Couple opens Tampa store after leaving Puerto Rico post-hurricane

Lucky Pet of Hillsborough County

Couple opens Tampa store after leaving Puerto Rico post-hurricaneThough Lucky Pet only opened their doors in Tampa less than three months ago, owners Mariel and Gerardo Diaz are no strangers to the pet care industry.

“I think we were born into this business more or less,” Mariel said. “I started as a dog trainer when I was 6 years-old and Gerardo got certified as a groomer, here in Tampa, 23 years ago.”

The Diaz’s opened their first Lucky Pet – a one-stop shop that offers professional dog grooming, dog training and daycare services, as well as natural foods and treats – in Puerto Rico more than 20 years ago. They moved to Tampa after Hurricane Maria struck the island.

Though they have had plenty of experience successfully running their business in Puerto Rico, they turned to the Florida SBDC at Hillsborough County when they found opening a second store in a new location came with its own set of challenges.

“Corey [McCaster] has been so helpful during this process, he knows everything from A to Z,” Mariel said. “We had so many doubts in the marketing aspect, because Tampa was new for us. Getting to know the market and how to impact it without spending extra money was a challenge. Corey just knew everything about that and he helped us during that process.”

Corey McCaster, business consultant for the Florida SBDC at Hillsborough County, helped the Diaz’s create a marketing strategy, develop a successful balancing sheet and secure a U.S. Small Business Administration loan.

“We just opened a few weeks ago, but we were able to get the funds to get all of the construction stuff started, to buy merchandise, and to start working the first few months,” Mariel said. “We knew everything about the business, but putting it all in writing made us see our business in another level. We were able to see more future for our business in terms of opening other branches and being more organized during our opening process.”

Not only do they plan to use the Florida SBDC at Hillsborough County for all of their marketing strategies in the future, the pair also recommends small business owners turn to the Florida SBDC at Hillsborough County if they have any questions about business strategy or growing into a second location.

“Whether you are a business owner or you are planning on opening a new business, being organized in very important and having a good coach that leads you during that process is very important,” Mariel added.

“Having Corey during the process really helped us not waste extra time or money. The moment we got in we went to SBDC; everything fell into place. We immediately got all of the help we needed to make a powerful business plan and we even got the funding to be able to open our second location.”