You wouldn’t be wrong if you said that Dr. Lisa Aumiller has taken the road less traveled. She did. Seven years ago, when she came to a crossroads in her career as a veterinarian, she decided to get off the traditional career path by loading up her Chrysler Pacifica with her stethoscope and microscope in hand and treating dogs and cats along the way.
Today, Dr. Aumiller, the founder and owner of HousePaws Mobile Veterinary Service, a Mount Laurel-based business that specializes in bringing veterinary services to the home, was named the U.S. Small Business Administration’s (SBA) 2017 New Jersey Small Business Person of the Year. The award is part of SBA’s
According to SBA New Jersey District Director Al Titone, Dr. Aumiller was nominated for the award by staff members of HousePaws Mobile Veterinary Service and was selected for the award based on criteria that include: Staying Power (a substantial history of an established business); Growth in Number of Employees; Increase in Sales; Financial Strength of the Company; Innovativeness of Product or Service Offered; Response to Adversity; Contributions to Aid Community Oriented Projects; and being Aided by the Programs and Services of the SBA.
“When I graduated from Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine on Virginia Tech’s campus in 1999, I started what I thought was my dream career as a veterinarian,” said Dr. Aumiller. “But after 11 years in practice, I became disenchanted with how little time I was getting to spend with my patients and their owners, as well as how corporate and sterile the veterinary field had become for me.”
So she left the traditional practice and never looked back. After about a year out on the road, HousePaws Mobile Veterinarian Service began to take off. While Dr. Aumiller’s patient list was growing, so was the expense of renting space at Animal Hospitals to perform surgeries. “The cost of renting that space was about $7,000 a month,” said Dr. Aumiller. “I knew that I would have to find a space of my own in order to cut down my expenses.”
That’s when she turned to Firstrust Bank, a Pennsylvania-based bank that works with the SBA to provide capital to small businesses like Dr. Aumiller. Although she didn’t have quite two years in business at the time, the loan officer from Firstrust rode with Dr. Aumiller a half-day as she tended to her patients on the road. So impressed with the business model, the loan officer was convinced that HousePaws would be able to carry a $1 million loan. So in June of 2011 the SBA loan was approved and by 2012 HousePaws had its first location in Mount Laurel.
“I can honestly say that SBA loan was the springboard to the success we enjoy today,” said Dr. Lisa. “We used $750,000 of the loan to purchase the building and $250,000 for renovations. The loan just came at a critical time for the business and without a doubt allowed us to accelerate our growth.”
Today, HousePaws Mobile Veterinary Service has grown to 58 employees and has doubled sales each year since its start in 2010. Today, the practice has eight mobile units, two ambulances and 13 veterinarians, who see patients in Burlington, Camden and Gloucester Counties. Recently those services have expanded to the areas of Swedesboro, Philadelphia and Lower Bucks County. SBA and Firstust Bank provided additional loans totaling $700,000 that helped the practice to expand into new locations in Atco and Morrisville, PA. The newer facilities help to provide routine surgeries and have made it easier for HousePaws to expand into these territories.
“We’re a mash up of traditional brick and mortar veterinary practice specializing in providing mobile veterinary services,” said Dr. Aumiller. “We are on the road 85 percent of the time. My life as a mobile vet is very exciting. I love meeting the pets and human companions in their own environment. It adds depth to being a vet that I previously never experienced.”
The practice sees dogs, cats and fury animals that include rabbits, gerbils, guinea pigs, ferrets, hamsters, mice, rats, hedgehogs and chinchillas. Services include, semi-annual physical examinations, wellness and preventive care plans, customized vaccination protocols, titer testing, wellness testing, x-rays, dentistry, pharmacy, prescription food, prescription delivery, nutritional counseling, as well as surgical procedures including spay/neuter, de-scenting, intestinal surgeries, orthopedic repairs, dental and eye surgeries.
“When a small business owner, like Dr. Aumiller, is so passionate about their lifework, it is reflected in their level of success,” said Titone. “The partnerships that we have developed with lenders like Firstrust Bank enable us to provide the necessary capital to small businesses like HousePaws Mobile Veterinary Service. You could not ask for a better representative for the 2017 New Jersey Small Business Person of the Year award. Dr. Aumiller epitomizes the American dream that each and every small business owner aims to achieve.”
In addition to the services provided under HousePaws Mobile Veterinary Service, there are two other companies that add to the offerings. In 2015, Dr. Aumiller merged with Bathing Beauties Mobile Pet Grooming, a business that was started in 2001. “It just made perfect sense for us to combine and offer our clients a wide array of mobile grooming services,” said Dr. Aumiller.
In 2014, a client and local business owner, Bob Bersin of In-Home Kitty Kare specifically approached Dr. Lisa with an idea for emergency transportation services. Bersin came up with the name of P.E.T.S. (Pet Taxi Emergency Transport Service) and Dr. Aumiller took off with the concept. Aware of the need for a 24/7 emergency transportation service, Dr. Lisa decided to invest in P.E.T.S. and bring her expertise of being a mobile vet to an ambulance service. She has partnered with many local veterinarians and hospitals to give pets the immediate care they need in an emergency situation.
With the rapid expansion of the business, Dr. Aumiller points to her support system both at work and home. “Having good people, four managers and outside advisers, who help me to manage the growth, is a big help,” said Dr. Aumiller. “I am putting three long days in as a practicing veterinarian. The other two days I wear my administrative hat and tend to the paperwork and make the business decisions that need to get done. It’s a challenge, but not an unwelcome challenge.”
Also helping with the day-to-day challenges in the business and on the home front is Dr. Aumiller’s husband Dr. Brad Anderson and owner of the Anderson Chiropractic Neurology Center, which is conveniently located adjacent to HousePaws Mt. Laurel location. “I cannot tell you how much it means to have a supportive partner, like Brad. Especially with three young children, four dogs, four cats and two guinea pigs, it’s a lot to juggle. I like to say it is total chaos, but a controlled chaos and having Brad makes it that much easier to balance it all.”
When she is not working, she is putting time in with her charity the Boo Tiki Fund, a nonprofit that assists pet owners by providing funding for veterinary care. Last year, the HousePaws Mobile Veterinary Service held its second annual Doggy Dip at The Laurel Creek Country Club in Mount Laurel. The event was a benefit for the fund, which has allowed HousePaws staff to bring spay and neuter services to Antigua and Suriname (South America). Locally, the fund has enabled HousePaws vets to partner with the Pennsylvania SPCA to offer free wellness visits to the pets of the homeless and the underprivileged community in Philadelphia.
According to Titone, Dr. Aumiller will compete for the National Small Business Person of the Year Award. She will be honored and recognized during National Small BusinessWeek (April 30 – May 6) ceremonies held in Washington, D.C., where SBA Administrator Linda McMahon will announce the winner of the 2017 National Small Business Person of the Year award.Related Articles: