A local institution for the dogs in the South End, The Urban Hound, a premier boutique dog hotel, daycare, training facility and spa, celebrated its most recent success after years of setbacks.
The pet hotel is a woman-owned small business that provides services from boarding to grooming to at-home care for Boston’s residential neighborhoods. Recently, the business underwent a significant expansion initiative but encountered funding problems that caused construction to halt.
The Massachusetts Growth Capital Corporation (MGCC), was able to help the owner, Rebecca Willson, refinance an existing, high-interest rate debt due and improve operating cash flow.
MGCC’s financing and consulting services enabled majority ownership of the business to return to Willson, saved and created jobs in the Commonwealth’s capital and supported economic development in the community through the business’s increased revenue.
An event held at The Urban Hound on Tuesday, April 2, recognized the achievements made by the dog hotel and thanked MGCC’s partners that assisted with this opportunity and MGCC.
“This is an opportunity to highlight what you do in the community,” said Lawrence Andrews, president and CEO, MGCC.
Willson said that she has been in the building on Malden Street for eight years, and she started her business walking dogs almost 13 years ago.
“And you’ve had ups and downs during that time,” said State Rep. Byron Rushing. “We hope its been good ups these past several years. The MGCC is doing what we intended it to do. We’ve tried something that has turned into growth of the economy not only for business owners but also for their employees. Small businesses contribute so much to the community and you’ve certainly come to a neighborhood that loves dogs.”
MGCC is a quasi-public agency established in 2010 to provide financial services and managerial assistance to small businesses, as well as women, minority, immigrant, and veteran-owned business in Massachusetts.
Since inception, the MGCC has served over 350 small businesses, positively impacted more than 12,500 jobs with customized, working-capital financing commitments totaling over $120 million.
MGCC typically gives loans to small businesses that traditional banks would deny.
“Dogs are best friends to people and we hope MGCC is your best friend,” said Nam Pham, of Massachusetts Executive Office of Business and Development. “We are trying to be good for small business because they are the back bone of every neighborhood. Without small businesses, there can’t be a vibrant community.”
Willson started walking dogs in 2000, when she was still selling real estate with Coldwell Banker and couldn’t find anyone to walk her own dog while she was at work.
After talking to her partner about how there weren’t any reliable dog walkers in the South End, her wife suggested that she start walking dogs. She began work, at first only walking two dogs to three dogs a day.
By 2003, she was walking 25 to 30 dogs a day on her own, seven days a week. It got to the point were she needed to hire some help and expanded. In 2008, the idea of opening a hotel, where dogs are treated just as if they were at home came to mind and sought out to find the perfect location.
But, she ran into a huge speed bump when her contractor for her current building in the South End took off with almost $700,000 worth of money, leaving her to have to pay for everything twice. The MGCC loaned the money to make up the lost.
“This opportunity for me is huge,” said Willson. “At first, I felt like I was underwater, but this gave me the opportunity to expand and I am very grateful.”