Mud Bay co-founder addresses Thurston Chamber of Commerce

Sep 11, 2019
Written by wpengine

Marisa Wulff explains the company’s “culture of we”

The co-founder of Olympia’s Mud Bay pet supply store today addressed the Thurston County Chamber of Commerce in celebration of “Careers in Retail Month.”

Founded in 1988 as a single feed store, Mud Bay has blossomed into a $100 million chain of 51 stores from Bellingham to Salem, Oregon. In that time it has grown from three employees to 500. Along the way, Wulff and her brother, Lars, who founded the company with her, decided they would never sell the business.

In 2015, after overcoming financial challenges in the early years, the Wulffs sold stock in Mud Bay to their employees.

“It moves a company from a culture of us and them to a culture of we,” Wulff said. She and her brother now are engaged in nurturing the “next generation of Muddies” to one day take control of the company.

An audience of about 200 attended the event at Hotel RL as part of the Chamber Forum series of speakers. Washington Retail Association presented at the event in partnership with the chamber.

Mud Bay’s customers and management philosophy drive a thriving company, Wulff said.

She said:

  • Mud Bay’s growth rate the past two decades is four times that of other pet stores.
  • Average wages have grown 30% in the past few years
  • Staff turnover is down 35%
  • The company’s compound annual growth rate has been 20%

As well as being pet store pioneers, the Wulffs also are committed to making their jobs as attractive as possible to maintain continuity and the expertise of their staff.

“If you hire well and take care of your employees, they will take care of the company,” Wulff said.

Mud Bay is constantly adapting to the increasing expectations and knowledge of consumers who can shop from fast and plentiful competition, including the growing online marketplace, Wulff said.

It has opened a small Seattle store to enlighten owners of adopted pets and returns all profits to the Seattle Humane Society. The company also has begun reaching out to seniors who are unable to continue pet care to ensure the livelihood and health of the animals.