A Successful Dakota Business Lending Borrower
May 16, 2019
Working in construction management after college graduation, Jack Lelwica and his wife, Ashley Lelwica got their first dog, a Brittany named Mazie, to be their pet companion and hunting dog.
Little did they know, however, was that this hunting dog would change their career, if not their life, forever. Fast forward through life 8 years later, and Prairie Peak Kennels, Jack and Ashley's very own dog training business, is booming throughout Alexandria, MN and expanding to Fargo. And that’s only the beginning…
Jack first realized his passion for dogs and training when some of his friends began to take notice of how obedient Mazie was in just a few short months of having her. Due to this, Jack started training other dogs on the side as a part-time job. Not long after, Jack and Ashley together pursued dog boarding and training as their full-time career and opened Prairie Peak Kennels in their community of Alexandria, MN.
Jack and Ashley built their kennel, Prairie Peak Kennels, out of a renovated barn on the home they lived at and started out by offering boarding and training. Later, they ventured into breeding their beloved Brittany, Mazie. Since then, they have worked to offer a complete approach to a dog’s life.
“This is where my passion and calling in life is,” shared Jack. “I would love to see a dog’s life flourish and see the owners get the most out of their relationship with their dog. We train dogs to be obedient and, in turn, teach their owners how to get them exercise so they are happy with their life.”
Jack and Ashley built their Fargo kennel to serve and continue that vision by constructing a state-of-the-art, safe, and social environment with both indoor and outdoor play areas for dogs to get the exercise and socialization they need. Overall, they were aiming for a win-win-win situation: a win for the dogs, a win for the owners, and a win for Fetchers.
“With our kennel, the dog and owner both can bond strongly with each other instead of entering a detrimental cycle of negative behavior. In this type of harmonious relationship, the deepest bonds with dogs can be formed.”
After a few years of operating business in Alexandria, Jack and Ashley began looking into how they could continue to grow Prairie Peak Kennels. By doing some market research and working with Paul Smith at the Small Business Development Center, Jack and Ashley saw their next step as expanding their business to a larger market. They looked and discovered that the Fargo/Moorhead community would be a great place to grow Fetchers and decided to pursue the expansion.
“We just didn’t want our small town population to limit our growth and potential,” said Jack. “We felt like our successful business model could tap into a higher potential market area and serve a larger population. We calculated that Fargo would be a great place to try that out.”
Their biggest setback? Finding the necessary financing to make the project possible and affordable. This is when Jack and Ashley were introduced to Dakota Business Lending and the SBA 504 loan program – a small business loan with a lower down payment, fixed market interest rates, and multiple term options. Through the program and a partnership between Dakota Business Lending and Gate City Bank, they were able to purchase the land and construct the facility they needed at a price that would allow them to continue to succeed financially.
Soon after, Fetchers – their own dog boarding and day care facility - was open for business in Fargo.
“A lot of the commercial loans were 20%-40% down, and that wasn’t possible for us. Dakota Business Lending, through the 504 loan, was able to offer a loan at 10%. Without having that low down payment, we wouldn't have been able to make our dream a reality."
This expansion appears to be the step needed to boost the growth of the business. Since then, Jack and Ashley's business has continued to thrive in Fargo with a passionate, animal loving team building the client base, promoting the wide range of dog related services, and continuing to help facilitate a win-win-win situation for all. “It’s been an absolute blessing and it’s everything we’ve hoped for,” shared Jack with a smile. “We’re humbled and grateful to be able to make this dream a reality with the help of Dakota Business Lending and the other team members that put this deal together.”
Today, Fetchers works with local businesses to offer different packages and promotions that are helping working families maintaining a harmonious relationship with their dogs. Due to their success and growth, Fetchers has been featured in the local Fargo newspaper and on local TV news for their positive impact in the community.
Jack and Ashley's vision and goals for Fetchers has extended been far beyond his current markets. Through extensive research and experience, Jack has learned that the European nation as a whole has much better dog obedience. His goal is to help grow everyone’s knowledge in their dog-handling ability and someday diminish that statistical difference. With his passion for finding ways in which dogs can flourish and their owners can see their fullest relational potential, it seems as though he has taken the first steps into accomplishing this goal.
“We’re passionate not just about caring for dogs and facilitating a safe and active play for the day but helping them and their owners have the strongest emotional and obedient relationship and bond,” explained Jack. “This country-wide vision of ours – to help the United States become educated, knowledgeable, and competent with successful dog-handling – is a big goal, but one we believe all can benefit from.”
This passion is among one of Jack’s favorite parts of his job, but it wasn’t always that way. “First, it was more of a pay-the-bills type of goal…I really enjoyed the ability to get out of a 9:00-5:00 type job. Now, it’s a passion-driven goal and career serving dogs and their owners. It’s an honor to take part and to help guide and encourage our team members at Fetchers as they work to become better at what they do everyday and help the community.” His job never feels like work, because it’s what he loves to do!
When asked for a few words of advice in starting up a new business venture, Jack’s suggestions were simple: do your research, develop your values, and go for it. He noted the importance of creating an accurate and conservative business plan to hold your own self accountable to the goals you set. Then, if the business plan shows a profit, to pursue it wholeheartedly.
“If you have the drive and ambition to start a business, make sure the business plan is accurate and it shows that it’s possible to make a profit. If that happens, take the plunge and go for it! Your passion and faith will help you with the rest.”