Meet Breann Lutes: aged 24, entrepreneur. Breann owns Squeaky Paws, a home-based dog grooming shop in Lee County. In 2008, she graduated from high school in Madison County, a thriving central Kentucky community and a college town. There, the economy is strong and you’re just a short drive to tens of thousands of potential jobs in Lexington, KY. Most would have expected Breann to make her home there. Breann went in the opposite direction; she moved away from the Bluegrass and into the mountains, heading to Lee County with her mother and sister.
In Lee County, she struggled to find conventional employment. Finding a job wasn’t easy in a community where the majority of jobs and opportunities rested with the school system and county government, two areas where outsiders weren’t routinely hired. She and her mother rented a store-front in Beattyville and combined their businesses. Her mother made candles and sold primitive arts and crafts, but Breann wanted to offer something different. She had spent her high school years apprenticing and assisting a dog groomer in Berea, and she was confident she had the skills to provide a quality service in her own grooming business.
For a year, the mother-daughter entrepreneurial duo struggled to pay the bills and create enough cashflow to make a decent living. Though their businesses were growing, they didn’t have enough income to justify the price of the property on Main Street. They decided to close shop and reassess their situation.
During this period, the religious Breann met a young man from her church and the two were married in 2010. Her mother went to work for a local campground. Breann and her husband rented a small house and opened up shop in their home. Breann continued to get her name out and grow her clientele while her husband worked for a local construction company.
Eventually, the couple bought a home of their own. With her husband’s construction skills, and with support from friends and family, the young couple built an addition to house the grooming business. This saved on travel. It also saved on daycare: Breann and her husband had added to their family. Being able to continue working from home allowed her to care for her baby daughter.
Today, “Squeaky Paws” is a thriving business with more than 200 customers. Without loans or grants, a young woman, with the support of family and friends, has created a niche that enriches the community and provides hera good income. Following a path few outsiders would choose or recommend, she has developed a steady clientele, is the recommended groomer for walk-ins around the county, and is training an assistant with the idea of one day expanding her business.
Loved by her family, respected by the community, and admired by her friends; Breann has ignored the negatives about eastern Kentucky and has found the best elements of living in small town Appalachia. She’s living the life she wants to live,and on her own terms. She’s a successful entrepreneur, a loving wife and mother, and has an eye toward growth and greater prosperity.