WHY OWN A PET FRANCHISE?
10 Questions with Franchise Developer Charlotte Wagner with Houndstown USA
1. How did the franchise get started and what is the background of your executives?
For almost 20 years, Hounds Town USA has been home to the happiest dogs on Earth. Our customers love us so much that since our inception, over 1 million canine visitors have enjoyed our interactive doggie daycare, overnight boarding, grooming, retail products, and tail-wagging rides in our pet taxi!
Founded in 2001, by a former NYPD K-9 Unit Handler and Commanding Officer of the Nassau County Police Department, Hounds Town USA offers an affordable and refreshingly simple approach to pet care. Our simple business model is based on a straightforward and honest strategy that provides our Franchise Owners with amazing returns while giving them the opportunity to spread smiles among their four-legged customers.
2. What sets you apart from your competitors?
Made for Dogs: Our canine psychology expertise gives our Franchise Owners a special competitive advantage over other doggie daycares. They understand how integral pack social structure is to a dog’s emotional health. Due to their deep knowledge of canine psychology and behavior, Hounds Town USA locations are able to offer the highest quality of care to all dogs who pass our temperament test. Our concept is designed around the unique needs of the dogs we serve (rather than the pet Owners’).
No Discrimination: Many other doggie daycare solutions turn away potential customers every day by discriminating against dogs based on breed, age, and disability. Bully breeds such as pit bulls, German shepherds, boxers, and bulldogs are the most common groups denied service and make up 20% of the US canine population. In addition, when you consider the disabled dogs that are often turned away, you can see that this is a significant market segment. Hounds Town USA is able to maintain an open door policy for these dogs due to the level of expertise that our leadership team holds. Each of our Franchise Owners receives specialized in-depth training in pack behavior and dog psychology that will enable them to provide a healthy and supportive environment to dogs of all types.
Town-Themed Centers: We have spent time building a brand customers recognize and love! The town-theme at Hounds Town USA is unique within the pet industry and creates a fun experience for canines and humans alike. Each “town” is complete with homes and businesses such as a beauty parlor and a hotel. Some Owners will customize their store with signature features distinctive to their location. Hounds Town USA feels like a genuine community, not a kennel.
Pet Taxi: Hounds Town USA goes out of its way to make life easier for its customers. One of the ways we do that is by offering a convenient pick-up and drop-off service for our grooming, daycare, and boarding guests. Pet parents love the convenience of having the fully wrapped vehicle pick up and drop off their dogs for grooming or a day of exercise and fun. Not only does it transport puppy customers, but it also doubles as a moving billboard!
Hounds Town Charities: Global citizenship is a Hounds Town core company value that is enthusiastically shared with Franchise Owners. Each existing Hounds Town USA franchise location has partnered with local charities, rescues, and shelters to offer discounted doggie daycare, boarding, and other services to dogs waiting for their “furever” homes. First and foremost, our company culture is one of strong community outreach and impact.
3. What is the best thing about being a part of HOUNDS TOWN USA?
Canine Expertise: Years of experience and deep knowledge are our greatest competitive edge. Our “Unrivaled Canine Expert” Founder Michael S. Gould has over 35 years of direct canine experience. The Hounds Town USA leadership team also includes Marianne Carrano Desczc, Franchise Owner Training Leader, who has formal training in animal behavior as well as studying dog handling under Michael for six years. This expertise is evident at Hounds Town USA in how we’ve modeled our concept after childcare solutions rather than other doggie daycare options.
Low Investment: By utilizing simple, cost-effective, and dog-friendly materials, Hounds Town USA allows Franchise Owners to open their business starting at $293,800. This investment is significantly lower than other doggie daycare franchises in the country, allowing our Owners to break even sooner and enjoy larger profit margins.
Outstanding Economics: In 2018, our AUV was $859,005 for fully matured stores including those not at capacity. That’s a 250% sales to investment ratio! Not only that, but our Item 19 shows strong year-over-year sales growth averaging 24% for stores open one full year in 2017 and 2018. This is almost three times higher than the average growth rate of the already surging pet industry. In the past four years, all units have experienced consistent growth, including units that have been in business for more than ten years.
Flexible Ownership Options: Time is a finite resource and, for many people, the most precious commodity. Many of our Owners are parents with young families and/or have other careers. Because of the simplicity of our business model and the minimal requirements for daily operations; most of our Franchise Owners operate as Semi-Absentee, allowing them to focus on pursuing other passions. In fact, this is a great opportunity for those who would like to run their business as semi-absentee from day one.
Customizable Revenue Streams: Hounds Town USA offers up to 10 revenue streams to pad and protect our Franchise Owner’s bottom line. There are five main services: interactive doggie daycare, boarding, grooming, retail sales, and a pet taxi. Franchise Owners also have the option to add vet care, cat care, educational classes, mobile grooming or even expand their retail sales at each location.
4. Can you describe a typical day of a franchise owner?
As an Owner-Operator, the Franchise Owner will be physically present at the store 6-9 hours per day. They will be interacting with customers, using the POS system, and assisting in taking care of dog needs such as grouping, feeding, and grooming. They will also be responsible for all other high-level management tasks listed under semi-absentee.
A Semi-Absentee Owner will be responsible for overseeing general business operations. They will hire the on-site manager who supervises day to day operations, assist with hiring staff, and oversee marketing and community relations. However, they will not necessarily be in the location every day to accomplish this.
5. Can you describe an ideal owner for Hounds Town USA.
Hounds Town is home to the happiest dogs on earth, so a passion for animals is certainly a plus when it comes to being a Hounds Town Owner. In addition to that, Owners must love connecting with people, whether by providing excellent customer service to customers or managing their team.
Our ideal Franchise Owner is the type of person who equates success with being a pillar within their community. Exceeding expectations (for dogs and people alike!) makes them feel fulfilled. They have an inner drive to grow their business so they can serve more dogs within their community. They might have a strong sense of family too! In fact, most of our units are family owned and operated.
Our Owners do not need prior dog handling knowledge. Our unique methods of grouping and managing dogs are teachable and transferable to individuals with limited or no dog experience.
6. Tell us a little about Hounds Town USA support and training program.
Hounds Town USA takes the training of Franchise Owners very seriously. Our initial training program is split between 30 hours at our corporate office in Ronkonkoma, New York and then an additional 67 hours at the Franchise Owner’s location once they are open. Nearly half of this time is spent on dog handling which includes training on grouping and managing dogs as well as pack behaviors. Owners will also learn about liability issues, administrative responsibilities, employee hiring and training, facility operations, and customer service.
We are incredibly passionate about our Franchise Owner’s success. Therefore, we are always working to improve operations, incorporate new training techniques, adding new vendors, and more. Our staff will offer substantial on-site support during the grand opening for each new franchise location as well as over the following six months. In addition to this, Franchise Owners are invited to ongoing seminars that are held several times each year at the corporate office. If there are any questions that come up in the meantime, each Franchise Owner is assigned a “Buddy” as their mentor.
Our corporate team conducts quarterly visits where we review operations, technology, marketing, and offer personalized coaching to each Franchise Owner. New Franchise Owners can expect to receive frequent visits and support during the first six months following the opening of their new location.
We have a brand fund of 2% of gross sales paid monthly and a local advertising requirement of $1600 per month or 2.5% of gross sales, whichever is higher. Our advertising management fee is $800 per month. Our Co-Founder, Jackie Bondanza, offers one-on-one guidance to assist Owners with developing exciting local, ongoing, and seasonal marketing campaigns.
7. What is the total investment for Hounds Town USA? $293,800 - $452,500
8. Do I have to own a brick and mortar location? If so, can you tell us a little about that?
Yes. Our brick & mortar locations are between 4,000-6,000 square feet.
We find that spending money on marketing rather than real estate has had the greatest impact on our Franchise Owners’ bottom line. For this reason, we prescribe minimal buildout for our town themed facilities. Our locations include a reception area, office space, play areas, grooming space, boarding houses, and 6-8 luxury suites.
Hounds Town USA thrives in warehouses found in industrial or commercial areas within 5-7 minutes of major roadways. We utilize non-retail locations because they require lower rent and are a major factor in our high operating profit percentages. We specifically do not encourage Franchise Owners to choose locations on main roads as we have found that our customers will travel 5-7 minutes out of their way to drop their dog at a Hounds Town USA location.
9. What are important factors for a successful franchise owner?
Hounds Town USA is looking for the following skills and characteristics in our Franchise Owners:
Strong leadership skills
Outgoing with great people skills
Passionate about providing excellent customer service
Willingness to follow a system
10. How much can I make owning a Hounds Town USA?
Our sales to investment ratio beat out the competition due to our low-cost of investment, low build-out costs, and little overhead. In 2018, our AUV for stores open 5 years or longer was $859,005. That’s a sales to investment ratio of 250%! Our top-grossing store had sales of $945,713 in 3,750 sq. ft. We also have year over year sales growth.
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