It was Sherry. She did it. She let the dogs out. And everyone who drove the north/south stretch of US1 between the Melbourne and Eau Gallie Causeways began to notice: big ones, spotted ones, old dogs, puppies, even one with three legs . . . running, jumping, chasing, and splashing— none of them were fighting or snarling. They were instead, living the life of Riley (the dog).
But Sherry Acanfora-Ruohomaki, owner and president of the K9 Kampus in Melbourne, will be the first to tell you it wasn’t part of the plan.
“I was a consultant, working with start-up and high-tech companies, assisting them with business development when I decided it was time to do something for myself, she said.
In her consulting role, she specialized in matching unmet business needs with solutions—and as the idea for starting her own business grew, she realized there was no local place available at the time where she felt comfortable leaving her dog for the day while she worked, or overnight if she traveled.
So, she went to work for herself. Ruohomaki identified a large parcel of land/retail space, built it out and opened the doggie (and kitty) doors in 2010. K9 Kampus started with a 21,000 square-foot facility, offering climate controlled play all day, seven days a week. Additionally, 21 multi-dog suites with camera access and pampered lodging, premiered.
“We offer daycare for cats, dogs and small animals,” Ruohomaki said, noting she often brings her three bunnies to work along with her Cavapoo, Tootsie. At night, the campus is filled with the happy yapping of suite guests, and during sleepovers—a method turned to when the suites are at capacity.
Word spread quickly among pet lovers and their fur babies, and soon the place was full. Seeking ways to remain innovative and bridge the gap of unmet needs, in 2015 Ruohomaki opened the 35,000 square-foot outdoor play area, complete with covered splash pools, colorful climb-ons, and room to roam. It was a hit.
Ruohomaki has been recognized among dog lovers, staff and friends as a business owner dedicated to providing top quality services, with safety first. All animals must pass a temperament test and provide proof of vaccinations. When the vaccinations are due to expire, K9 Kampus staff sends an email alert so you won’t lose time scheduling with your veterinarian.
It’s this kind of forward thinking that has positioned Ruohomaki and K9 Kampus as a community leader, earning accolades from a variety of sources including the Small Business Association’s Florida Small Business Person of the Year Award.
She has a deep love of the community and tries to tie events to charities that help animals, giving often and freely to fundraisers and hosting events such as the annual Holiday party, as well as a Halloween Costume party (cancelled this year due to Hurricane activity) and Anniversary party.
Additionally, she serves as a mentor for WeVenture, is on the Board of the Florida Tech Alumni Association and No Limits Academy, and recently joined the League of Extraordinary Women, a group of 60 high-profile, female business executives, entrepreneurs and philanthropists who will mentor local women and girls aspiring to start and grow their own business enterprises. ◆