Veteran Feature: From Army Service To Animal Service, Bed N Biscuit Ranch

6 mins read
Michelle Thomsen - Owner, Partner; Lila Teunissen - Dog Trainer, Owner, Partner
Michelle Thomsen - Owner, Partner; Lila Teunissen - Dog Trainer, Owner, Partner

Lila Teunissen, her husband and partner Ken Fricke and business partner Michelle Thomsen have combined their need for a steady income and love for pets to create Bed N Biscuit Ranch. Bed N Biscuit Ranch is an animal daycare, as well as a training and boarding facility that offers everything from private lessons and extra walks to any grooming needs desired.

Bismarck natives and animal lovers Lila and Michelle always joked with each other about opening up a new boarding location for pets due to the overwhelming demand at another boarding location they used to bring their animals to. To dive deeper into their experiences as veteran entrepreneurs, we spoke to Lila about her time in service, as well as her journey operating a local business.

What branch did you serve in?

I (Lila) served in the active-duty Army for 10 years and the Army National Guard for 13. My business partner, Michelle Thomsen, is still serving in the ND Army National Guard. My husband, who is also a partner, has not served.

Tell me a bit about the history behind Bed N Biscuit Ranch.

Michelle and I worked together in the ND National Guard and we both had a love of pets. We both were, and still are, pet owners and we both volunteer with our local rescues. We heard many complaints from our colleagues that there was never room at the good boarding facilities to board their dogs over drill weekends or over short-term deployments or training. We would joke that someone should really start another boarding facility in the area. That joking began to turn serious, and we finally decided that maybe we should do something about it. We began looking for land, and the property that we are at now came on the market, but was more than we wanted to pay for. Then the price dropped, and then dropped again, and we decided to finally take the leap. We bought the property and converted the pole barn into our current facility that offers dog and cat boarding, dog and cat grooming, dog daycare and dog training.

What were your friends and family’s reactions when you told them you were pursuing service?

Everyone thought I was crazy. My dad was really nervous for me. He wasn’t sure how his daughter would do in a man’s career field. He wanted to meet with the recruiter and make sure all his questions were answered. My mom was nervous but very supportive and my friends just thought I’d lost my mind. I just knew that I wanted to travel the world and that my family and I couldn’t afford college. Plus, I didn’t know what I wanted to be anyway, and it was a great way to get paid to try out different careers. It was the best decision I could have made.

What do you remember about your first day in service, along with your first day opening Bed N Biscuit Ranch?

My first day of service, I remember being on the bus from the airport to basic training at Ft. Leonard-wood, MO and thinking, this Drill Sergeant isn’t so bad. He was relaxed and made small talk with us. I thought, “This isn’t going to be as bad as I thought and people say it is.” Then we pulled up to the barracks. A whole crew of Drill Sergeants descended on our bus yelling at us to get off, stand here, drop your bag, do push-ups, grab your bag, get in the barracks! I was just stunned and kept thinking “Keep your head down. Do what they say so that they don’t notice me.” It was a smart choice because you don’t want to be singled out for special attention, especially in those first couple of weeks.

As far as how the first day of opening our business went, it was all just a huge blur of deadlines and personal stressors. Michelle and I were both working full-time for the ND National Guard when we came up with this idea and we continued to work full-time as we started the business. We had our timeline and our goal of opening in October, but everything just went a little slower than we expected and we had to push it to November. As we were building the actual facility, Michelle was pregnant with her first child and gave birth in August, three months before our grand opening on November 8, 2018. I was juggling keeping the build on track and being the main caretaker of my mother who was dying of cancer and passed away the day before our grand opening, Nov 7. So, it was sad, exciting and a blur, but we all kept moving forward. We just kept asking, “What do we have to do next?” and kept going. I still find it amazing that we got the business open before the holidays and have just continued to improve it over time.

How has your service experience changed your business mindset?

My husband is also one of our business partners and he really wanted to have a 100% solution with all the details for everything before we moved forward. Michelle and I have been trained, and are comfortable with, an 80% solution. Nothing ever works out the way you think that it will, so as long as you have the big pieces in place and the majority of the details are addressed, the rest falls into place or is modified to make it work. We were clear on what we wanted to accomplish and what services we would offer. That has been the driver of how we set up our facility and our policies.

Why did you choose the BisMan area to start your business venture?

Michelle, my husband and I all grew up in the Bis-Man area. We have lots of family and deep roots here. Ken and I both moved away after graduating high school. I went on active duty and Ken went to college, and then to California for job opportunities. Michelle left for college for several years and then returned. Ken and I both came back because our parents were getting older. We had traveled and there’s just something special about the Bis-Man area and being close to family and friends that knew you as kids. I moved back in 2009 and he moved back in 2010. A mutual friend got us connected and the rest is history.

What was the hardest challenge for you when opening your business?

There were many. First of all, funding and staying within our budget was always stressful. You try to think of all of the expenses and add 10-20% to that baseline but it is amazing how quickly the money runs out. Secondly, keeping the building moving forward and hitting our opening date was challenging. We did much of the build-out on our own so that meant a really small crew and that just made things go slower. Granted, we know every nook and cranny in the building, but we really wanted to be open sooner than we were, but it all worked out. Finally, there were all of the personal stressors. Michelle and I were working full-time and trying to make sure we had appropriate policies in place, personnel hired to run it once it was open, helping with the actual building and of course, having a brand new baby for Michelle and caring for my dying mother for me. It was some crazy juggling.

Quite The ResumeG!

During her military career, Lila Teunissen has served in the following roles:

North Dakota National Guard Medic, Medical Operations Officer, Deputy Director of Personnel and Commander of the Civil Support Team.

Army Active Duty – Linguist and Medical Service Corps Office

Giving Back
Bed N Biscuit Ranch offers a 10% discount for all first responders as a thank you for your service!

Lila Teunissen (left) and Michelle Thomsen (righ)

What does being a veteran symbolize to you?

’m very proud of my military service but I don’t feel special about it. It was a mutually beneficial career. I got paid to be a medic, a linguist, a health care administrator and a HAZMAT technician to name a few. I got paid to travel the world. Yes, I deployed to Iraq and did a year in South Korea but I enjoyed every minute of it. I was doing my job and in return, I received great training and travel benefits.

What advice do you have for business owners in the Bis-Man area that are just beginning their endeavor?

Find a similar business and ask tons of questions. If you don’t want to ask locally, find similar businesses outside of the area. Most business owners are happy to provide advice and guidance. We visited multiple boarding facilities outside of the Bismarck area and were lucky enough to even have a local facility provide advice and guidance to us as we were building our plan. We went to a professional conference which gave us a ton of ideas on how to build, what cleaning equipment to use and many ideas that we hadn’t considered because none of us had a background in boarding, grooming or professional training. We also visited our local rescues to see what they liked about their current facilities and what didn’t work for them, because we would need a similar facility but have different customers. The more knowledge you can get from someone with experience, the better your plan will be, the better your cost analysis will be and the better your end product will be.

Any parting thoughts you’d like to share with our readers?

It’s been an amazing journey and we are all amazed at how well the business is doing. We are even looking at adding another building and plan to visit other facilities that are larger to see what is working for them and what isn’t. We are very proud of the business we have built and the great staff that we have working for us. We feel very blessed.

Bed N Biscuit Ranch

8700 80th St NE, Bismarck
[email protected]