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Southwest Indiana SBDC guides clients on a path to new business ownership

Jennifer Bennett – Owner of Barks and Recreation

Video by: Casey Voelker at Captivated Content | Copy by: Jennie Jolly at The Versatile Admin

Jenn Bennett currently owns River Valley Dog Training. Her lifelong love of dogs has led her on an interesting journey that includes a Master’s degree and extensive experience as a special education teacher. While teaching in a life skills classroom, she began researching service animals in the hopes that the school system could acquire a service dog that would assist the students with communication and other skills. 

Unfortunately, that dream didn’t happen. But the research process sparked an idea to provide training for service dogs and intervention for dogs with behavior issues. 

Thus, the idea for Barks ‘n Recreation was born. After a year of searching for just the right building, one that had adequate outdoor space for the runs and an exercise area, and also an indoor area to house the services, it materialized on Evansville’s west side. 

Affectionately known as Barks ‘n Rec, the new facility recently opened on Barker Avenue.  It will have a bit of a niche since the business will be owned by trainers and they, in turn, have the expertise to train the trainers who will be working with the dogs daily. 

“When we started this process and were looking into funding, someone at the bank recommended that I contact the Southwest Indiana Small Business Development Center (Southwest Indiana SBDC) so that they could help us with all the things I didn’t know how to do,” shared Bennett. “I know dogs, but I don’t know business!” 

Bennett called for an appointment and was set up with Business Advisor Julie Folz. Folz helped them walk through everything, including business planning and projections, approval through the Area Plan Commission, and the City Loan Application and Approval.

Play, Stay, Style, and Learn – which encompasses the services of daycare, boarding, grooming, and training – is the motto for the new facility. Daycare is great for socialization for dogs and they learn how to behave well around other dogs and people, according to Bennett. It also reduces the pet’s separation anxiety when being left home alone. Another area where offering training is a benefit is that if a dog doesn’t do well in daycare, they will work with the pet to get them to a place where they are comfortable while being away from home. 

With the upcoming addition of grooming as a service, even dogs that have previously been resistant to grooming will have staff that is trained to handle those potentially difficult situations. Bennett is currently working with two trainers to get them fully prepared and ready to come on board when the business is up and running. 

“I would recommend the Southwest Indiana SBDC to anyone on the path of starting a new business,” said Bennett. “I have actually recommended Julie to several people already and we couldn’t have done it without them. It was very beneficial and I learned a lot!”