Hardin Local Startups

STARTUP: Lost Pounds Fitness & Pet Center
PROPRIETORS:  Toshie Singleton-Murrell and Norma Cooper
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We often hear about the obesity problem in America, but did you know it’s a problem for pets too? While obesity affects over thirty five percent of our people population, almost sixty percent of pets are either overweight or obese. This was the catalyst for founding Lost Pounds Fitness & Pet Center in Radcliff. What does this have to do with startup businesses? Read on.  It’s an interesting story.

In January, 2015 Toshie Singleton Murrell asked a question on Facebook: “If you could do anything in the world, what would it be?” Toshie was looking for someone to help with pet rescues. Norma Cooper, a fellow church member saw the post and responded and It wasn’t long after when they founded Forever Homes for Paws, a non-profit corporation seeking to help coordinate efforts with other pet rescue organizations in our area. Rather than having their own shelter, they chose to help raise funds and help these organizations find permanent and foster homes for abandoned, lost, and surrendered pets. Forever Homes for Paws has already helped with the adoption and fostering of over 100 pets since they were founded in 2015.

But rescuing pets wasn’t enough. Toshie had this crazy idea about trying to promote pet fitness and health by starting a company that focused on helping pet owners and their pets stay fit by exercising together. In full disclosure, I’ve known Toshie for many years and when she mentioned this idea to me, my first reaction was…..”Uh…, are you serious?”  While it sounded interesting, I could have never imagined trying to make a business out of it.  But when Toshie gets something in her head, you may as well just go along or get out of the way, because she will doggedly make it happen, regardless of naysayers. She managed to talk Norma into the idea and they jointly formed the new company, Lost Pounds Fitness & Pet Center.

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They purchased an abandoned, run down building in Radcliff and with a substantial investment, renovated it to the showplace it is today. Seriously, photos cannot do this place justice. You have to visit it to fully grasp the planning, design, and quality of their facility. When you walk in, you immediately recognize the quality that went into their dream. The granite countertops, tile walls, a fully functioning laundry, a kitchen, a bathing station, a top notch boarding kennel, and of course an incredible exercise area were all designed for cleanliness, reliability, and comfort for both pets and their owners. You’ll also be greeted with the sound of barking, running, and playing as you look into the large and immaculate play room for dogs. Outside is nearly an acre of wide open spaces for the dogs to run and play. Unlike most animal centers, you will not be assaulted with the odor of animal waste. Cleanliness is an obsession with them. If there’s an accident, the results will be gone in minutes. On any given day you may see as many as twenty dogs running and playing. But it is a spa after all, so when they get tired, there are plenty of beds for the dogs – not just a dirty old blanket for them to lay on, but an actual cot for their comfort.

denaMs. Cooper and Ms. Murrell work tirelessly to maintain and grow their business, but when I interviewed them, they insisted I mention Ms. Dena Hilton, the facility manager, claiming she is the backbone of the business. Ms. Hilton has many years experience working in pet facilities and according to Toshie, “getting her to work here was a Godsend.” If you’re fortunate enough to use their daycare facilities, you’ll no doubt know Dena. Her personality shines and her love of dogs is on full display when you see her interacting with them during playtime. You can hear her narrating the many videos she posts on their Facebook page.

With the understanding that a pet fitness center alone would be unlikely to sustain itself as a business, they added several important services to the business. They describe their services as daycare, boarding, grooming, and a salon and spa for pets. They opened their facility in March of this year with great fanfare. Since then, they’ve been featured on television news, in newspapers and magazines. They’ve also heard from people that saw the news of their business from as far away as Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York.

If you visit, you’ll likely see some young people working and interacting with the pets. These are kids who are volunteering to help with the rescue animals that are being socialized with daycare pets. It’s not unusual to find a few rescues in the Lost Pounds facility.  These are ones being cared for under the auspices of their Forever Homes for Paws rescue organization. While Forever Homes for Paws does not officially serve as a rescue facility, there are times when Toshie and Norma have come across one that no one else would help and they simply cannot say no them. Toshie wants to make sure the public understands that Lost Pounds and Forever Homes for Paws should not be considered a drop off location for abandoned or lost pets;  however, if you call them in need, they will do what they can to find a facility to help. Forever Homes for Paws is also teaming up with Big Brothers Big Sisters to offer time with pets – just for fun for both Bigs and Littles in that organization.

I’m a frequent customer of Lost Pounds. Having three dogs can sometimes be a challenge to allow them to get the exercise they need, so once a week or so, I take them to Lost Pounds for a play date. They inevitably come home exhausted from having played hard all day – a good sign they’re getting some good exercise and much needed socialization with other dogs.

Lost Pounds has gone the extra mile to provide an outstanding facility for any of their services and if you choose to use them, you’ll find their rates are less expensive than other local alternatives. They even offer multi-dog discounts. Toshie and Norma encourage people to visit and take a tour of their facility.

Ms. Cooper retired as the chief of the protocol office for the Recruiting Command at Fort Knox in 2015 offering years of management experience. And there’s plenty of business background too. Ms. Murrell has been the owner and principal broker at Network Realty for twenty one years. They did not seek any outside investment for their enterprise, choosing to use conventional financing and their own personal investments to get the business off the ground. Their business continues to grow and they look forward to a long and prosperous business in our community. They also continue to operate Forever Homes for Paws, advocating on behalf of pets needing homes in our area.

This column about business startups in our area hopes to focus on new businesses like Lost Pounds. They exemplify the entrepreneurial spirit. They’ve invested at substantial risk, they’ve poured their hearts and souls into the effort, and they’ve clearly demonstrated the will to make it work. Best of all, you’ll find their friendly faces and love of animals a refreshing change from typical retail type of businesses. Click on the Hardin Local startup badge below to learn how you could be featured in this column.

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