Before becoming the Critter Sitter, Stacy Voegele had never given an animal an injection.
But when the owners of Blueberry, a fluffy gray cat, left home for a few days in 2010, they needed someone they could depend upon to administer their furry friend’s daily insulin.
“That’s when I fell in love with providing the service,” Voegele said. “They were so glad I was there to do it.”
As the owner of two anxious dogs who don’t do well at kennels, Voegele understood the need for in-home animal care for those with special needs pets.
“I could not believe the demand,” she said.
She started Critter Sitter the next year. Since then, she’s grown the business from just herself serving seven clients. Today, she has 12 sitters in Bismarck-Mandan, three in Grand Forks and she’s expanding to Minot in a month, serving more than 500 clients.
It’s that success that earned Voegele the title of Bismarck-Mandan Chamber of Commerce New Entrepreneur of the Year.
About 400 local business people gathered to recognize Voegele and others Thursday at the Chamber’s annual awards banquet, Celebrate Bismarck-Mandan.
“It’s just a huge honor,” Voegele said.
Her next goal is adding service in Fargo. And eventually she aims to operate a 24-hour “pet hotel” care facility, complete with a salon and rooms for dogs, cats, birds and reptiles.
Celebrate Bismarck-Mandan also awarded Mattress Firm franchisee Jason Sellers with the title of Small Business Person of the Year.
Since starting in 2014, Sellers has opened 10 locations in the state.
“I can’t just do that by myself,” said Sellers, adding he is most proud of the strides he sees his employees making. “They have the desire and passion to help our guests that goes to the same passion I had when I opened my first store.”
Sellers said it’s his goal to change the experience people have when buying a mattress from a confusing and daunting task to one that’s actually enjoyable.
“We have clients come in and drop off cookies all the time because we did something they didn’t expect,” he said.
And as people become more and more aware of the importance of sleep, Sellers knows his product can be the difference that allows them to rise the next day pain free, which is why he trains employees to focus on the person and less on trying to sell a mattress.
Other Celebrate Bismarck-Mandan awardees include Starion Bank, recipient of the Golden Eagle award for its support of the military; Eide Bailly, recipient of the Granite Award for years in service; and Anyleaks, recipient of the Mike Fink Award for long-term continuous growth and community service.