Following a distinguished 30-year career in human resources, Barbara Burdick embarked on a new chapter, driven by her unwavering passion for bunnies. Having experienced the joy of owning pet bunnies in the 1990s, Barbara’s love for these delightful creatures only grew stronger. Her journey took an unexpected turn when she decided to volunteer at a local animal shelter in Evanston, primarily focused on dogs. It was during this time that Barbara developed a profound appreciation for the nurturing care of pets and discovered the profound connection between animals and humans. Recognizing the mutual benefits of positive interactions, Barbara’s inspiration blossomed further when she encountered the tranquil ambiance of Japanese cafes, where individuals find solace by petting and engaging with animals. Merging her fondness for animals with the Japanese concept, Barbara founded Cuddle Bunny—an immensely successful venture where customers unwind, engage, and delight in the company of bunnies while relishing the joy of feeding and petting them.
However, opening Cuddle Bunny posed several challenges for Barbara, who initially lacked comprehensive knowledge about financial management, regulatory requirements, and the necessary steps for business initiation. As a pet care business, acquiring various licenses became an essential undertaking. Furthermore, the stringent protocols imposed due to the COVID-19 pandemic further added to Barbara’s hesitations about launching Cuddle Bunny.
Barbara fondly highlights the indispensable support rendered by the Illinois Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at the Women’s Business Development Center (WBDC) in overcoming these obstacles and successfully commencing her business, even amidst the pandemic. Through invaluable no-cost advising sessions, Barbara gained essential guidance, enabling her to construct a robust business plan, access architectural resources, enhance sales strategies, and expand her workforce by hiring additional employees. In 2022, Barbara further collaborated with the WBDC’s Kiva program manager, securing an $8,000 loan that she judiciously allocated to establish Cuddle Bunny Too—the second location of her thriving enterprise.
Overall, Barbara underscores the immeasurable moral and emotional support extended by the Illinois SBDC at the WBDC throughout her entrepreneurial journey. She attributes her resilience and triumph to the unwavering guidance and expertise provided by her dedicated advisor, Maura Mitchell. Grateful beyond measure, Barbara expresses her heartfelt appreciation for the Illinois SBDC at the WBDC, recognizing the profound impact of their invaluable resources, unwavering support, and transformative guidance on her entrepreneurial success.