.
Courtney McWilliams, owner of MaryMac’s Doggie Retreat, found a niche market and thrived throughout the pandemic. — MaryMac’s Doggie Retreat

Courtney McWilliams, founder of MaryMac’s Doggie Retreat, initially applied for 21 loans trying to get her doggy daycare business off the ground back in 2018.

“Entrepreneurship is not easy. It is full of curves, bumps, twists, rocks and [breaking] walls,” McWilliams stressed. “But don’t give up, because [the] reward and feeling of accomplishment will be worth it.”

Fortunately, the Louisiana-based, Black-owned business found its niche: MaryMac’s specializes in working with overly anxious dogs. McWilliams’s company provides daycare, grooming and boarding services to give both pets and their owners peace of mind.

“We provide dog owners with an alternative option for their dogs to receive the proper care that caters to their dog’s physical and emotional health,” said McWilliams.

The idea for MaryMac’s first came in 2015, when McWilliams needed a pet sitter for her dog who suffered from separation anxiety.

Recognizing this niche market with a yet-unmet need, she combined her love of dogs and her background in social work to develop her unique business model.

[Read more: A Guide to Conducting Market Research]

Leveraging social media to connect with customers

The boutique doggy daycare has seen tremendous growth during the pandemic, going from zero clients to 700-plus clients and a waiting list. McWilliams credits this to leveraging the power of social media and understanding the needs of her customer base.

“From a tactical standpoint, social media has been critical to my growth,” she noted. “I created weekly ad campaigns with a targeted audience and asked my friends to share my ‘Quarantine and Chill’ flyer offering a special for grooming services.”

Entrepreneurship is not easy. It is full of curves, bumps, twists, rocks and [breaking] walls. But don’t give up, because [the] reward and feeling of accomplishment will be worth it.

Courtney McWilliams, founder, MaryMac’s Doggie Retreat

Most critically, however, McWilliams strives to connect with her customers — both human and canine.

“I develop doggie treats that help calm the dogs down,” she explained. “It makes the pets and owners feel more at ease when they leave their precious pup in my trusted care. When dogs are happy, ‘pawrents’ are happy, and that brings in more and more business and success.”

[Read more: Kono's Kitchen Offers Raw Treats for Pups and a Community for Pet Parents]

Capitalizing on current success with goals of franchising, expansion

With the explosive growth of MaryMac’s Doggie Retreat, McWilliams is now looking to take the brand outside of Louisiana and across the country.

“I intend to expand my business into franchises in Atlanta, Houston, Dallas, Memphis, New York, Denver and even some airports,” she said. “I am also working on developing MaryMac doggie treats to help calm down anxious or allergic dogs.”

Looking back on the early days of the business, McWilliams acknowledges the importance of her faith and perseverance in pulling through.

“It was my faith in God and persistence that led to my eventual success,” the founder stressed. “Do not give up!”

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Published July 30, 2021