No matter how organized or efficient a person is, tackling those ever-growing, honey-do lists and juggling the demands of cooking, fixing, shopping, cleaning, and just keeping it all together — for at least another bustling week — can take a lot of work. Local businesses that cater to busy families and professionals, handle homefront chores and give us the glue we need to make modern life a little bit easier have found a market in Keller.
Rushelle Wetzel worked a high-paying corporate job in Las Colinas until the demands of raising a daughter with special needs prompted a career change. Simply put, she wanted to be her own boss.
“Anything I did, I wanted to make sure my daughter could go with me or I could be there when she needed me,” Rushelle says.
She sold Mary Kay, operated a cleaning service and then — noting what seemed to be “a need for kids who didn’t have a ride to school” — launched Smiley Transportation in 2007.
She started by taking three kids in her Kia Rio, advertising for future business with a door magnet on her car. Soon, she’d attracted enough customers to buy a bigger vehicle. In 2009, she even met her future husband and business partner, Chris Wetzel, when she began transporting his son to and from school.
Together, they quickly grew the business and now, eight Smiley vans transport about 200 students, servicing the entire Keller school district plus a few campuses in Northwest ISD.
Chris even quit his job as a paramedic to focus on Smileys Transportation.
“He was a paramedic for 20 years and had to miss holidays and kids’ events,” Rushelle says. “For the past five years, he’s been able to be a part of all the kid things going on.”
Smiley transports kids door-to-door, whether they have early-morning football practices, head to a sitter’s house after school or need a pick up from evening extracurriculars.
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Recently, Smiley Transportation was named one of the “Top 100 Mom-Owned Businesses in America” by StartupNation, an online resource of information for starting or growing small businesses. The company also won an award for entrepreneurship from the Keller Chamber of Commerce.
Drivers undergo federal, state and local criminal background checks and drug screenings and must show and maintain clear driving records. They have two weeks of training each year, which includes driving and CPR certification. Smiley Transportation also has commercial insurance, on-board cameras and electronic notification for parents when children are dropped off at home. Rates are available by request only.
Contact: 5751 Kroger Drive, Suite 194, Keller, 817-739-6308, www.smileytransportation.com
The Go Get it Guy
J.B. Brunet was entrepreneurial-minded, but says until recently, he didn’t know what he should do. He’d spent 17 years working at Enterprise Rent-A-Car, setting up new stores, marketing the business and building relationships in the community.
After his mom died, he devoted a lot of time helping his dad, running errands, grocery shopping and finishing little jobs around the house. A lightbulb went off when his dad made an off-the-cuff remark: “This is the kind of business you could do.” Realizing his dad was right, Brunet also suspected that Keller had a need for it.
Noticing the growing popularity of concierge businesses and handyman companies, he decided to combine a mix of different services under one heading, “The Go Get it Guy.” Want someone to install that ceiling fan that’s been sitting in the closet under the stairs for three months, or someone to pick up your prescriptions and dry cleaning? How about a ride to the airport or someone to check on your house while you’re on vacation? Brunet says he’s your man.
“A lot of people say, ‘tell me what you do,’ when it’s easier to say what I don’t do,” he says.
His website lists a number of services and prices, such as $15 to pick up stamps, $25 to take a pet to the vet or groomer, and $55-$65 for airport pickup or drop-off.
The tagline “Consider Your ‘To Do List’... DONE!” is emblazoned on Brunet’s truck. He says at first, he thought his concept would appeal mostly to senior citizens. After a few months on the job, he’s realized busy families and professionals also need his assistance. He says the old adage, “time is more valuable than money” rings especially true in his line of work, and there’s an emotional reward in handling chores that help seniors remain independent and stay in their own homes, as well as in helping busy families by “handling the stuff they don’t have time to do.”
“It’s a new concept for a lot of people, but you can pay somebody to give you extra free time,” Brunet says.
Contact: 817-337-8961, www.thegogetitguy.com
Pet Star Concierge
After years of volunteering at the DFW Humane Society and fostering dogs via DFW Lab Rescue, Lori Kelsch says she spent some time contemplating retirement from her retail management career, and gradually, she realized she wanted to expand her longtime, pet-sitting hobby into a small business. In July 2013, she launched Pet Star Concierge with the goal of pampering dogs and cats with personalized care, alleviating worries for busy pet parents.
Keller, she says, has responded with open arms.
“We have clients who use us Monday through Friday because they work and they have dogs who need a midday break,” Kelsch explains. “It’s just as intimate as having a child’s nanny. We work with the pet owners as much as the pets to make sure the pet is getting everything they need.”
With services that go far beyond just potty breaks and dog walking, Kelsch says a pet concierge does “everything.” For professionals who work long days or travel often, a concierge will stop by in the middle of the day to let Fido out for a break or chauffeur him to his veterinarian appointment, fix Fifi’s special diet breakfast or give her medication and even spend the night with Rover, who may get lonely by himself.
“People always say things like, ‘My pet needs a massage after her walk, but I’m sure you don’t do that,’ and I say, ‘Sure we do.’ Or you’ve got a special needs pet who needs medication? We can do that. Special needs and unusual routines — we cater to those types of visits.”
Kelsch and her staff of five concierges serve the 76248 and 76244 ZIP codes and communicate consistently with owners, leaving notes on kitchen counters — bone shaped, of course, and tied with little bows. They alsouse a GPS app, Map My Dog Walk, so owners can track where the dog and concierge are during their walks.
“If we’re circling a playground that the owner knows is a favorite spot,” she says, “we can send a text and they can see exactly where we are.”
A 30-minute, midday home visit is $21 for up to two pets, and a 45-minute walk is $29 for up to two dogs, according to the website.
Pet Star Concierge specialists are trained in pet first aid and pet CPR, and Kelsch says all workers undergo criminal background checks. The business is bonded and insured. Clients are given a complimentary consultation before services begin. The assessment includes a complete profile of immunizations, current veterinary information, medical history, dietary needs and activity preferences.
Contact: 817-475-6225, www.petstarconcierge.com
Toward the end of a long, busy day, thoughts frequently turn to that not-so-easy-to-answer question, “What’s for dinner?”
Cindy Dunklin and daughter Staci Harris, a 1997 Keller High grad, opened the North Richland Hills Dream Dinners store in 2006 to help provide an answer. Harris says they heard about the opportunity because her brother was dating the daughter of one of the first franchise holders in Grapevine.
“My brother was talking about how great the food was, and my mom would do anything to feed that child,” Harris says with a laugh.
The concept is simple. Dream Dinners does the hard work of planning, purchasing and organizing all the ingredients for 17 different entrees every month. On average, clients use their Dream Dinners three or four times a week at a cost of around $200 for the month. For an extra $25, staff members also will prepare the client’s month of meals and simply have them ready for pickup.
Clients choose a minimum of 36 servings, divided into three- or six-portion entrees, to purchase for the month. A meal assembly session takes about an hour and the owners of some new “home-cooked” dinners transport them home in a cooler. The meals are ready for the freezer and come with specific preparation instructions. Once thawed, most take about a half-hour to cook.
Harris says recipes can be tweaked to lower fat content or address special dietary needs. For instance, customers with gluten sensitivities might bring their own soy sauce. Each month, Dream Dinners features a number of new heart-healthy entrees, providing nutrition information for all recipes. Popular meals include Pub-Style Chicken, Kentucky Pork Chops, Steak Gorgonzola and Italian Stuffed Shells.
“There’s a really nice balance between chicken, pork and seafood each month,” Harris says.
While the mother-daughter duo say they have lots of clients from Keller and the Alliance area, others come from as far away as Decatur and Cleburne.
Dream Dinners has a special introductory offer of 18 servings for $74.95. There is no membership required. While frequent customers earn rewards, they can choose which months they participate.
Contact: 8528 Davis Blvd., North Richland Hills, 817-788-8958, www.dreamdinners.com