Michelle Pence is “Pawfect” for Pooler
Story by Cindy Reid | Photography by Shannon Phillips
From elementary classroom teacher to pet retailer entrepreneur, Michelle Pence has pursued a new career as a franchise co-owner of Woof Gang Bakery and Grooming of Savannah. Her passion for animals, and her experience in education, made a “pawfect” fit for loving on other people’s pets and assisting them with pet care. Together with her husband David Pence, she has made it her mission to bring the very best products and healthful experiences to the cherished animals in our lives.
Because they are our faithful companions, our confidants, our best friends, our fur babies, it’s only natural that we would want to treat them as well as possible—especially when it comes to their physical wellbeing. And because people want the very best that they can provide for their beloved animals the pet industry has become a huge and growing business.
Pets, pet products and pet care are all part of a $103.6 billion national industry; 40.5% of revenue is from food and treats alone. U.S. pet owners spend a collective $42.0 billion on pet food and treats annually. (Source: www.spots.com)
“David and I had been looking for a small business to build together. We had already considered a few options, but none was the right fit,” says Michelle.
Enter Woof Gang Bakery and Grooming. The first store of this franchise business opened in South Florida in 2007 and they are a leading specialty retailer of pet food, pet supplies, and professional pet grooming. They now have more than 150 locations open or under development across the country.
A little over a year ago, David (Allstate Insurance-Pence Family Agency Inc) was having lunch with his friend and Allstate customer, Greg Lard, who at the time owned five Woof Gang locations with plans underway to open a sixth. Greg mentioned he was thinking about selling the stores to pursue opportunities in franchise development with the corporate office.
Michelle says, “David—knowing that I’m the person who will be late because I stopped to play with a dog—thought this would be a perfect opportunity for us to be involved in the fast-growing pet industry. “
David was right because about five months after purchasing the Savannah stores, Michelle and David also bought two more existing stores and a grooming salon in Florida. They now own a total of nine locations, six in Savannah/Pooler and three in Florida.
“I like the franchise model to connect with a business model that already has a track record of success. Previous and current owners have had trial and error opportunities that have developed best practices which lead and accelerates the likelihood of success,” says Michelle.
“And we can’t talk about Woof Gang Bakery and Grooming without giving credit to co-founders Paul and Cara Allen. It was their vision and desire to offer premium quality dog food and treats.” She says the support CEO Paul Allen and his team offer is second to none and the franchise organization provides an exemplary model of success.
“I love being a woman business owner. I want women to know their value and worth. Set your goals, be bold, and just go for it! Running eight stores is no small feat but I have an amazing support system. I’m grateful for my husband, my parents, family, and friends who support me daily,” Michelle says. “My efforts are rewarded based upon my creativity and ability to connect with customers. There will be hard days and challenges to face but with grit, passion, and determination, I've got this.”
Pawfect for Pooler
“I love Pooler for its vibrancy,” Michelle says. David is on the Pooler Chamber Executive Board, which works hand in hand with growing tourism and the business community.
“The expansive growth and development show that many small and medium-size businesses like ours have moved here to thrive with the community.”
Their Pooler store combines the best of small town life and big town product selection. It’s the kind of place where the staff remembers your pet’s name—and maybe even yours!
“We believe Pooler offers a great opportunity for everyone and we love our Pooler store,” says Michelle.
Fun & Treats
Each Woof Gang Bakery location is a locally-owned neighborhood store that is geared toward the customer experience, organic healthy pet products and professional grooming services. They make it fun—walk inside and you’ll find pink walls, chandeliers, massive treat tables, chew bars, and all things to celebrate special occasions.
Michelle and David, along with the Woof Gang teams, are involved in numerous community events. “We love celebrating at Woof Gang whether it’s a birthday, happy gotcha day, or a special event supporting a non-profit agency in our community.”
She says, “Our stores are a wonderful place to meet and greet other pet parents and socialize your dog. And receiving affection and treats in the stores before becoming a grooming customer helps the dog to have a positive experience.”
David says, “If you ever come into the stores while Michelle is there, it is not hard to see her on the floor with a dog or two. She also has been known to carry a grooming dog around while they are waiting on the pet parent just to give it some extra love and affection.”
Michelle says, “The most rewarding part of owning the Woof Gang business is the endless supply of puppy kisses, dogs showing off their tricks, and the genuine joy that pet owners experience coming into our stores! “
Fur Family & Joy
Michelle grew up in Tennessee, where she received a master’s degree in early childhood education and taught elementary and middle school before obtaining a real estate license.
After meeting David, she moved to Savannah and joined Berkshire Hathaway Home Services–Cora Bett Thomas Realty Group. She fell in love with the beauty of the coastal area, the rich history and culture, and Savannah because “Savannah loves their fur babies!”
Michelle’s menagerie of previous pets includes dogs and cats, hamsters, guinea pigs, and a bunny named Cadbury. She is the proud pet parent to Lucy, an almost 15 year old Yorkie, and Flynn, an eight year old Australian Shepherd. The pups both love greeting customers at the stores, getting tummy rubs, and sneaking the occasional treat. When they’re not working, they love riding on the golf cart, taking walks, and going to their grandparent’s house.
When David and Michelle are not working in the stores, they love traveling, going to Disney World, kayaking, and riding their bikes. Everybody’s favorite place to end a busy day is hanging out at home together on their screened in patio.
David says, “Michelle is a dynamic and extremely smart person. It is a joy being in business with her because she looks for new ways every day to improve our stores, our processes and to welcome those who choose to put their trust and confidence in us.”
“I feel lucky to have David as a business partner and my life partner,” says Michelle. “We have distinctly different strengths, but that ensures a better balance of skills in the management of the business.”She adds: “David and I want to say thank you to our customers for supporting a small business that is locally and veteran owned. We are honored that you trust us to care for your special four-legged family members. A special thank you goes to Paul Allen and the corporate support staff. Lastly, we are so grateful to our talented groomers and retail team members.”