The owner of Puff & Fluff Grooming & Pet Sitting lets the fur fly.

Liz Illg

Written by Leah LeMoine Category: Spotlight Issue: June 2016
Group Free

 

She was born an Iowa farm girl, but Liz Illg was always destined for Phoenix – and for pets. “1995 was my first year I got a dog. We used to travel to Phoenix, and I named my dog Phoenix,” she says. “I was like, ‘I’m going to move to Phoenix one day.’ Now, looking back, I kind of built my life out when I was a child.” Little Liz would no doubt be terribly proud of Grown-Up Liz, who bought the 400-square-foot Puff & Fluff Grooming & Pet Sitting spa at Bethany Home Road and 16th Street in 2013 and in February of this year expanded her empire with an Arcadia location. It all started with a pet-sitting side gig during her college days. “I just took building relationships one person at a time,” she says. After meeting two of her four fur babies (Tilly and Rosie, pictured), we chatted with Illg about supporting local businesses, dog hair trends and pet spa lobby surprises.

YOUR PET ENTREPRENEURSHIP STARTED EARLY WITH INVENTION CONVENTION, A SCIENCE PROGRAM THAT ENCOURAGED KIDS TO CREATE THEIR OWN PRODUCTS. WHAT DID YOU MAKE?

I created a dish made of buffalo jerky because my grandpa was a buffalo farmer. My mom and I made this buffalo jerky bowl and we put kibble in it and I called it He Can Eat the Dish. I’ve always had a passion for animals and I would beg my parents for years, “Give me a dog, give me a dog.” My grandparents actually bought me my first dog when I was 9.

YOU BOUGHT PUFF & FLUFF AFTER BURNING OUT AT A CORPORATE JOB. HAVE YOU FOUND THE FULFILLMENT AND COMMUNITY YOU WERE SEARCHING FOR?

I love my business. It’s the core of me. It’s changed my life, it’s changed the lives of people around me. It’s phenomenal... I’m just like my  customers. We go to the local spots and I’m part of the community just like you are. I own a small business and I need the local community to support my business. My girls run over to Luci’s [Healthy Marketplace] all the time, and I’m paying them. It’s just this awesome circle effect of how the universe of this local aspect comes along. It’s feeding the owners’ kids, you know? Come to us because we’re going to keep it local.

ARE THERE ANY HOT GROOMING TRENDS FOR PETS? IS THERE A PUPPY EQUIVALENT OF JENNIFER ANISTON'S FAMED "RACHEL" HAIRCUT?

Nail polish is a trend that’s in. The newest one is hair color for dogs, like neon pink. Dressing your dog up. Bow ties are so popular for boy dogs because you can add a bow tie to a collar, which is really convenient. We sell a lot of that in our boutique. Specialty cuts – a lot of dogs get one length all over, and usually a Teddy bear face. A Teddy bear face is a very rounded face that has no angular fashion to it. For instance, a Westie or a Yorkie have very angular faces. People love that we have fake hair on the wall. People love to touch and feel what hair started with and what it will go down to. We really try to educate people in grooming.

 WHAT KIND OF SHENANIGANS GO ON AT A PET GROOMING SPA?

Dogs make accidents in the front lobby all the time. Customers are so mortified and we always say, “It’s not the first and it’s definitely not the last... Honey, this is our job. This is what we deal with.” Another funny thing is people always come in and go, “Why is it more expensive for my dog to get groomed than for me to get a haircut?” We always say, “Well, we do shampoo, we do conditioner, we clean their ears, we trim their nails.” There’s this [list] of 10 things why it costs more, and one of them is the likelihood of you making an accident on your hairstylist is very much lower compared to what is actually going to happen when a dog is being worked on.