Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Camp Bow Wow - Dog Daycare Hits It Big

Five years ago, Heidi Flammang launched Camp Bow Wow, a Denver doggie day care center, and a year later sold her first franchise. By 2005 she had 11 different locations and planned by the end of that year to expand to 75, each bringing in between $750,000 and $2 million in revenue annually, depending on size and location.

"The company is doing very well, and everyone is very happy. But personally, I wanted to be farther ahead as far as the number of camps opened and as far sales go."

Flammang says she has sold 180 franchises, but only 35 are operating, well under her initial target of 75 in operation by the end of 2005. However, she says that by the end of this year she will have sold 225 franchises and there will be 75 Camp Bow Wows up and running.

"We are selling more franchises than we thought, but they are taking longer to open," she says. The biggest obstacles, she says, are zoning and construction issues. "It takes so much time, and we can't speed this up because getting permits depends on local municipalities."

Flammang has also readjusted her sales goals to $600,000 to $700,000 per store, in large part because she has also scaled down the size of each camp. "Our original model has not proven that bigger camps are better," she says. "We wanted to keep the intimate, boutique-camp feel… And having more than 150 dogs in a facility is too crazy."

She's learned a few lessons about franchising along the way. "One thing I've noticed is how important cash flow management is for us and the franchisees," she says. "It's important to have working capital and to invest wisely and to advertise. A lot of franchisers did not want to advertise. Now we have strict rules on that. We didn't have those rules a few years ago."

All in all, however, Bow Wow's future looks good. Flammang says the company brought in $10 million in revenue last year. Based on her new goals, she expects to hit $100 million by 2010. There are Camp Bow Wows in 28 states and Canada—more than double the number in 2005.

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