Dani Wright was on the path to become a veterinarian. But with two boys in school and college tuition looming, she knew that those plans had to be put on hold.
However, when one door closes, another one opens.
Dani was born and raised in Springfield, Oregon. Her parents still live in the area and it’s where she went to school. It’s where she has raised her kids, and been involved as a Boy Scouts and 4H leader. In other words, Springfield is home, and that’s where she saw an opportunity to create a business in the community she loves.
“ I started my retail experience as a tire salesman at Montgomery Ward, where I was saving money for veterinary school. But then I got married and life changed a bit.” She adds, “ I then worked at Safeway as a floral designer before moving on to the local feed store.”
It’s at the feed store where she saw an opportunity to combine her community roots and retail experience with her interest in animals.
“ I was experienced in the the feed and pet industry and always wanted to be a veterinarian. However, the Feed and Pet store I had been working at for 14 years, and had planned on buying, was not going to be for sale. I had met a potential silent partner with matching funds that believed in me, and McKenzie Feed was born.”
After working in the local feed industry for 14 years, Dani had some insights into the opportunity of opening her own feed store around Springfield.
“ Of two area feed stores, one had sold and one had closed due to family and management issues, respectively. I was able to locate approximately halfway between each of those locations.” So with a desired location in mind and the local need for a new feed and pet store evident, Dani started the process of building what would become McKenzie Feed.
“ I went to the downtown center and chamber and met with an SBDC counselor about the practical aspects of opening a feed store.”
While her industry knowledge and work ethic would have given her the drive to open and succeed, the SBDC provided invaluable help in navigating all of the intricacies – from financing to marketing.
“ The SBDC is a great and continual help. Gary Smith provides insights and practical knowledge for balancing your business, socially networking, marketing and economics.” Dani adds, “ I had tried to buy 10 different locations and with each foray into a new location I worked with everyone from local and city government to finance people. The SBDC provided the resources that allowed me to navigate the various balance sheets, business plans and P&L statements needed to keep the process moving forwards – it was basically spreadsheets galore.”
With all of the paperwork done, and financing provided by Continental Bank and the SBA, Dani dialed in on the location and bought the old Grays Garden Center at 4441 Main St in 2004, and McKenzie Feed and Saddlery was born.
But as any entrepreneur knows, how things ultimately work out is never as you planned.
“ Funny story – I had rented a smaller space and was in the process of opening when a much bigger space one block away opened up, so I moved before I opened and then ten years later I bought and moved back a block and a half. Crazy. Location, location ,location.”
In 2009 they changed the name to McKenzie Feed and Pet Supplies, which was based largely on the economic downturn that occurred in 2008/09. As a commodity store, Dani was able to see the downturn coming about 6 months ahead of when it hit the area hard. The slight change in the name and focus allowed them to lower the risk around horses and livestock, which people tend to get out of in rough economic times, and increase dog and cat products as those owners tend to have discretionary money for their pets.
A focus on customer service
Given the choices around where the consumer can purchase their pet food, McKenzie Feed has found not only a niche that needed filling in the area, but a customer centered philosophy that has allowed them to retain and grow their business.
‘We can help’ is not only a motto, but the way each and every employee engages customers and the community.
“Customer service and caring is what keeps our people buying with us. Every customer is greeted and all food is carried out. Our computer system keeps track of your purchases and we’ve even had customers call from their vet to find out what food they should feed their pet.” she adds “ We get thanks from people who have tried all kinds of treatments to treat symptoms pets have, like itching, smelling, and scratching.We can solve many issues with simple nutrition.”
The McKenzie Feed team, which has grown from 3 to 11, know that what they sell in their store directly affects the well being of the animals they care so much about. Therefore, there is a constant focus to only stock the best supplies for their customer’s pets.
“With so many recalls on pet foods in recent years, we are proud to say none of our food has ever been recalled. We make educated choices and will not carry anything that I will not personally feed and guarantee.”
Part of this focus centers around personally knowing the suppliers of their products.
“ I have very good relationships with all my vendors.The vendors established great credit terms with me as I was ramping up business, but more importantly, provide great products. The feed company CHS is in Harrisburg, Oregon and Valley Feed is in McMinnville, Oregon. We also sell our customers local eggs, fresh goat milk, honey, vinegar and local bones from Knee Deep Cattle Co., and Hawley Ranch. Our number one Oregon product is Mink Sheen Shampoo from Salem, OR. It’s an amazing shampoo for dogs, cats, and horses.”
In recent years there has been an uptick and interest in raising small livestock like chickens and dairy goats, and while the interest has been good for business, Dani and her staff also realize that educating and answering all of their customer’s questions is critical, since many of these folks are first-time livestock owners.
“ Chickens are very mainstream now, along with a few dairy goats. We offer advice on natural feeding and organic offerings. In addition to the one on one advice, McKenzie Feed also has a series of educational classes for dogs, chickens, flea and worm prevention, feed, and feeding.” Dani adds, “ We also have vendors who give samples and pet food education classes around raw, freeze-dried and specialty food use.”
The passion around helping the people and animals they serve emanates from their location, and much of this can be traced back to Dani and her reasons for doing what she does on a daily basis.
“ I live my love. I have my own dogs, a horse, chickens, cows and cats. I want to make every person’s dream of owning their own pet as good as possible through offering affordable practical help and sharing of knowledge. With God and SBDC ‘s help I run my business with good practices , a healthy bottom line and time for me. My business does not run me. “
For more information on the SBDC, visit www.bizcenter.org.