• Crain's Detroit Business

    Mark S. Lee

    3Dogs1Cat 4 Detroit goes to market as part of city's revival 

    Recently, I was at Eastern Market and noticed a cool storefront with a unique name and as we were walking around and got closer, I noticed 3Dogs1Cat 4 Detroit.

    No, there weren't dogs and cats in front of or inside the store, but it's the name of the business.

    Curious, I wandered in and noticed unique and innovative products for pets. Although I'm not a pet owner, the store itself, with its "hipness" and purely Detroit and Eastern Market flavor, caught my attention.

    3Dogs1Cat 4 Detroit, which is located at 2472 Riopelle St., has three business partners: Rita Nelson, Trisha Stander and Tammy Eugenio. While Nelson manages shopping centers full time, Stander and Eugenio manage the business on a full-time basis.

    I interviewed Nelson and asked her thoughts on their business, including the rationale behind its very unique nameEastern Market and Detroit.

    Lee: Please tell us about 3Dogs1Cat 4 Detroit and how did you come up with the name?

    Nelson: Our business concept focuses on providing our customers with exceptional customer service, unique and innovative dog and cat products made in the USA. In addition, many of our products are made here in Eastern Market. We have chosen products that differentiate us from the big box stores by offering a product mix that’s healthy, organic and enjoyable for even the pickiest pets. The store design was created with the goal of preserving the Eastern Market/Detroit downtown district vibe. We strive to provide each and every customer with a unique and satisfying buying experience. We want our customer to walk away from our store and comment that "this is a really cool shop!".

    Regarding the name, there are three of us and we had three dogs and one cat, but now we have four dogs and no cat. We liked the name because it gives us the flexibility to open stores in other cities by changing the city from Detroit to Chicago, for example.

    Lee: At what point did you decide to start your business? And what were the significant challenges you had to overcome and what is your biggest obstacle today? 

    Nelson: We met as a group in the early part of 2012 and officially opened our store in May 2013.

    Our biggest challenge, and we believe with any business, is securing enough capital and cash reserve for emergencies and inventory.

    Obstacles with the store presently is the same as it was when we opened the business: money and meeting the needs and wants of our customer base. Further, being a smaller business there are always questions as to what would be the best source of advertising — print, electronic, social media — and, of course, it comes down to the best method of delivering the message and the best price.

    Lee: The business is still relatively new. What is your overall marketing approach to reaching consumers?

    Nelson: As with any business in today's climate social media, to include website presence and Facebook. Customers can now purchase products online by visiting 3dogs1cat.com. In addition, we use a grass-roots approach by distributing flyers and other promotional literature on market days.

    Lee:  You're located in Eastern Market.  Why did you decide to locate the business there?  

    Nelson: We wanted to be part of the surge with new businesses opening in Detroit and what better location than Eastern Market? We felt that our "urban pet shop" concept works perfectly in this environment.

    Lee:  Where do you see 3Dogs1Cat 4 Detroit in three to five years?

    Nelson: Our goal is to have a second store open within the next five years in the metro Detroit area. We have not yet made a decision as to the location. However, we are always open to locations that fit within our business model, which is an urban city setting.

    Lee:  How do you feel about Detroit as a place to start a business? Do you get a sense there's more interest in people wanting to start a business in the city?

    Nelson: Detroit is seeing a big turnaround — more business friendly and leadership within the city is showing the much-needed support for those who want start their businesses. As more people return to the city as their place to call home, there will be more opportunities for businesses such as ours to open.

    Lee:  What advice would you give to an aspiring business owner or entrepreneur?

    Nelson: Never give up — believe in yourself and know that there will be challenges and obstacles with a startup business; however there is a great amount of joy, plus rewards

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