We’re pleased to announce a brand new addition to our pet care franchise family! Hounds Town USA welcomes Steve and Deidre Alkire, who will be opening their first location in Raleigh, North Carolina, in coming months. We had a chance to chat with Steve and Deidre about their exciting new future plans as they begin preparations for opening their new Hounds Town USA pet care franchise.
The Alkires began looking at franchise opportunities as a new avenue that would allow them to retire from their current careers, without actually retiring. “I was looking at my retirement years, and I knew darn well I didn’t want to retire,” laughs Steve, who has spent many years in the food industry, and most recently as an executive director and VP for a large workplace supplies corporation.
Deidre, who has had an impressive 25-year career in the banking and financial industry, agrees. “When he wanted to [become a Franchise Owner], the fact that I had done accounting would come in handy,” she says. “He said, ‘We could have a partnership. You could do the books and I can handle day-to-day operations.’ We decided we could go in together and be partners.”
Becoming a Franchise Owner seemed like the best of both worlds for Steve and Deidre, since it gave them the opportunity to become entrepreneurs, but also allowed them the ability to have the support of a corporate team to guide them and provide the right amount of assistance. “Steve wanted to own his own business,” recalls Deidre. “He did some talking with franchise brokers and consultants. We had looked at several franchises but we felt this would be the right fit for us. That’s basically how we arrived at this opportunity.”
“ I think I have always wanted to be an entrepreneur,” says Steve. “When I was growing up, my mom and dad had kennels. My mom was a breeder of Basset hounds and Great Danes. She boarded a lot of dogs- they flew them in back in the day, and we boarded them downstairs on the property. I’ve been associated with dogs all my life. It’s always been in the back of my mind to own my own business.”
Steve’s background with dog boarding services was not the only thing that made the Alkires want to invest in a pet care franchise. They wanted to own a business that would be a great fit for their grown daughter. Ashleigh, 28, is a devoted dog lover who spends a great deal of time volunteering at her local animal shelter in North Carolina. “She’s going to be vital part of the business,” says Steve. “She’s so excited about it. It’s her cup of tea, let’s put it that way! She’s at the ASPCA literally every weekend. Eventually she’ll be a huge part of the business and part owner. She was definitely part of the reason we’re doing this, because of the interest she had.”
The couple chose Raleigh, North Carolina as the location for their first Hounds Town USA doggie daycare franchise, partly because Ashleigh lives there, and partly because of their strong Raleigh roots. “We’ve been all over the country, from Florida to Southern California, but Raleigh, North Carolina is home,” Steve explains, adding, “It’s where we’re from, where we met, and where we were married.” Deidre and Steve agree that Discovery Day lived up to its name, providing the couple an opportunity to see the real inner workings of a brand they had never had the chance to experience in their hometown. “It was jam-packed with information!” Deidre remembers. “We learned a lot and got to go see the different locations- I think we visited three, maybe four locations- just getting to see what each one looked like, because they were in New York and we’d never seen a Hounds Town location in person before.”
The ability to see firsthand what goes into a typical day in the life of a Franchise Owner helped Steve and Deidre know that they were making a great decision. Deidre says, “For me it was good to go and view exactly what a location looks like and how they do their day to day operations.” The couple especially liked how Hounds Town USA places the focus on the needs of dogs, with facilities designed to accommodate their behaviors, activities, and preferences, rather than try to dress their locations up with unnecessary frills that have nothing to do with the dogs themselves, like other franchise opportunities they had examined. “It’s about the dogs!” exclaims Deidre.
Discovery Day also provided Steve and Deidre with the opportunity to understand more about the Hounds Town USA culture, in terms of how Franchise Owners interact with Mike, Jackie, and their corporate support team. “I got the impression of, ‘Wow, Hounds Town is a franchise and it’s structured, and they’ve got the bylaws and concepts and philosophies, but everyone is able to tailor their individual creativity to their own Hounds Town,’” says Steve about the pet care franchise’s approach to letting owners give each location its own unique flair. “I liked that it’s not cookie-cutter,” adds Steve. “They [the Franchise Owners] made it theirs, in the Hounds Town way of doing things. Everybody’s opinion matters, and it’s very transparent.”
This approachable, teamwork-oriented feeling was also conveyed by Hounds Town USA president, Jackie Bondanza, whom the Alkires greatly enjoyed meeting. “Talking to Jackie and hearing a lot of what she had to say was one of the things that made us want to invest in Hounds Town,” says Deidre. “We thought that she was very knowledgeable. Getting to spend the day with her and talking to her and learning about the business itself is what sold us.”
“I think Jackie is extremely intelligent,” agrees Steve. “She wasn’t there to sell us a franchise- she was there to create a partnership.” As dog lovers and “parents” to rescue dogs Leo and Lola, Hounds Town USA’s commitment to helping rescue pets find forever homes was one of the key things that helped Steve and Deidre decide to partner with them. “I think the rescue charity [Hounds Town Charities] was one of the main factors,” says Steve. “You could tell that giving back to the four-legged community had a significant role for Mike and Jackie, and that was important.”
Steve and Deidre look forward to opening the doors of their brand-new Hounds Town USA franchise, and especially can’t wait to step into the community leadership role that being a Franchise Owner provides. “I think the biggest thing is we have worked for everyone else all our lives,” Deidre explains. “This is our opportunity to be the owners. I’m looking forward to getting out in the community and being a spokesperson, and partnering with other businesses to help rescue organizations and other pet charities and events.”
The Alkires have some advice for anyone considering a franchise opportunity in pet care or any other industry: do your homework! “I’ve taken classes on how to build business, I’ve taken SBA (Small Business Association) classes,” Steve says. “That is the biggest thing that has helped me identify the dos and don’ts, what is involved, what to expect, what not to expect. The thing that helped most was taking a class on how to build my business from start to finish. Dottie at SBA was a HUGE asset! Do your homework and learn as much as you possibly can about small business before looking into franchising.”
We’re so happy to have Steve and Deidre as part of the Hounds Town USA family, and it sounds like the feeling is mutual! Deidre says, “With Mike and Jackie and our partnership with Hounds Town, as long as we do the best for our business, I know we’re going to be successful!”
Are you interested in taking a page out of Steve and Deidre Alkire’s playbook and opening a new Hounds Town USA in your community? We want to talk to you! We are currently expanding to new territories across the U.S., and are awarding franchise opportunities to investors we feel will make the best fit as we grow. We invite you to complete the form below to begin our no-obligation pre-selection process, or visit the Hounds Town USA franchise website for more information about the opportunity.