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If you’re married, you may have had the experience where someone asks both you and your spouse the same question and get either strikingly similar responses or two totally different ones. We thought it would be fun to share the responses we received from Kip Kirby, owner of East Bay Dog Spot, a dog training center in Gulf Breeze, FL and her husband John Seal who not only helps with the business end but gets credit for the building’s décor.
Kip and John have been some of the nicest customers we’ve ever worked with and just all around good people. Here’s what they had to say when asked about their experiences with our wall decals and their dog training business.
MWW: How did you two meet and how long have you been together?
Kip: John and I met online through Match.com. He was living in Fort Myers, FL and playing bass guitar in classic rock bands. I was living in Nashville and working as a trainer with PetSmart, as well as writing artist bios and articles for music magazines. I saw his picture one night and was struck by our many similarities even though he was British and had spent his career in Silicon Valley out in California. The connection between us was instant and immediate. Within three weeks, we had written over 350 long emails to each other. Then we started talking through Facetime. A month later, I flew to Fort Myers to meet him in person and realized I’d fallen in love. Three months after that, John moved to Nashville to be with me, and we were married two years ago on a tiny remote island off the coast of St. Thomas. I think of us as a love story that doesn’t end – with dogs.
John: I was living in Fort Myers and had been on Match.com for a couple of months. I was instantly impressed when she contacted me, and sent me a lovely long email about her experiences. None of the others had opened up so easily and fully when they responded. She was incredibly talented, and has had a great and varied career. As the emails went on, I learned more about her, but also learned a lot about myself. I think this is the biggest difference at this point in my life. It was an intense and deep beginning to our relationship which has continued to this day. It didn’t take long before I fell in love with her. I learned from Kip how to be in a relationship (and am still learning!). She is certainly the best thing that has happened in my life, and has brought out in me so many characteristics that I never really knew I had.
MWW: What do you love about where you live?
Kip: What don’t we love? Moving to Gulf Breeze this year was the best thing we’ve ever done! This part of the Florida Panhandle is laid-back, friendly and welcoming. We live only 15 minutes from Navarre Beach and half an hour from Pensacola Beach. It’s like being on vacation, only we never have to leave! We take our Shelties with us when we eat out on restaurant decks and patios, and there’s even an open stretch of white sand and blue surf on Pensacola Beach that is dog-friendly. For us, life doesn’t get any better than this.
John: The proximity to the beach. I was brought up a ten-minute walk away from the beach in the South of England (Bournemouth). Although the weather was not often very nice, I always liked being there. When Kip sold her house in Nashville, we had a very short time to find a new home. Florida was on our list of maybes, and one night while Kip was at one of her classes, I started searching on the Florida coast. By the time she came home, I told her “I think I found our dream house.” This area is very laid back and relaxed, but it is so nice to be back close to the beach again.
MWW: How did you find out about My Wonderful Walls?
John: We were searching on Google for dog stickers for the new dog training center to decorate the walls. I found the My Wonderful Walls website, and went over it again and again, looking at how other customers had used the artwork to create scenes. The price seemed at first a little higher than we planned to pay, but the results paid off.
Kip: We knew we wanted to do something different for East Bay Dog Spot, our new dog training business. The building had previously housed an air conditioning repair service, so it was very plain and had no personality. Painting the whole place in bright, cheerful colors was the obvious first step – but what else could we do to add flair and make it feel like a place people would want to bring their puppies? John went online one evening and started looking at all kinds of decals, stickers and “wall art.” I’ll never forget how excited he was when he discovered My Wonderful Walls and saw the Paws Park Wall Sticker Kit.
Seeing them displayed in other people’s “real life settings” gave John the concept of how to do something similar in our dog training center, and he placed our order. From the beginning, our whole Puppy Play Area was planned around My Wonderful Walls and your whimsical doggie stickers. And knowing we could move them around and use them over and over if we wanted to change the scene was another big selling point.
MWW: Have you used wall decals in the past and if so what was your experience?
John and Kip: Never! This was a first for us! We’d used stickers and magnets on cars and vans. Some were magnetic, some were “peel and stick.” We had no idea wall stickers could be removable – and the fact that yours were “fabric” told us they weren’t going to be like anything else we saw on the internet!
MWW: Did you consider any of our other products instead of the Paws Park Wall Sticker Kit? If so what made you decide on it.
John: Clearly the Paws Park set is the most appropriate for our particular application. I have not seen anything else like it.
Kip: No, because Paws Park was absolutely PERFECT for us! It’s as if the artist designed these whimsical little animal caricatures just for me! I smile every time I walk into the building and look at them while I’m setting up for a training session or a class. People oooh and aaaah over them, and always ask us who painted them on the wall for us? We’re tempted to say “we did,” but we admit the truth: we bought them, and we’re very glad we did!
MWW: What made you choose to use stickers versus our Paws Park Wall Stencil Kit?
John: I really liked the idea of the stickers, as they are easy to apply and stay in place really easily. The stickers have depth and tone and the characters and expressions of the animals are adorable! I’m not sure I could capture that with a stencil kit.
Kip: For me, the most amazing part is that they are fully removable and reusable should we decide to move our training facility. They look like paintings – yet they’re stickers, and stickers you can peel off and use over and over. Phenomenal concept!
MWW: Would you change anything about the process of creating a wall mural with our stickers?
John: From my first concept to the finished product, everything seemed to flow very easily. We originally were only going to use one green color for the grass hills, but quickly realized that it would not give us the perceived depth we wanted for the scene. The examples by other customers were perhaps the best influence on us deciding to use the product.
Kip: When John told me he wanted to add a much darker green background hill for perspective, I was nervous because I thought the scene looked so nice already. But he was right: adding the extra color and hill was a very important touch for dimension.
MWW: What made you decide to create a mural in your business? What difference does the mural make in how your customers perceive your business?
John: We didn’t start out deciding on a mural. We wanted to add a lively, warm, and lighthearted feel to the room, and planned to use dog-related stickers. One evening when I was searching on Google, I discovered the “paws” layout, and I got totally blown away by the idea. Your examples by other customers on your site really caught my attention, and inspired me to start thinking about a design for us. As you can see, I copied many of the other examples posted by your users.
Kip: What a great question! The Park Paws decal set makes ALL the difference in how customers perceive our business – and quite honestly, even how we perceive our business. How could you not walk through the front door each day and break into a happy grin the minute you look over at the mural? For me, seeing John creating that mural wall in the front reception area was a turning point in believing my business would be a huge success.
MWW: How long have you been a dog trainer? Do you both work with the dogs?
Kip: I’ve been working with dogs since 1996 when I got my first dog, a Sheltie named Soundbite. Because of her, I started doing obedience and agility and we became only the second agility team in Tennessee to earn the AKC’s prestigious MACH and USDAA’s ADCH titles in 2002. Before starting my own private dog training business in Nashville, I spent five years as a lead trainer for PetSmart teaching group classes. In May, John and I sold our house in Nashville and relocated to Gulf Breeze, FL where we’ve opened East Bay Dog Spot, the area’s first-ever store-front training business!
John isn’t a trainer, but I couldn’t do what I do without his help and support in the background. If it weren’t for him, my building wouldn’t look the way it does – and I wouldn’t have known about My Wonderful Walls or the Paws Park decal set! He also takes care of paperwork on the night of new group classes so that I can greet people coming in.
MWW: What do you like most about working with animals?
Kip: I love this question. The answer is: everything! I love the process of “reading dogs” and helping pet parents be able to communicate better with their dogs. The process of watching dogs learn good manners, new skills and even tricks through proper training never stops being fascinating to me. I don’t always have patience in my own life – but I always have endless patience with animals. I get great satisfaction from helping people problem-solve issues and bring out the best in their own dogs.
MWW: What was the biggest challenge starting your new business?
Kip: I’d say the biggest challenge was converting the tiny air conditioning installation and repair building into a place people will want to come with their dogs! It isn’t a fancy building, so eye appeal and atmosphere are really important. Also the financial commitment was a challenge. In Nashville, I went to people’s homes to train their dogs. Having a store-front location means monthly rent, utility bills, insurance coverage and responsibilities. Hopefully the investment will pay off! But dog training is my passion, so I’m optimistic that our leap of faith will prove to be the best step I’ve ever taken.
MWW: What advice would you give to other small businesses just starting out?
Kip: Naturally, building a new business doesn’t happen overnight. I’ve been going out into the community, meeting with vets and groomers and everyone I can think of who might be interested. I’ve visited the local Chamber of Commerce, put my cards out at various businesses, and will be getting PROFESSIONAL DOG TRAINER t-shirts I can wear with my East Bay Dog Spot logo prominently displayed. Invest your time in your community and also create a very strong online presence with websites, Facebook pages, and YouTube videos.
MWW: Do you have your own pets? What are their names, ages, breeds?
Kip: John laughs when I say we “only” have three dogs right now, but I had six at one time, so this doesn’t seem like that many to me, especially as the oldest one is a senior at nearly 16 years of age. Our current dogs are all Shelties: D-Brit Seal (3 and a half), Leica (10 months) and Orbit (almost 16!). We are about to get a brand new puppy – it will be another blue merle Sheltie. My goal is that she’ll be a great demo dog for me in my dog training business and eventually can become my first-ever therapy dog, so she and I can visit hospitals and hospices together.
MWW: Anything else you’d like us to know?
Kip: Quite honestly, I can’t imagine East Bay Dog Spot without this eye-catching, conversation-starter for all my clients and students to marvel at as they walk through the front door! The cartoon-like characters cheer me up each time I look at them, and they never fail to get comments from people seeing the wall for the first time. John and I aren’t artists, but Paws Park makes it look like we are. From the bottom of my heart, thank you for producing (selling) such an exceptional product.
John: These stickers are of the highest quality, and beautifully designed. The artist was very creative, and has a wonderful “feel” for her subjects. I loved the reality and depth, but also the inclusion of a cartoon-like feel to them.
Thanks John and Kip for answering all those questions. We love seeing a couple so in love and so enthusiastic about their future! We wish you all the best with the East Bay Dog Spot.
Kip Kirby has been working with and training dogs since 1996. She was a regular contributor to Clean Run Magazine and produced a full-length agility training DVD entitled “Dial Up the Distance” hosted by nationally-recognized instructor Kristy Netzer.
Kip is also the recipient of a prestigious gold medal award from Dog Writers Association of America for her original article, “Agility Dogs on the Road,” originally published by Agility Action Magazine (2005).
If you are in the Gulf Breeze, Florida area and would like your dog to work with Kip give her a call at (850) 503-1094 or visit the East Bay Dog Spot online.