BABE #310: JAMEE YOCUM - Owner, BARK on PARK + BARK on MAIN
Ten years ago, a brief conversation between Jamee and her neighbor sparked a long-term dream, and the rest is history. Today, she’s the owner of BARK on PARK and BARK on MAIN, two urban dog boutiques offering daycare, boarding and grooming services. Jamee and her growing team are incredibly knowledgeable and attentive, and treat each dog as their own. Located in Jacksonville, FL, BARK is a place the community wholeheartedly trusts—our CEO, Chelsea, and her pup, Curry, can attest to it. We’re thrilled to have not one but two locations in Jacksonville, and we encourage all pup owners to pay BARK a visit.
Babe you admire and why?
My mother. She was a schoolteacher when I was a child. I had two sisters; she raised all three of us and worked until we graduated high school (and a little bit afterwards).
How do you spend your free time?
When I’m not in my shop, I’m actually a homebody, usually with my husband and my three dogs. I enjoy pottery on the side, and painting. I spend time with my friends. My family doesn’t live here, so I don’t see them often. I like gardening, as well.
Go-to coffee order or adult beverage?
I don’t drink coffee; I drink hot tea. To be exact, I like ginger hot tea. And then, if I order an actual cocktail, it’s a whiskey—Maker’s Mark and ginger ale, with a lime.
What would you eat for your very last meal?
I would have to say stone crab. I’m pescatarian, so stone crab with a side salad, definitely whiskey ginger ale and probably a fully-loaded mashed potato.
What’s your current power anthem?
Whitney Houston, “I Wanna Dance with Somebody.”
Tell us about your hustle.
I am the founder of BARK on PARK and BARK on MAIN, two sister dog boutiques in Jacksonville, FL. Since BARK on MAIN is newer, I’m almost exclusively behind the counter there, getting to know my clients. I start my day at 6:00 in the morning, making sure someone’s there at 6:45 to answer the door for clients dropping off their dogs for boarding, grooming and daycare. I then handle all of the paperwork and payroll duties, make sure everyone is scheduled and shows up on time, handle all of the PR and all of the day-to-day operations, ensuring everything runs smoothly. Basically, I feel like every dog that comes into the store is mine; I’m very much involved, and I make it 100 percent personal. My shops are small and quaint—I feel like every dog owner who comes in every morning is a family member.
What inspired BARK?
I opened BARK in 2009, after working a wide variety of jobs: from a dog boutique down South in Miami in high school and college, to a medical assistant for an OB/GYN, and a bartender. When I moved to Jacksonville, I had four tiny little Yorkies, and no idea what I wanted to do with my life. One day, my neighbor was like, “You’ve been in the animal industry before, you should open up a dog boutique.” I thought: Maybe. That sounds fun. Just a boutique. Little did I know, it took a lot of work. It was a lot of money up front, and not getting any return quickly. Slowly, I decided to start offering services. It was so scary, because I had to put my business and my life in other people’s hands. I eventually hired a groomer, and it flourished from there. Now, I have two facilities with 16 employees.
What role do pets play in your life?
They’re huge. They’re all I think about. I’m a crazy dog person. I love dogs, and I love caring for them, and I love their owners. What’s funny is that my parents never allowed me to have a dog until I was 14, because my sisters were allergic to them. We had outdoor cats, and then finally there were the designer dogs that didn’t shed. We got a Poodle, and then we had a Bichon and then when I was 22 is when I got a Yorkie. Those dogs changed my life.
Tell us about your all-female team.
My team—I love every single one of them. I look for people with good, positive energy. People who question me, people who smile and aren’t always so serious. I also look for people who are punctual. If they show up 15 minutes before their interview, I’m good. I’ve seen a lot of staff who think I owe them everything—besides a paycheck, besides being safe, besides good wellbeing. They think I owe them more than that. I started BARK when I was 24 and I didn’t actually put it into fruition until I was 28, and I do not have a business degree. I’m learning to slowly accept people for who they are, employee-wise.
What’s one skill you need to work on?
HR. I love all of my staff members, and I’ve repeated that before: I feel like I give too many chances to some people. I’m great at communicating, but I don’t think some of my staff realize I have an open door and that they should come to me when there’s a problem. Little things shouldn’t blow up to something huge. HR is definitely something I wish I could hire out for. I hate it. I hate hiring and firing—it’s the worst.
What does your approach to work-life balance look like?
Oh, it’s terrible. I don’t have a hobby because I work so much. When I’m at home, I’m working. Like, I’ve been trying to enjoy Netflix’s “Dead to Me” and all these different little shows I watch, but I work while I’m watching, and my husband gets so mad. He’s like, “Put the phone down” and has to hide my phone. But I’m also trying to step away from the store, to only be called when there’s an emergency. I’m learning. Slowly.
What do you wish your younger self knew before starting your business?
I wish I had done my research, to make sure I was doing everything properly. I screwed up when I first started; I didn’t know what I was doing. I hate to say this, but I do wish I would have stayed in school and just graduated. That way I’d have something to fall back on, if something ever happened to BARK. If you have the ability to go to college on a full ride, take it. I wish I did that.
Career and/or life advice for other babes?
Well for the dog industry: To each their own. Not everyone is built to be in the dog industry. It’s not just “I get to pet dogs all day.” But no matter your industry, if you want to open a business, do it—but do your due diligence. Make sure you have everything organized—your Ts are crossed and your Is are dotted.