The pet industry is a billion dollar business. The American Pet Products Association (APPA) has estimated that over $47 billion dollars will be spent on pets this year alone. With numbers like that, we can all agree that this industry is booming.
Dogs Love Running! are taking in their own piece of the pet market pie. Realizing that pet owners needed the basic services, pet sitting, boarding, daycare, etc., they are taking those basics and expanding on it. Just as their name suggests, dogs love to run. The basic act of running is good for the animal, promoting a healthy lifestyle. Their franchise focuses on this basic need and brings their service to the pet lovers within their community.
I recently spoke with John Reh about the business he started with his wife, and the opportunity they have to offer fellow entrepreneurs.
Tell us a little about Dogs Love Running!
The basic answer is that we provide pet exercise, sitting, boarding, and daycare services to our customers in their own homes. But what the Dogs Love Running! pet care service really does is help pets live longer and behave better through exercise. What makes us special is that we’ve put a new spin on the traditional (and boring) dog walking/sitting business by incorporating heart-pumping, tail-wagging, tongue-flopping, smile-inducing activities into everything that we do for our clients. Whereas the typical dog walking service might take a dog for a quick stroll around the backyard or around the block, we can take them out and literally go running with them. Clients love it and so do the dogs because, well, dogs love running!
What inspired it?
The founders, the husband/wife team of John and Erica, were amazingly dissatisfied with the “good” corporate jobs we had. Great salaries, benefits, MBA degrees, the corporate ladder, blah, blah, blah. So, we threw that away cold turkey and rolled the dice and said “what if we just do what we want and see what happens.” The “doing what we want” part simply included something related to the outdoors, living a healthy lifestyle, and working with animals in one way or another. After contemplating nothing much more than what we thought would be a “fun” job, we started running with dogs. It was quite a departure from the education that was ingrained in us to create some big business plan and forecast the next 5 years of activity. We didn’t do any of that. We just did what we thought sounded cool to do.
When was the business launched? When did you start franchising?
We started the business in June, 2008 and became a legal franchisor in September, 2010.
How many locations do you currently have?
As a new franchisor, we have an existing proven concept that we’ve been refining for the last few years as an example to show people. We’re now looking for our first franchisee.
Tell us a bit about your franchise opportunity.
The most important thing to know is that we set this pet franchise opportunity up from scratch to be a “real” business that’s as automated and efficient as possible. There’s huge potential here and surprisingly few reputable players in our market.
Most people have no idea that the pet industry is bigger than the movie and music industries combined. So, there’s the potential to be so much more than the typical person walking dogs for a little side cash. People are often surprised to learn that this can be a solid, full-time business and, after understanding the dollars involved and how little competition there is that does what we do, they usually take another look at our concept. Another important thing to know is that we come from “Fortune 500” type backgrounds and one of the founders even has experience working for the world’s largest restaurant franchisor. With that in mind, our marketing image and operations tactics have been designed to be as professional as any big company like Apple, Whole Foods, BMW, etc. Our goal is for customers to know that they’re dealing with a reputable and reliable company, not Jim Doe from down the street who dog sits on his free time. And we’ve got professional systems in place that allow you to basically run the business from across the world from your smart phone. The purpose of this is to give an owner the time and resources to grow their business, not get stuck (and burned out) making every last pet visit strictly by themselves.
What are your requirements?
As far as our “human requirements”, the most popular question people ask is “do I have to be a runner?”. The answer is NO. It’s helpful if you can run, but not mandatory because the business is designed for you to have people on your team that can run for you (and walk, and board, and sit, etc). You also do not need to be a marketing expert or business superstar. All a person needs is a sincere love for animals and the dedication to learning and utilizing the tools and methods we provide. Like Southwest Airlines, just have a great attitude and love for what you do and we can teach many people the rest. For the “investment requirements”, we’ve made this as affordable as we could. For a $9,000 franchise fee and a total initial outlay of only about $15,500, a person can be up and running with their new Dogs Love Running! franchised business. We’ve also stripped out a lot of the nickel-and-dime costs that add up with other franchise opportunities so that a franchisee keeps more money than in any other similar pet-related business we’ve found. And even though we’re about as affordable as it gets, we haven’t skimped on the tools and support that we provide to franchisees. In fact, we don’t know of another system that does more than us for their franchisee partners.
In what areas is your opportunity currently available?
We’re currently registered in Illinois. We’re very interested in speaking with people from across the country though, especially in more progressive areas where an outdoors-ish lifestyle is prevalent. Of course, we do not and will not offer for sale any franchise opportunity without first complying with any pre-sale registration requirements a state may require.
What are some lessons your business has taught you?
1. You’ll do a better job at something if you really love doing it. And, most likely, your customers will notice this and tell you. And then they’ll tell their friends and neighbors about you too. And then your business grows.
2. Temporarily making less money doing what you love is often better than making more money with something you hate.
3. With some patience and effort, making less money doing what you love can turn into making more money than what you made at the thing you hated. All because you’re actually interested in what you’re doing.
4. Every customer is amazingly important. If you don’t think they’re important, then you’re either in the wrong business or you need to fire them so they can find someone else because you’re not going to be doing as good a job as they deserve.
Is there anything else I’d like to add?
We’re a professional company and take our jobs very seriously because we have our clients’ pets lives in our hands. However, we’re also pretty laid back and strive to have fun in everything that we do. We’re simply looking for smart, cool, happy people that agree with our philosophies on making pets happy and helping them live longer and behave better through exercise. Anyone who feels that maybe we’re onto something with this crazy little business is welcome to contact us.
Any advice for potential franchisees?
1. Do something you feel passionate about
2. Join up with people that you like
3. Every business requires money to start up and operate before you create a profit. Have more money saved than you think you need because you don’t want to run out of money just as things start to pick up. If you don’t have enough today, wait and save up so you can do it correctly the first time.
4. Check out our dog franchise opportunity at http://www.dogsloverunning.com/franchising. If you like it, contact us and we’ll talk.