Jill & Donald Nobles
Jill's Pet Resort
Marrying at 17, Jill Nobles took up dog grooming to help put her husband, Donald, through college in Atlanta, GA. Moving back to North Carolina after his graduation, Jill got her certifications and started a grooming business in her garage. It was the start of an amazing 23-year journey in the pet resort industry.
Grooming clients led to more grooming clients, which led to clients asking Jill if she could keep their dogs when they went away. With nine dogs needing somewhere to stay, Jill decided the next logical move was offering boarding to more than just her direct clients. She grew that and added a small day play into the service offerings and continued for the next few years on a steady growth trajectory. Eventually, Jill and Donald purchased a wonderful piece of property to build their own facility. It was 12 acres just 20 minutes from the Atlantic Beach coastline near a local park, near an airport and between two armed forces bases.
“It was everything we were looking for.”
Naming it Jill’s Pet Resort, the couple settled in for some wonderful years. “It was great having long term relationships with our customers. I saw dogs from puppy stage who would be with us over the years as they turned silver grey in their old age.”
Jill’s staff have been a wonderful asset to the business. Most have long tenure, and one loyal staff member there for 19 years is still there with the new owner. But despite great staff, working long hours is still part of owning a pet resort. Jill started thinking about other ways of adding income without adding to the payroll, or adding extra hours, that she didn’t have, to her day.
She decided to use their acreage to establish a beautiful members-only dog park. “I thought if I make it cleaner and nicer than a public park, I could sell memberships to people who wanted to walk their dogs themselves in a safe place.”
It was pure genius. Memberships soon filled up as dog owners discovered the health benefits of using a pristinely kept ‘vaccinated-dog-only’ park. All members’ dogs had to go through a temperament check to make sure there would be no dog fights. The park was always well cared for and, with a diving pool and agility area, was perfect for dogs to run off leash. It was a place Jill and Donald were rightly proud of.
Fast forward another 11 years, and Jill’s pet resort was now boarding 100 to 150 dogs per day. Jill had eight groomers on staff, and she was as attached to her staff as she was to the dogs.
However, as time went on, Jill was wondering when the busyness would stop. When she and Donald were awaiting the arrival of their 9th grandchild, she started to feel different about it all.
“I realized all this family time was slipping away. I hadn’t had a Christmas off in ages.”
She told Donald how she felt “and he said, ‘Leave it with me’.” Donald found Teija Heikkila of PET|VET M&A, Sales & Advisory through an online search, and she responded immediately.
“Teija was the answer to a prayer. She really understood our business, and the industry. She made the sales process so easy and became a great friend,” Jill says.
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While Jill had been running operations, Donald had run the financial side of the business. He had kept the accounts well organized and aligned with financial objectives. This took a lot of pressure off the couple during the sales process. Due to the quality of the business and the quality of her contacts, Teija soon had multiple offers lined up. One of them – a very high cash offer from a private buyer – was hard to resist.
During the negotiations, Jill realized while she was ready to sell the business, she was not ready to just pack up and walk away. She decided against that buyer and went into talks with the fourth buyer on the list – a consolidator who preferred to buy the business but leave Jill and Donald with ownership of the property.
“This felt perfect. We could sell the business and get out of debt, but we would still own the land and receive a monthly rent payment from the new owners. It was a great option for us.”
Jill and Donald are particularly happy with the new buyer who kept all the staff on and gave all of them incentives and benefits, even the part timers. Having sold, Jill and Donald are enjoying having options. Jill now has time to go to the gym, see her family and think about what is next.
“After being in 5th gear for so long, it’s taken time to adjust to having sold. I still wake up some mornings with my mind thinking about payroll! I’m programmed to grow, grow, grow. It is hard for me to whoa, whoa, whoa,” Jill laughs.
The Nobles plan to relax and travel for a couple of years and maybe do some business courses in the future. But in the meantime, Jill says they have been enjoying their family, especially their grandchildren.
“I just went through a Thanksgiving and Christmas without working and I enjoyed every bit of it!”