During her 15 years as global innovation director at Hill’s Pet Nutrition, Leslie Fleuranges traversed the world talking to consumers.


That’s how she discovered there was a specific need in the lives of many pet owners that wasn’t being met: the ability to find trustworthy temporary care for aging and sick pets or those pets with special needs.


"I really felt like if people were giving up their lives — they weren’t able to travel, go to graduations, go on vacations, go to weddings — there was a need for this (business)," Fleuranges said. "I always say, ‘It’s cool to have a great idea or an innovation, but is there a need for this product or service?’"


She decided in her case the answer was, "Yes."


That need, coupled with the fact that Fleuranges had always wanted to own her own business, led her to open Tender Loving Care Pet Nursing Hotel, 2500 S.W. 17th St., late last month.


What sets her business apart from veterinarians or doggy day cares, Fleuranges said, is Tender Loving Care’s dedication to individualized care designed to meet the needs of each pet that walks through the door.


"It’s very much about peace of mind, giving the pet parents peace of mind, so they know that when they go wherever they’re going to go their pet is getting the best care and TLC," she said. "That’s what we’re here for."


Tender Loving Care Pet Nursing Hotel has 27 luxury suites for dogs staying at the facility and two suites for cats. The cat suites can hold up to four cats, Fleuranges said, if the animals are related.


Some of the suites have themed decorations. One of them, for example, was sponsored by an organization who requested it be decked out in Kansas City Chiefs gear. Fleuranges said she is also looking for sponsors for potential university-themed rooms — one for the University of Kansas, one for Kansas State University and one for Washburn University.


Services offered at the pet nursing hotel include grooming, pet reiki, therapeutic massages for pets, and day or overnight stays. It is also open 24/7, making it accessible when emergencies arise.


The business has nine employees — including three veterinary technicians, a groomer and a veterinarian on call.


When a pet owner brings their dog or cat to the pet nursing hotel for the first time, a vet tech sits with the pet and owner in an "intake room" to talk about special needs the animal may have and to customize a care plan.


Fleuranges said the business also offers a chauffeur service where a staff member will drive to a client’s home to pick up their pet and can take them back home at the end of a stay.


Another feature, Fleuranges said, is that Tender Loving Care doesn’t have play groups like some doggy day cares, because group exercises can be overwhelming for certain pets. She also said staff at the pet nursing hotel play with the animals regularly and send pet parents updates, including photos and videos, during each pet’s stay.


"It’s TLC," Fleuranges said. "We want to give them love while they’re here."


Fleuranges’ pet nursing hotel has been about six years in the making. While still working at Hill’s, Fleuranges crafted a business plan. She took that plan to the Regnier Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.


"You can take this six-month course, and they give you mentors for you to work with. It was a great program," she said. "They give you feedback on your presentations and on your plan."


Fleuranges held onto her pet nursing hotel idea for a few years, until it was time for her to retire from her work at Hill’s in the spring of 2018.


"I was (thinking about the business) the next day," Fleuranges said. "I was like, ‘I’m doing this.’ "


She bought the building now housing Tender Loving Care Pet Nursing Hotel in fall of 2018. The building was formerly a beauty salon and before that a home, Fleuranges said.


"This was my vision to put it in a house," she said, "so that it had this homey feel."


Over the next year and a half, Fleuranges received help from Architect One, Shirley Construction, Bajillion Agency and Fidelity State Bank & Trust.


Fleuranges talked about how supportive those agencies were during the renovation and preparation process. Ultimately, they helped turn her dream into reality.


"It’s amazing to have your dream come through," Fleuranges said. "I’m just hopeful that the community sees the need for this and supports it."