With 11 locations open and operating in four states, and at least seven scheduled to open in 2020 in Nashville, Atlanta, North Carolina, Philadelphia, Las Vegas, and Florida, pet care franchise Hounds Town USA is on an upward climb to claiming its spot in the booming pet care industry. Founded in 2000 by former NYPD canine unit and police dog handler Michael Gould, Hounds Town USA has had a long history of providing fully interactive doggie daycare, overnight boarding, grooming, and pet taxi services to thousands of customers. Since its inception, the system has hosted more than 1.5 million canine visitors (as well as some feline ones, too).
Although the pet care franchise is fairly new to the franchising space, the brand was one of the first of its kind. Mike Gould opened the first fully interactive doggie daycare, overnight boarding, and grooming facility in 2000, after retiring as the Commanding Officer of the Nassau County Police K-9 Unit. “We have been doing this for many, many years,” says Mike. He adds that although the system is categorized as “emerging,” he isn’t comfortable with the term: “It doesn’t describe Hounds Town accurately,” he says. “We were one of the first pet care franchises in the country. We have one of the simplest and successful models based on our 20 years of experience in the business.”
That 20 years of experience has propelled the brand into a significant growth period since 2015 when it initiated franchising efforts. The pet care franchise has since opened eight additional stores in four states, anticipates opening seven to ten more units in six states in the next 12 months, and has sold an additional 10+ territories across the country. “This is a strong indication of the phenomenal growth potential of our system and the demand not only for affordable pet care by our customers but for affordable businesses to invest in for franchisees,” says Hounds Town USA President Jackie Bondanza.
Many competing pet care franchises cost upwards of $1 million to buy into, making it very out of reach for the average entrepreneur looking to take control of their own destiny and become a small business owner. “Our philosophy is: why pay $1 million for something you can get for a third of that cost? Dogs don’t care about hardwood floors, expensive kennels, and televisions,” explains Jackie. “What we strive for at Hounds Town is to provide a safe, fun, and secure environment for dogs to be dogs at an affordable price for their parents. This can be achieved for much less than $1 million.”
Lower up-front investment means more money in Franchise Owners’ pockets. “Average Unit Volumes (AUVs) of our competitors are very similar to ours at Hounds Town. What this means,” says Jackie, “is that the extra $700,000 or so these pet care franchises are asking their franchisees to spend to open is not producing much additional return on their investment for them. At the end of the day, we’re all charging about the same price for services.”
Although the brand focuses on affordable build-out designed to feel accessible and down to earth for the customer, there are elements that can be upgraded to cater to certain higher-end interests. “We have some franchisees who choose to add upgrades in the form of luxury suites and expanded spa services to their stores, and we are absolutely in support of that as long as it in line with our core philosophies and values,” says Jackie.
Those include affordability for customers, simplistic operations, all-inclusive pricing, a focus on main revenue streams interactive daycare, boarding, and grooming, and a fun and down to earth culture. “Our customers are working pet parents who just want a reliable, trustworthy, and affordable place to leave their dog while they’re at work or on vacation,” says Jackie. “That massive population of people is who we are catering our services to. They do not want to be up-charged for belly rubs, extra attention, or a bedtime story,” she says, adding, “we will gladly pet your dog for free!”
The strategy seems to be working. Gross, system-wide revenue increased nearly 40% from 2018 to 2019, thanks to the new locations—all which have exceeded revenue goals and growth expectation—as well as the veteran locations, who continue to add revenue to their businesses year after year. The franchise’s highest performing store this year was Hounds Town Farmingdale, sold in 2015 as a turnkey business to current franchisees Maria Gillen (a former customer), Jennifer Jung, and Candice Lorenzana (former kennel attendants at the location).
What sets Hounds Town USA apart from other pet care franchises (including those large big box stores) aside from the lower investment, is the founder. Mike Gould spent more than 35 years in the commercial dog management field and retired to found the fully interactive pet care franchise. “Hounds Town USA is founded on deep knowledge and understanding of dogs,” explains Mike. “This knowledge is a significant part of our initial and ongoing franchisee training, and it really enables our franchisees to offer something different than any other pet care franchises out there, who simply lack the understanding of the animal brain to be able to provide what we provide at Hounds Town.”
Hounds Town’s core values and philosophies are resonating with franchise candidates, many of whom are looking for a new and exciting career or investment opportunity. “I love hearing from candidates that one of the main draws to Hounds Town is not only the affordability but the down to earth culture of our brand,” says Jackie. “We are intentionally anti-corporate. There’s no team of executives in suits answering calls; instead, we have a team of uber-passionate pet care professionals who understand business and dogs: a winning combination,” says Jackie. “No one wants to come from a stressful corporate job into another, so we make this fun and engaging-that is a huge part of who we are,” she says.
For more information on Hounds Town USA franchising, visit www.houndstownfranchise.com.