Desalene Jones’ career as an entrepreneur has gone to the dogs. And she couldn’t be happier.
Desalene is the founder and owner of Cha Cha’s Doggie Day Care of Sacramento, California. Modeled after daycare centers for children, Cha Cha’s provides dogs of all ages, sizes and breeds with a wide range of care services, activities, toys, and plenty of canine company while their humans are away at work.
In addition, Desalene and her staff ensure that their canine customers receive balanced diets, trim nails, groom coats, clean teeth and willingly clean up after the occasional “mistake”—a welcome relief to owners who don’t relish finding such surprises waiting for them when they get home after a long day.
While Cha Cha’s is a dream-come-true for busy dog owners, the business exists only because Desalene was unable to realize her dream of bringing her own dog to her former job. “I tried every argument imaginable to convince my boss that it’d be OK, but he never agreed,” she says. “I was 27 then, and figured that if I was ever going to strike out on my own, this was the time to do it.”
Desalene quit her job and began providing dog care at her client’s homes. Because many of them had other, sometimes exotic pets that were difficult to deal with, she decided it would be better for everyone if she cared for her clients’ dogs at a central location
While trying to understand the nuances of preparing a business plan for her new enterprise, Desalene attended an SBA seminar for start-up businesses that included a speaker from Sacramento SCORE. Seeing that he had brought his own small dog to the session, “I knew instantly that these were people I could connect with,” Desalene recalls with a smile.
“I don’t know how I would have made it this far without SCORE,” she says. “I started with a few hundred dollars, and there’s no way I could have paid for all that valuable advice myself. And I don’t simply mean clichés flung in my direction, but actual sit -down meetings and hands-on development of essential materials. There will never be a time in the life of my business that I could not use the assistance and expertise of the individuals at SCORE.”
Desalene visited the Sacramento SCORE office and discussed her business idea with a team of volunteer mentors who assured her that she wasn’t barking up the wrong tree. She began working with several experts with different business backgrounds to develop her business plan, calculate financial needs and formulate a management strategy.
“One of the most important aspects was mapping out where to invest money as my business grew,” she says. “They developed a big spreadsheet that has turned out to be a very valuable business planning tool.”
Desalene also discovered that the expertise of SCORE mentors goes far beyond their respective business specialties. While at a business planning session, she happened to mention some of the difficulties she was having hiring good employees and dealing with those who failed to meet their responsibilities. “The mentors gave me some tips and suggestions that proved very helpful,” she says. “It’s great to be able to talk with them about anything.”
Desalene plans to do a lot more talking with her SCORE mentors as she prepares to open a second Cha Cha’s location.