Vivian Cuddihee outside her Pup ‘N Tub mobile dog grooming van. (photos by Kirk Gollwitzer)
Vivian Cuddihee outside her Pup ‘N Tub mobile dog grooming van. (photos by Kirk Gollwitzer)

Local mobile businesses drive profits and tow costs

Published 11:15pm Sunday, September 8, 2013

Food lovers aren’t the only ones finding the products and services they crave coming to a location near them. While food trucks became a recognizable business trend about two years ago, even more businesses are taking up the “We’ll come to you” mantra.

Chris Carroll works with a piece of lumber at the mobile sawmill he and wife, Amy, use in their mobile business.
Chris Carroll works with a piece of lumber at the mobile sawmill he and wife, Amy, use in their mobile business.

Pup ‘N Tub Mobile Grooming Service and Mill on Wheels are two area businesses that transport their services to their customer’s doorstep.

“It’s much more convenient for our customers to call us when they have a tree down rather than just calling a tree service,” says Amy Carroll, co-owner of Mill on Wheels.

Amy and her husband, Chris, tow their orange, gas-powered sawmill down the highway and directly to the fallen tree. Within minutes, what was once a tree blocking a driveway, soon become a perfectly cut stack of usable lumber.

“Turning woods into goods” is the business slogan of Mill on Wheels.

“We had one of our customers build a wonderful piece of furniture from their 200 year-old tree,” said Carroll.

In other cases the Carrolls take the lumber back to their own wood-drying kiln either for the customer or their own lumber inventory. With the help of two other investors, Chris and Amy purchased a Wood-Mizer, portable sawmill, and hit the road. When the mobile sawmill arrives on the scene, the entire trunk of a tree is positioned on the cutting platform and sliced into custom-sized lengths of lumber.

For Vivian Cuddihee, owner of Pup ‘N Tub Mobile Grooming Service, the amount of planning and preparation took a bit longer.

Cuddihee moved to Tryon from California and wanted a change of career from the insurance industry to the care and grooming of pets.

“I had some experience working with a pet grooming franchise in California,” said Cuddihee. However, once she arrived in Tryon she continued her training at a dog grooming school in Columbia. She then researched the local market and determined that her business plan was valid.

With the help of her husband, Vivian worked to launch her dream. Lavin, developed the graphic design that would partially cover the outside of Vivian’s 1990 GMC short-base bus, while she worked with a designer to equip the vehicle with the tools of her trade.

“It’s a four-window bus, usually used by churches,” said Cuddihee.

The mobile grooming shop is entirely self-sufficient having both hybrid battery power and a six-gallon heated water supply.

While her schedule offers some flexibility, the customer demand is the true driver.

“I can do as many as eight dogs a day, but prefer to do two to three larger dogs,” she said.

Each dog can take one to two hours to groom and Cuddihee says she prefers not to spend more than three hours on a single animal.

While successful mobile businesses are forging their own path, it is certainly not one without potholes. Initial investment costs and unexpected repair bills can mean disaster for a mobile business.

“I once had to replace my engine and was out of commission for five weeks. It was horrible,” said Cuddihee.

Luckily she developed a contingency plan. Cuddihee converted the back of her home into a temporary pet grooming shop.

“I would go out and pick up my clients and bring them to my house and take them home when I was finished,” recalled Cuddihee.

Other factors – fuel costs, tire wear and traffic – determine success of a mobile business.

“It’s the unknowns that get you,” said Carroll, “sometimes it’s difficult to get the equipment to the exact location and other times the size of the tree might be much larger than we expected,” Amy Carroll said.

Cuddihee also has to prepare for contingencies like unleveled terrain or an unruly and sometimes dangerous pet.

Both businesses would agree that all sides of the balance sheet should be considered when starting a mobile business, not to mention customer demand.

For information on both mobile businesses visit their websites at www.pupntubmobile.com and www.millonwheels.com.

 

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