With three more doggy daycare franchise locations slated to be built by new Franchise Owners Steve and Nicky Darwin, Detroit ought to think about changing its nickname from Motown to Hounds Town! Our doggy daycare franchise is now officially SOLD OUT in Detroit!
The Darwins join fellow Detroit-area Franchise Owners Pete Mourad and Kristen Thomas, who opened their Troy, MI location in late 2019, in bringing our doggy daycare franchise to Michigan’s largest, most populous city, and plan to open the first of three Hounds Town doggy daycare locations later this year. We recently caught up with Steve and Nicky to find out a little more about them and hear what inspired them to follow their entrepreneurial dreams and invest in a Hounds Town USA doggy daycare franchise.
Both born and raised in North Dakota, Steve and Nicky spent nine years in Wisconsin before moving to Michigan in 2016. As parents of three- daughter Morgan, 21, who is in her senior year in college in Madison, WI, 17-year-old daughter Madison, and 13-year-old son Ryne (named after Ryne Sandberg of Nicky’s beloved Chicago Cubs)- as well as pet parents of three huskies and a golden retriever, there’s never a dull moment in the Darwins’ home!
How the Darwins Discovered Our Doggy Daycare Franchise
As a registered nurse, BAN, with specializations in cardiac ICU, ER, and critical care nursing, Nicky has also worked as a clinical instructor with her alma mater, Concordia College, as well as honing her retail skills as an associate at family-owned jewelry stores. Steve has spent most of his career in finance, most recently as the segment CFO for a $7 billion division of a Tier-1 automotive supplier.
After spending many years dedicated to their respective careers, the Darwins felt that it was time for a change. “For Nicky, nursing has changed dramatically with the advent of computers,” explains Steve. “She doesn’t like having her face in the computer when it should be focused on the patient. She needed a change because she still wanted a career.”
For Steve, the ambition to own his own business had always been there beneath the surface, and he saw 2020 as the year when he would finally get his chance. “Steve has always wanted to be his own boss and with some unforeseen circumstances this opportunity presented itself and we finally pulled the trigger,” Nicky says.
The couple began looking at different business opportunities that centered around the pet industry- something close to both of their hearts. They knew that whatever they did next, they’d like it to involve working with dogs. “Nicky loves dogs,” Steve emphasizes, adding, “Nicky would have a hundred dogs, but her husband will not allow it. She spends most of her day with her dogs. They are part of the family.”
After first spotting the Hounds Town doggy daycare franchise opportunity in a Facebook ad in August 2020, Steve took the first step on the Darwins’ journey to franchise ownership and signed up to learn more about us. “I got a handful of emails from (Franchise Development Manager) Phillip (Camping) that I never even replied to until he sent me the ‘final’ email,” he says. “I finally replied, and here we are!”
Getting to Know the Hounds Town Team
One of the highlights of the Darwins’ Franchise Education Process was going to see the Hounds Town business model in action at their Discovery Day in New York. In addition to meeting with our Founder, Mike Gould, President Jackie Bondanza, and other key members of the Hounds Town doggy daycare franchise support team, the couple- Nicky in particular- loved getting to interact with all the dogs, including our own Zooming Rosie! Steve says, “Nicky enjoyed meeting all of the humans but she enjoyed meeting Rosie the most from the corporate team!”
Though he also loves dogs, Steve was even more intrigued by the Hounds Town business model, stating, “The simplicity of the model and staffing along with the low cost of entry was appealing.” As a lifelong corporate executive, he also enjoyed the close-knit family feel of the Hounds Town doggy daycare franchise’s Ronkonkoma, New York headquarters, and appreciated how the support team acted “nothing like corporate folks.”
In addition to ample playtime with a variety of adorable Hounds Town customers, Steve and Nicky were treated to a hands-on feeling of what our doggy daycare franchise is all about. For Nicky, all it took was one look at how Mike handled a newcomer to the pack, and she was sold! “I knew [Hounds Town was the right choice for us] when Mike had a dog brought in that he had never interacted with previously,” she tells us, adding that she was impressed with “how he handled the dog and the dog’s response to him.” Seeing firsthand that Mike’s strategy for managing dogs was in total alignment with her own, she could tell they’d found the right franchise!
“I see Hounds Town as truly caring about the animal first,” she says. “From the evaluations to acclimating the new dog to the pack, the dogs’ welfare is first at Hounds Town.”
Steve adds, “She runs her pack at home with the same philosophy as Hounds Town. Nicky is the pack leader and her dogs know that!”
From a business standpoint, Steve can also see the value that Hounds Town’s unique dog-centric philosophy gives it an edge over the competition. “Although we haven’t been trained yet, the dog management of Hounds Town certainly sets it apart,” he says.
Steve’s “a-ha moment,” while not quite as heartwarming, was just as impactful on the couple’s decision to move forward with their doggy daycare franchise investment- all it took was a look at our impressive financials and working his own projections for potential profitability, and he was ready to own a Hounds Town USA franchise!
The Future of the Darwins’ Doggy Daycare Franchise Empire
As natural-born dog lovers, Steve and Nicky feel that the secret to their future success lies in Nicky’s consuming passion for the care and well-being of dogs, along with Steve’s business and finance acumen. Steve says, “Nicky does whatever is needed to get something completed. Her nursing background in critical care areas has taught her to stay cool and calm and make important decisions she is confident in.” On the flip side of the coin, Steve’s corporate finance background will be an essential asset to “ensure that Nicky does not overspend.”
As Steve and Nicky prepare to begin construction on the first of their three Detroit-area doggy daycare franchise locations, they are excited to provide the excellent level of care that customers associate with the Hounds Town USA name. Nicky, in particular, looks forward to being “that person that people can trust with their dog” and for cementing a reputation as “the go-to person in the neighborhood for any dog-related questions, from behavior to illness and anything in between.”
As for Steve, he looks forward to the independence that comes with owning a business, and “finally being able to say Nicky and I are small business owners.”
Steve and Nicky Darwin truly embody the spirit of the Hounds Town USA doggy daycare franchise, and we couldn’t be happier to have them on board! We’re looking forward to seeing how they expand their Hounds Town empire in the Detroit area in the coming years.
We may be all sold out in the Motor City, but there are still plenty of opportunities available for you to own a doggy daycare franchise with Hounds Town USA. Please visit our website to learn more!