Chicago, IL,
15:05 PM

A Home for Auggie

GSU Small Business Development Center Success Story

Every day, the Small Business Development Center at Governors State University transforms the businesses and lives of the women and men building and enriching our communities. Whether you are starting a business or expanding one, or just looking to optimize the business you already have, the staff of the SBDC carries the tools you need. The SBDC has played a role in countless stories like this one about a family and a dog.

Rose Cotter and her husband, Patrick, had always wanted a pet. Enter Auggie, a chocolate Labrador who needed more time and attention than they could provide.

“It was an absolute flop,” Rose said. “We just didn’t have the time to devote to Auggie that he needed.”

Realizing that they weren’t able to provide Auggie with the exercise and socialization that he deserved, the couple ended up giving Auggie away, a moment that Rose recalls as “absolutely devastating.” The Cotters examined their experience, though, and decided that there had to be a way for people like them—busy, working families—to have a dog and provide access to all of the attention that a pet needs.

In 2006, with Patrick’s support, Rose opened Alfie’s Poochie Playlot in Mokena. She named it after her new pup, a longhaired Dachsund. The plan was to create a day care service for dog-owners who weren’t able to be at home with their pets all day, a place where dogs could socialize with other dogs and people when their human families weren’t able to be home with them. The plan succeeded. It turned out that a lot of people were looking for exactly what Alfie’s Poochie Playlot offered. Her business began to grow.

By 2012, Rose knew she needed more space to accommodate all of her customers. Tragically, around the same time, Patrick was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. In order to keep the business going, the couple’s daughters—both adults—took shifts with Rose, caring for their father so that their parents’ business could stay open. In 2014, Patrick passed away.

“He was super healthy and active. He was a swimmer, he loved his job – he was a very likeable guy,” Rose said of her late husband. “We invested a lot of money in this place when we opened in 2006. I couldn’t have done it without him.”

Suddenly alone, Rose had to continue with her business without her partner. Rose’s bank, First Midwest, pointed her toward the Small Business Development Center at Governors State University.

Although Rose has a background in marketing, in the face of a tremendous loss at a pivotal point in her business’ growth, she needed guidance. The SBDC helped to transition her business into the next phase.

“Patrick and my business are the two loves of my life. It was a very tumultuous time, but it was something to keep me alive and going. It was a life raft,” Rose said. “Working with the SBDC really helped me to streamline my business and put in place budget forecasting, timeframe, really everything that the banks were looking for during my refinance. Working with the SBDC was a great eye-opener for me. It made me more of a forward thinker, and it made me want to do more financial analysis and really look at the business side of things. They made it easy for me to put my guard down and not feel overwhelmed so that I could focus on what needed to be done.”

Two years out from an expansion that included a swimming pool for the canines, Alfie’s Poochie Playlot is still flourishing.

“There used to be peak days, and now we’re reaching those numbers on any given day. We’re booked up on boarding. It really is like they say: if you build it, they will come.”