“We’re thankful for Northern Initiatives’ support in the form of working capital, but more for their guidance. They’ve helped us advance our understanding of inventory management, the role of projections, and the impact of thorough financial planning.” – Gary Albert, owner of Ruff Life
In 2012, three pieces of a life puzzle came together for Michigan native, Gary Albert. One, he’d always wanted to own and run a business. Two, his professional background included retailing. And, three, his beloved canine companion, Bode, was spending too much time alone while Albert worked an increasingly time-consuming sales job.
Albert’s solution was Ruff Life Pet Outfitters, a store that would provide products to enhance the lives of active dogs and their owners—with Bode as the official mascot. He found the perfect location in Petoskey’s downtown Gaslight District. He says, “There was nothing else like I envisioned in the area. I wanted it to be more than a store; it would be a place where people could find what they needed for their active dogs. We’d offer information and research-backed products that fit the outdoor lifestyles of our community and their dogs.”
Tapping into the $60 billion-plus pet products industry was a smart move and Ruff Life Outfitters grew quickly. Albert was committed to customer service which resulted in the store becoming the resource for connecting dog lovers with the outdoors. “Every month, we host Ruff Life Ramble—a group dog walk—and we give ongoing information about how and where to enjoy our community with dogs.”
In 2016, to keep pace with business growth, Albert realized he would need financial support for inventory. Although the need didn’t meet traditional lending requirements, his local banker suggested Northern Initiatives. After reviewing his business, Northern Initiatives approved a working capital loan. Albert says, “We’re thankful for Northern Initiatives’ support in the form of working capital, but more for their guidance. They’ve helped us advance our understanding of inventory management, the role of projections, and the impact of thorough financial planning.”
He and team member Steve Vorpagel worked through the Profit Mastery tools offered to Northern Initiative clients. They are looking forward to a slightly slower pace this winter to tackle topics in Northern Initiatives’ online support portal, Initiate.
The effect of their increased business acumen is showing: in-store retail sales are up 10% over 2016 YTD and web sales are up 70% for FY 2016.
Albert feels fortunate that Ruff Life Outfitters has hit the mark on many levels, both professionally and personally. With an excellent team, Northern Initiatives as an ongoing partner, and Bode at his side, he has his eye on a very bright future.