Featured Alumni Entrepreneur: Heidi D. Holzapfel ’01, ’05 MBA

I have known for several years that I wanted to own my own business, and within the past three years Soggy Doggy Shop began to take form. The concept came about when I was frustrated at the lack of economical wash alternatives for enterprising dog owners wanting to clean their own dog but not dirty their home while doing so. I conducted extensive market research which led me to discover I was not alone in my frustration. Additionally, I identified this particular segment of the pet industry was extremely underserved in the Pittsburgh metro area. While the initial offering development focused on self-wash, adding professional grooming services was paramount, as I knew they would be the largest revenue driver.

Armed with solid industry trend backing and an entrepreneurial drive, I made the jump and opened Soggy Doggy Shop in November 2016. Soggy Doggy Shop meets the needs of doggie pet parents in two major areas: providing a clean, enjoyable place to bathe their pup or have their pup groomed and providing 100 percent domestically-made retail products.

These offerings have evolved from the two largest trends within the pet industry: the emergence of pet parents (pet owners who treat their pets as family members) and the push for products made in the U.S.A. Our mission is to become the preferred grooming and self-wash destination in Pittsburgh by offering exceptional customer service and high-quality services at budget-friendly prices and giving pet parents a clean and enjoyable space to care for their pup.

Working with the Couri Hatchery at Whitman was an amazing experience for me and allowed me to tap the brains of some uber-qualified folks with extensive knowledge in areas in which I only had basic understanding. The advice and guidance I received in terms of legal, marketing, SEO optimization, retail nuances and social media management were instrumental in bringing Soggy Doggy Shop to life.

The single most helpful item from my graduate education at Whitman was far and away the business plan outline. After developing the bulk of the plan, I worked with the local chapter of the Small Business Development Center to fine-tune the financial projections. The end result was a business plan in which I had complete confidence and for which I received acclaim from a small group of professionals who reviewed it for financing purposes.

While I had a number of talented and amazing professors during my time at Whitman, the lessons I learned from Alex McKelvie and John Petosa stick with me and are referenced at least weekly. Aside from curriculum and traditional learning, both instructors instilled in me the value of looking at situations from different angles to identify the best course of action and how to keep a level head through a multitude of entrepreneurial circumstances.


Heidi Holzapfel
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