Just For Pets Pty Ltd, Byron Bay, NSW, Australia

Gold Stevie Award Winner 2012, Click to Enter The 2014 American Business Awards

Company: Just For Pets Pty Ltd, Byron Bay, NSW, Australia
Company Description:Just For Pets (JFP) is an Australian-owned buying and marketing group representing 65 independent Australian pet retailers. Revenue is derived from membership fees and commissions on centralised purchasing, from which members gain supplier rebates. Founded in 2009 by CEO Karen Justice, JFP employs 6 people and is currently a finalist in a number of leadership & innovation award categories.
Nomination Category:Individual Awards Categories
Nomination Sub Category: Female Entrepreneur of the Year – Business Services –10 or Less Employees

Nomination Title: Karen Justice - Bringing Justice to Australian Independent Pet Retailers

Describe for the judges the activities and accomplishments of the nominated entrepreneur since the beginning of July last year (up to 525 words):

I am the owner, founder, CEO and General Manager of Just For Pets (JFP) and ultimately the buck stops with me.

My job is to help our members not only survive but thrive. Without JFP many would fold under corporate pressure. We support their daily business management, negotiate sharp marketing and supply opportunities and lead group strategies and activities the stores could not do alone.

I see leadership as a means through which I can lend my passion, energy and expertise to bring people together to create win-win outcomes that also stand to benefit our greater community.

In the last five years our industry has changed enormously. As one of few growing retail sectors, the competition in pet specialty is fierce and sadly, bloody-minded. In the last two years alone, our two major heavily-funded corporate competitors have almost doubled the number of stores they own around Australia. We have 65; in 2013 they had 161 and now have 290.

Unlike operator-owned JFP member stores, run by passionate and knowledgeable career pet experts for decades and sometimes generations, these corporatised newcomers offer a huge, discounted range and shiny branding, but minimal service and virtually no in-house pet expertise.

After six JFP stores closed in 2013 I knew we faced our battle for survival. As JFP’s CEO, I needed to lead a successful defense strategy and maintain calm and confidence in the group. While anxious on the inside, I remained positive.

In this industry size counts and our focus is on growth. It takes significant group growth to impact my bottom line with a high volume, low margin business model.

I had to think outside the box and find a creative solution. I needed a way to tell shoppers about our point of difference. I stopped and stepped away from the day-to-day. I attended a small business marketing workshop that I thought would be about how to write a press release. I happened to meet an FMCG retail strategist and she helped me create the strategy for the Pet Health Centre (PHC) - our way to show everyone our valuable and authentic point of difference.

I used personal credit cards to fund a pilot, research and advertising and thankfully it was a tremendous success. Shopper research during our pilot showed that 51% of health check registrants were supermarket shoppers – new store traffic. Basket shops increased from an average $56 by 92% to $108 post-health check. JFP’s average store turnover is up 24.7% p.a. reaching $2.52 million.

We had no money to fund such a huge vision but she helped me to measure the significant success of the pilot and then use that information to pitch our top 20 suppliers and secure $315,000 co-funding for national rollout to 50 stores. No store has closed since and business has boomed. There is a way out of anything!

In two years JFP’s revenue has grown 575% and I have reinvested all profits, although I believe greater profitability will follow through new efficiencies and revenue streams.

Provide a brief biography of the nominated entrepreneur (up to 125 words):

I’m a registered nurse, turned pet store owner, turned CEO. I love animals and grew up with a menagerie at my grandparents’ wildlife sanctuary. My passion for nursing began when their dog was badly injured. The vet had no assistant and, aged 12, I helped him conduct life-saving surgery.

At 17, I commenced studying nursing and for 18 years, I worked as a child and family health nurse, including an advisory role in a pharmacy that I eventually managed.

I purchased a pet shop in 2005, which I sold after purchasing the national pet retail buying group that’s become Just For Pets in 2008. I served on the board of the Pet Industry Association of Australia and learn about business and marketing on the job.