I’m Diana Trondsen, FranNet’s Market President for Houston and the Gulf Coast Region. And I’d like for you to meet another client of mine: Mara Booth-Miller, who recently became the owner of her own petbar boutique franchise in League City, Texas.
Below, Mara talks about their journey to independence – from military service to becoming her own boss with petbar franchising – thereby securing a bright entrepreneurial future for herself and her family.
A “Dog-Centric” Boots to Paws Mission
With the assistance of FranNet of Houston and the Gulf Coast Region, Mara Booth-Miller recently became one of the newest petbar boutique franchise owners – a business offering full and self-service dog washing and grooming. Below, in her own words, Mara shares their inspirational entrepreneurial journey…
“In the First Act of my career, I served in the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Coast Guard, specializing in aviation, search, and rescue. My final duty station in the Coast Guard was serving as the Senior Instructor at the National Search and Rescue School. During my enlistment, and even after leaving the service, I volunteered as a search dog handler performing wilderness searches in avalanche, water, rubble, and urban environments. My canine search partner and I served on seven different teams across six states, learning most of our search skills in southeast Alaska. After leaving the military, I joined American Commercial Barge Line (ACBL), serving as the company’s Training Manager in Jeffersonville, Indiana. Soon, I was promoted to Marine Superintendent, overseeing 12 vessels at the company’s office in Harahan, Louisiana. For the past 10 years, I’ve been serving as the ACBL’s director of marine assurance and vetting – writing accident investigations, presenting the reports to our customers, then ensuring that they’re satisfied with the results.
I’ve been married to my husband Lonnie for 27 years. We met when he was serving in the Army, and he traveled on the same C-130 I was working on while in the Air Force. Together, we have one fur-kid, an eight-year-old Great Dane named Duke, who has been appointed as the petbar of League City’s ‘Ambassa-Dog.’ Lonnie and I are both licensed airplane pilots and own our own plane; whenever we can, we go flying for fun.”
Why They Chose the Entrepreneurial Route
“For the past 10 years, I’ve wanted to own my own ‘dog-centric’ business. But until recently, I only spoke about my business plans using the terms ‘someday, somewhere, somehow.’ Then in 2020, a coworker of mine passed away from cancer at a relatively young age, helping me realize that I should pursue my business ownership goals sooner rather than later. It was the day my co-worker passed that I promised myself that no one would stand between me and my goal of business ownership. I immediately enrolled in the ‘Boots to Business’ program offered by the Small Business Administration (SBA) and was then connected with a SCORE Mentor. Through that program, I met Diana Trondsen with FranNet of Houston, who helped me gather data and perform my due diligence. Together, we discovered that petbar was the right fit for me.”
“Although I learned a fair amount about running a business during my 13 years in the corporate world, I was still drawn to the teamwork and guidance offered by the franchising model – especially when I struck it out on my own. Becoming part of the local small business community has been an extremely positive experience; the other local small businesses really want to see each other succeed. It’s a refreshing environment to be in.
During our franchising review, Diana Trondsen shared the book ‘Street Smart Franchising’ with me, as I was putting in my research on which franchise I wanted to partner with. That book perfectly captures the rollercoaster ride of getting started, specifically striking out and pursuing your goals – even when it can be very scary. Ultimately, it took about 14 months to get my doors open, and my business has only been open for two weeks at the time of this writing. Although things are hectic right now, I know in the end it’ll be worth it. Just getting to see dogs come through the doors of my petbar just makes my day!”
How It’s Going…
“Because we are so new, business has been a little on the slow side. We’re working hard to network with other local small businesses and to market ourselves, so that people know we’re here to keep their dogs clean, healthy, and happy – especially with the holidays quickly approaching! I have a network of many people providing me with encouragement and ideas. Now my biggest challenge is to decide which marketing and networking idea to pursue first!”
How FranNet Helped
“I couldn’t have found a better partner to work with than Diana Trondsen with FranNet of Houston. Time and time again, she patiently listened to me and helped me find the right match in a business. Since then, Diana has become my personal SCORE Mentor, volunteering her time and expertise unselfishly. Diana has been invaluable in encouraging me, as well as pushing me to be the best businessperson I can be. There’s simply no way I can adequately express my gratitude for all she’s done to help me make my business ownership dreams come true!”
For more information, please visit Mara Booth Miller’s petbar of League City franchise page.