Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
My name is Amy Reed and in 2004 my neighbor, Leslie Barron, and I founded Woofie’s - a professional pet care services company in Northern Virginia. Woofie’s offers Pet Sitting, Dog Walking, and Mobile Pet Grooming services.
We believe that pets are family! So many pet owners want to give their pets the very best, and that’s what Woofie’s provides: professional, reliable, personalized care for every individual pet. Our services are sought after because we go the extra mile to make sure our customers and their pets are safe and happy. Our mission from day one has been to ensure that every customer experience is an exceptional one.
With 16+ years of experience, Leslie and I have seen the industry grow and mature, we have turned challenges into opportunities, and we continue to keep Woofie’s evolving well ahead of the pack!
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
Woofie’s started in 2004 when my business partner, Leslie Barron, and I saw the need for reliable, personalized pet care. Both of us worked full-time and finding a trusted pet sitter was very challenging. It became very clear that there was a real, unmet need for an upscale, professional pet care company in the Ashburn, VA area.
Always take an honest look at your business and don't be afraid to make changes. Be self-critical and when something isn’t working, ask yourself: “what can I do to make this process run smoother”?
We quit our corporate jobs and we were able to turn our love of animals into a business where we have fun and love what we do! Being avid animal lovers, we couldn’t think of a better way to spend our days! Leslie and I walked our first dog together on day 1 for $10 and throughout the years we continued to grow our team of trusted pet sitters and build our business one dog walk at a time.
Customer service was our #1 priority and soon, Woofie’s became the top dog in our local community. We quickly realized that our clients also wanted the experience of an upscale grooming salon, without the hassle of taking their pet to the salon. So in 2011, we bought our first van with a bootstrap investment and added mobile grooming to our list of pet care services. Now, our clients have one trusted company for all their pet care needs!
We started franchising in 2018 and today, there are 4 Woofie’s locations throughout Northern Virginia. Our incredible franchisees share our company’s values of customer and community service and we couldn’t be more proud of where we are today!
Describe the process of launching the business.
We started Woofie’s with one dog walk for $10 and in 2019 we did over $3M in revenue . We now have 8 mobile grooming vans (that cost anywhere from $80,000 to $100,000), 19 groomers, between 75 and 100 pet sitters depending on the season, and 15 back office team members. Our entire client base comprises about 8,000 people.
We don’t have investors for Woofie’s, but we bootstrapped the company in 2011 when we added the mobile grooming component and bought our first van while continuing to offer dog walks and pet sitting. The idea was to eliminate the time and inconvenience associated with taking a pet to a brick-and-mortar salon. Grooming prices range from about $90 to $120 on average, but they vary based on the breeds and services.
In 2018, we launched our franchise business, Woofie’s Pet Ventures, with initial friends & family investment round. We hired a franchise consulting company to help us strategize, build, and market Woofie’s Pet Ventures. As the first and only pet care franchise to offer the combined services of pet sitting, dog walking, and mobile pet grooming, we currently have three franchise locations and 1 corporate location in Northern Virginia and are looking to expand into the Mid-Atlantic states. We stand out in the pet care franchise industry because of our recession/pandemic resilience and our unique combination of services that create multiple revenue streams for our franchisees.
As we realized there was a need for highly skilled, professional pet groomers, in 2019 we developed Woofie’s Academy™ - our professional pet grooming school - to provide a pool of talented groomers for all of our locations. We brought Woofie’s Academy from concept to market in only 4 months and 10+ graduates are now professional groomers and bathers working at Woofie’s.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
From the beginning, we’ve made it our mission to make every client interaction an exceptional one, stopping at nothing to make sure our clients and their pets are more than satisfied with our services. Pets, just like people, have their own unique sets of needs and we pride ourselves in customizing services to cater to those individual profiles. We built our business around providing exemplary service to our clients and word-of-mouth referrals became our number one source of new clients - that remains to this day!
In addition, we are hyper-local, meaning that we work, live (and play!) in the same areas that we service. Getting to know our clients on a one-to-one basis, seeing them at local events, patronizing the same area businesses, and living in the same communities make a big difference! We’ve also been successful at interacting with clients by sponsoring local events like partnering with area restaurants to host “Yappy Hours,” regularly holding charity events for local shelters like our annual Paws & Claus and Pooches & Smooches events, and being a vendor at the weekend Farmers Markets. Facebook posts.
We also keep in close contact with our clients and followers by posting regularly on our Facebook, Instagram, and other social media pages. We use social media to showcase the work by our expert groomers, posting “Before and After” photos of dog grooms, and fun, cute photos of pets being cared for by our professional dog walkers and pet sitters. We use social media to run local paid ads, post upcoming events, and establish ourselves as thought leaders and experts in the pet care field through our Woofie’s blog. Keeping our clients up-to-date on all the latest news and events at Woofie’s is also an important element to staying in touch, so we send out a monthly newsletter to our existing client base.
We’ve been successful at maintaining and growing our customer base by always looking for opportunities to provide service when it’s most needed and our flexibility in times of change puts us at an advantage when it comes to anticipating the needs of our clients and their pets. During the Covid pandemic, we visited local neighborhoods with our Mobile Pet Spa van, offering curbside services like Nail Trims and Luxury Baths. Many pet owners who had been patronizing brick and mortar pet salons had become wary of traveling to and entering these salons. Having our mobile van just a few blocks away increased the awareness of our services throughout the community and gave pet owners a chance to receive these much-needed pet services close by and without fear.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
Since its inception, Woofie’s has repeatedly earned higher revenues year over year. Obviously, 2020 was a challenging year with Covid. While we saw fantastic growth with our mobile spa revenues, we did see a drop in our pet sitting revenues since so many people were staying home. However, with the vaccines now more available, people going back to their offices, kids going back to school and people starting to travel again, we are excited to see that our pet sitting revenues are coming back strong in 2021. Pet care services are considered essential - people are always looking for a professional company to care for their beloved pets.
We are expanding our Woofie’s franchise opportunity into the mid-Atlantic states and then nationwide! We are excited to offer budding entrepreneurs the opportunity to work from home - and with pets. Our 3 franchisees are incredible members of our Woofie’s Pack and all locations now have at least 2 mobile grooming vans. Our franchise program is a dynamic, exciting, and ideal opportunity for someone interested in joining the $100+ Billion pet industry. According to the American Pet Products Association (APPA), 67% of U.S. households, or about 85 million families, own a pet.
So many people thought we were crazy in the early days and there were so many naysayers. People thought dog walking was a hobby and “not a real job”.
After offering exceptional pet care services for thousands of pets for over 16 years, our time-tested, mobile concept has a streamlined business model, strong brand image, and an unparalleled reputation for excellence. We strive to make sure that Woofie’s continues to be on the cutting edge of the booming pet industry and employs the latest technologies and best practices in professional pet care. Our long-term goals are to become the Nation’s top pet care provider!
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
Anytime you start a business, you expect that the industry itself and the technology will evolve so you have to be fluid to embrace those changes and always stay ahead of the curve. You also need to know that despite your very best effort, you are going to make mistakes along the way and that is ok. The key is to identify why or how that mistake happened and, most importantly, take the necessary measures to correct it and make sure that it doesn’t happen again. Don’t be afraid to deal with it and make those corrective changes.
When starting your business, be prepared and do your homework. Do all the proper research beforehand such as looking at the competitive landscape. Also, once you start, always take an honest look at your business, and don't be afraid to make changes. Be self-critical and when something isn’t working, ask yourself: “what can I do to make this process run smoother”?
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
We use the following tools for Woofie’s: Constant Contact; Canva; Precise Customized CRM for scheduling, billing, and client communications; FranConnect Franchise CRM; Ring Central phone system; RevLocal Consumer Digital Marketing; Integrated Digital Strategies for Franchise Digital Marketing; Facebook/Instagram Ads; Aidaforms; Blue Host; WordPress; Go Daddy; and Adobe Stock photos.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
Traction has definitely been an influential book for us in recent years. However, what has been most influential to me are the people I have met along the way in my professional journey. It started with my family. When Leslie and I first started Woofie’s in 2004, the different members of my family all played a key role in assisting and advising us in different areas of finance, marketing, and operations.
As we built our consumer business and eventually moved into franchising, we met several key people who became mentors for us. The franchise industry has a lot of exceptional leaders and to be able to learn from them has been invaluable.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting?
My message to aspiring entrepreneurs is don’t give up! Stay focused! So many people thought we were crazy in the early days and there were so many naysayers. People thought dog walking was a hobby and “not a real job”. Find your passion, follow it, stay true to it, and shut out all the outside noise. Believe in what you are doing and reach out to others for support. Follow your path and enjoy the journey!
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
We are always looking to build our team of professional pet sitters, dog walkers, and groomers. They can be either full-time or part-time.
We are also looking for candidates who would like to become a professional pet groomer or bather by completing our courses at our professional pet grooming school, Woofie’s Academy.
We seek to partner with budding entrepreneurs who have a passion for pets to be our franchise partners in the Mid-Atlantic States and beyond.
Where can we go to learn more?
- Woofies Franchise
- Woofie’s Academy
- Co-Founder/Co-Owner Amy Reed
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
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