As he neared completion of his marketing degree at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, Alex Sikich was not sure of what would come next. He knew he liked animals; while in college he had a couple of dogs and, in his words, a badly matted cat.

“I don’t remember what exactly sparked me to think about going into pet grooming,” he said. “I was embarrassed to take the cat anywhere because I had let it get too out of hand and so I shaved it myself. That was when I realized I could do this.”

Sikich discovered a grooming school affiliated with the Petropolis boarding and training facility in Chesterfield, Missouri. There, he found a passion, a career and a partner for life. Once he received his certification, he worked at Petropolis, where he met Candace Rickert, who would become both his wife and business partner.

A few years after moving back to Southern Illinois, the pair opened their own pet grooming business, Sudzy Paws in Carterville, where both work to keep area dogs and cats looking their best.

“We’re both certified and that’s something you don’t find often in our area. In reality, anyone could say that they are a groomer, but we do a lot of dangerous things with scissors and clippers and, unfortunately some people don’t know what they are doing,” he said. “Everything we do is the way it should be done and I think that is important.”

Apparently, so do Sudzy Paws’ clients because Sikich says the company has been busy ever since they started.

“I think our biggest surprise has been how busy we have been. It’s been pretty crazy, especially for us just being a two-person operation,” he said.

Even with a degree in business marketing, he says most of his clients hear about Sudzy Paws from other clients.

“We really don’t do much marketing and advertising these days. It’s mostly word-of-mouth. Keeping up with the demand has been tough,” he said.

He says being an entrepreneur can be challenging.

Being in small business is hard, no matter what you are doing, he said, mentioning that his responsibilities range from working with customers and their pets all the way to keeping the books and records for the business.

The clean and modern facility located on Plaza Drive in Carterville even offers pet treats and other bakery items for cats and dogs. They recently began offering grain-free pet foods. Sikich says he wants to continue to expand the business.

“Eventually we would consider opening a kennel of some sort, add some employees and have some more groomers,” he said. “Down the line, I think I’d like to have a kennel daycare with grooming, kind of like they offer where we were in the St. Louis area. That would be a goal and maybe even run a rescue operation out of that kennel.”

For now, Sikich and Rickert will continue to stay busy grooming Southern Illinois cats and dogs.

“We’re pretty much offering the full works, A to Z, in grooming,” he says.

Sudzy Paws is located at 116 W. Plaza Drive in Carterville. Call them at 618-681-2152 or visit www.sudzypaws.com.

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