When a person decides to make the leap from employee to entrepreneur, they explore financing options, demographics and investment opportunities. Hours are spent pouring over pie charts, locations, and projections of the bottom line.
Others, like The Pet Shop of Fondren owner Josh Gilmer, “wing it.”
The Pet Shop of Fondren offers holistic pet health products and high-quality, organic pet foods at affordable costs. Many of the brands were not sold on shelves in Mississippi until The Pet Shop opened.
“We were the first in Mississippi to carry it,” said Gilmer. “And we’re proud of that fact.”
Gilmer said the idea to open The Pet Shop came to him about five years ago, and he and his wife Stephanie began exploring the options. He was preparing for a trip to the bank for loan options when he watched a YouTube video with American businessman, philanthropist and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban.
“He basically said if you have to get a loan, it is B.S.,” said Gilmer. “They (the banks) don’t care if you succeed. In fact, they prefer you didn’t. They’ll tell you anything to your face. So I knew then I had to do it on my own.”
So Gilmer and his wife saved money, scaled back on their business plan, and in July 2016, the doors of The Pet Shop of Fondren opened for the first time.
But Gilmer said the business didn’t fall into his lap. He had to make it happen. The carpentry in the store was designed and produced by he and his friends. Together, they did everything from the floors, decals on the doors, shelving, and unloading that first truck of stock.
But before it all was the moment of truth.
“I will never forget it,” said Gilmer. “The day I signed the lease, waiting for signing, I sat in my truck, I had a straight up panic attack.”
Gilmer said a quick phone call to a friend helped him decide the kind of person he wanted to be.
“He said there are two types of people: those who own businesses, and those who work for them,” and with that, Gilmer signed his lease.
Growth is consistent, according to Gilmer. He hopes to be out of debt by the end of this year, so the store can start turning a profit. In the meantime, outside jobs and profitable hobbies are keeping the Gilmer family going.
“I couldn’t do it without my wife, Stephanie,” said Gilmer. “In life or in this. She works, multiple jobs, and she comes by the store to work when she can. I have hobbies, like making and selling fishing lures, that I do on the side to help as well.”
Gilmer said his story isn’t all that unique, and that small businesses are a driving force in Mississippi.
“And I’m proud of that,” said Gilmer. “You can put that on a bigger scale. This community is growing because of the people, and Mississippi is growing because of its community.”
Gilmer spoke to News Mississippi about the process of starting his business, and what he’d like to share with aspiring entrepreneurs: