We had the good fortune of connecting with Laura Leah English and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Laura Leah, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
I always wanted to own my own business, from the time I was young. My parents were entrepreneurial-minded which set the foundation, and the thought that I could have control of the work I did and the outcome it produced certainly appealed to me. My Mom and I, who started the business together in 1996 with one small retail store, just simply wanted to make a difference in the lives of the pets we served (and their people, of course). After losing a dog to cancer, when he was only 7, we felt strongly that we could contribute something meaningful to our community by creating a place where people felt comfortable shopping and asking questions, with products that they could trust, and people – our Ambassadors – with a higher level of knowledge around pet health and welfare.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
We started Pet Planet after my husband and I lost a 7 year old dog to cancer in 1996. We were shocked and devastated, as we knew nothing about the disease, what may have caused it, or how our decisions might have impacted his health and longevity. When we looked around at the pet supply retail environment, we saw a gaping hole. There were big box stores selling a variety of products, most of which were unhealthy. There was no trusted community resource that we could see – stores with educated employees and products on the shelf that were there to help contribute to health and longevity. There was a lot of rawhide, and a lot of “colorful foods” void of any nutritional value. No wonder our pets were not living as long as they used to. My Mom and I had been looking for a business to start and call our own, and after the experience with our beloved cocker spaniel, we decided to enter the retail game with the goal of making a true difference in the lives of the families we served. As an aside, I had never worked a day of retail in my life before we started Pet Planet! 24 years later, that same mission remains steadfast, and even more uncompromising. We’ve learned that big advertising controls much of our consumer world, which is a shame. We’ve also learned that our customers – when they find us – have actually been looking for our products and services for a very long time. They want to trust, they want to learn, they want to know who they give their hard-earned money to, and most importantly, they want their pets to live long, happy, and healthy lives and they didn’t know how much their decisions could influence that outcome. We now offer both our community store experiences in Arizona and our new online services at www.shoppetplanet.com. We couldn’t be more proud of our Ambassadors, working each day to support pets and their people in our communities. There has been nothing easy about competing with large retailers and multi-national consumer brands who dominate the consumer world. However, our consistent “one-customer-at-a-time” approach – building relationships at a grass-roots level, right in the communities we serve, and remaining focused on helping people make the best decisions they can for their pets, keeps us strong and thriving.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Well, considering that I spend all of my time either working or quietly with my family at home, I am likely not the best to provide an exciting itinerary. However, when my best friend comes to town from Canada, I take her for brunch at What’s Crackin’ in NE Mesa. Most amazing food and quaint environment. Then, because we have done this all of our lives, we would go shopping, likely to San Tan Village, followed by a pedicure and dinner with our families at either Nando’s or a couple of hours at TopGolf – where the food is good and the golf a lot of fun. Obviously the hiking around Arizona is also top-notch, and a boat tour on Saguaro Lake is relaxing – but no fun would be had without taking in a Coyotes game! And, because my son loves it, a few days at Disneyland and Universal Studios is always on our agenda. Not exciting, but perfect for our family.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
My gratitude runs deep for many who influence, support and continue to stand by me, through thick and thin. My parents, who established early on that attitude, hard work and authenticity are the pillars of success in life. They said to me they didn’t care what I decided to do in life, so long as I did it 100%, every time. My husband, who learned quickly when to contribute his opinions, and when to stand down :), his love and support are unwavering. All of our past and current employees, who taught me that I couldn’t do it all myself – their individuality, contributions, loyalty and tenacity through the good times and challenging ones kept us all moving forward. And for my son now – he is a reminder each day that my behavior and the example that I set is what shapes his own attitude and outlook on life.