Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in pet care but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Erin Downes VMD, Owner of Paoli Vetcare, located in Paoli, PA, USA.

What's your business, and who are your customers?

I am a veterinarian and owner of a small animal veterinary hospital. Our clients are pet parents who love their dogs and cats enough to provide them with high-quality veterinary care — so they can live their best life.

Tell us about yourself

I always wanted to be a veterinarian since I was a kid. After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine about thirty years ago, I married a fellow veterinarian. We moved to Washington state so I could pursue a large animal academic internship at Washington State University. I cared for horses, cattle, llamas, alpacas, and bison while my husband worked at a local small animal hospital. Together, we decided we wanted to become practice owners and eventually found a veterinary hospital for sale in our home state of Pennsylvania.

We bought that practice 26 years ago and renamed it Paoli Vetcare. I managed the clinic and practiced small animal and exotic medicine and surgery for a number of years until I had my second son and decided to become a full-time stay-at-home mom. After my boys went off to college, I rejoined the practice as a hospital administrator and marketer. I really enjoy contributing to the constant improvement in the quality of both medical and client care and to successful business management. My goals include finding the best ways to update software systems, improve workflow, streamline communication, upgrade equipment, enhance our practice culture, and serve our clients and their pets. I'm motivated by a desire to constantly progress and perfect.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

The accomplishment I am most proud of is drastically improving the internet presence of Paoli Vetcare. My marketing efforts have resulted in dramatic increases in both the monthly number of new clients and the gross revenue of the hospital.

What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?

Right now, the hardest thing about running a veterinary hospital is recruiting excellent staff for our client-service-focused business. We are in the midst of a nationwide shortage of veterinarians and veterinary nurses. Despite offering top compensation and signing bonuses, there are very few applicants for open positions.

What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?

We hear a lot these days about the desire for "work-life balance." I have yet to meet a small business owner who did not believe that work is life. When you own a small business, you don't have the luxury of clocking out. I recommend that you only consider starting your own business if you love what you do and you are willing to commit 100% to its success.

Is there anything else you'd like to share?

If you are in your twenties, now is the time to take career risks, expand your network, explore your interests, and maybe start a business. You have time to bounce back if you fail, and you may succeed beyond your wildest dreams!

Where can people find you and your business?


If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.

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