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(Ambrosio’s note: I love learning about new franchise concepts and business models, and Zoom Room is without a doubt one of the most original concepts I’ve come across in a long time. In the words of its COO Mark Van Wye, Zoom Room is “the only dedicated indoor training facility that specializes in agility, as well as the only place specially outfitted for throwing your dog a birthday party!” Talk about owning your niche! If you are a dog lover and would like to go into business for yourself where you are surrounded by dogs and the owners who love them, this is one franchise opportunity worth checking out!)
I had been doing marketing and branding work for clients like Microsoft and Nintendo, and serving as the Director of Development for the Nat King Cole Estate when my wife, Jaime, pitched the Zoom Room concept to me. I was blown away by the scalability of the business model and the utterly broad appeal to dog lovers.
After about a month of serious market research confirming my suspicions that this was a massive untapped market, I resigned from my other duties and came to work full-time for my wife.
2. Why should someone interested in owning his or her own business consider a pet franchise?
Pet franchises as a general category run the gamut from daycares to waste pickup to doggy bakeries to pet sitters and more. Many of these are home-based businesses. Most of the brick-and-mortar opportunities cost several hundred thousand dollars to start and face stiff competition. Thus, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to this.
There is no debating the strength of the pet industry in general, as well as the pet services industry specifically. In fact, we have our own white paper on the subject. But the realities of a pet franchise depend wholly on your own goals, resources, and aptitudes. A mere love of dogs will not guarantee you either happiness or success unless you choose very carefully and do considerable homework on the concepts you are considering.
We don’t really have any! We’re the only dedicated indoor training facility that specializes in agility, as well as the only place specially outfitted for throwing your dog a birthday party!
We practice only positive dog training, in private or small group classes. Our motto is: We don’t train dogs. We train the people who love them.
We do not offer any type of drop-off or dog daycare services. We want you to come in and spend quality time with your dog. The training will “stick” because you’re the one doing the training — so it’s easy to keep up the good work at home, when we’re not around.
We are the only dog training center that celebrates the social aspect of dog ownership. We have designed a proven business model that avoids many of the pitfalls we’ve seen in other pet services businesses, such as zoning, staffing, and liability issues. Our offerings center around the fun factor — if it isn’t fun for our clients and fun for our franchisees, it’s not part of the picture.
4. What qualities do you look for in a prospective franchisee?
- Well-educated and intelligent
- Demonstrated mastery of both spoken and written English
- Passionate about dogs
- Comfortable in front of groups
- Charismatic and likable
- Detail-oriented and responsible
- Comfortable with computers
- Net worth in excess of $150,000
- Liquid capital in excess of $75,000
- Desirable location and thorough knowledge of this area
We look for prime retail space on Main Street, with maximum visibility to both traffic and pedestrians. Passersby frequently have their noses up to the glass to watch our classes and events. Getting local news stations to cover events that feature a meet-up group of 40 Pugs, all wearing costumes and running around an agility course, is a walk in the park.
Our clients are predominantly well-educated and successful, and select quality products and services for their families. Where these folks live in abundance and do their shopping — that’s where we like to see a new Zoom Room sprout up.
6. Based on your observations, what concrete steps do your most successful franchisees take in order to build and grow their businesses?
Participation in the community at large is key. Our franchisees work closely with rescue groups and humane societies as well as with other business owners. Providing exceptional customer service cements the ongoing affection of our clients and allows us to enjoy such phenomenal retention rates.
7. What kind of ongoing support do you extend to your franchisees to help them become more successful?
- Extensive marketing training and support
- Availability of top staff at corporate to assist with planning events
- Site visits
- Ongoing rollout of new curricula and innovative products
- Personalized attention throughout every step of the process, from vetting locations, to assisting with build-out, and promoting the Grand Opening — and on a daily basis after that.
They should speak with their attorney to learn more about the FTC’s Item 19 rule, as well as their own State’s laws and regulations. Any franchisor who makes any statements about profitability or earnings potential, no matter how they couch such claims, is likely in violation of State and Federal Law unless they cling exactly to the wording of their Item 19 filing.
Smart franchisees ask the right questions. “How much money will I make?” is not the right question. When I hear this question from a candidate, it’s usually a red flag. I wonder to myself if they ask the same from their realtor before buying a house, or their stockbroker before investing. No one can answer these questions. The best you can do is ask intelligent, reasonable questions to fully understand the business model, and then apply this information to generate a pro forma and cash flow analysis.
Starting any business is a risk. A franchise is arguably less of a risk, since you are tapping into a proven business model and not trying to reinvent the wheel, but it is a risk nonetheless. Owning your own business is not for the risk averse. Kick the tires extensively and make the most of your Discovery Day.
If you love this business and feel comfortable with the franchisor, then this might just be your dream come true.
We take great pride in our work with local and national animal welfare and rescue organizations. We regularly make the facility available for charitable fundraisers for animal welfare organizations, and as a venue for dog adoptions and microchipping clinics, plus ongoing donations of both goods and training services to local shelters.
But the single greatest contribution we can make to the community is not our direct partnerships with these amazing organizations, but rather our everyday commitment to promoting responsible pet ownership by providing dog owners the tools to deepen the bonds of communication with their dogs.
Dogs frequently enter shelters due to behavior issues. By providing quality, positive dog training, we can do our part to foster a world in which dogs are better trained, leading happier lives at home with their families, and thus reducing the number of dogs entering institutions.
Check out my interview with Dogtopia franchisee, Darien Fischer.