From the July 1999 issue of Entrepreneur

It's the ideal retreat--acres of beautiful land to explore, tons of activities, plush rooms and employees who cater to clients' every need. Welcome to the Golden Lake Recreational Pet Camp--a haven for pets and an opportunity for any animal-loving entrepreneur.

Set in the countryside of Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, Golden Lake opened its doggy doors in 1987. The facility includes bunk houses, a group play yard and a doggy den, and can house 50 dogs and 16 cats, with seven full-time employees on hand to care for them. Boarding rates start at $30 per day. Veterinarian services are also provided for an additional charge.

Rob Lauver, 40, Golden Lake's president and founder, discovered the niche while seeking someone to take care of his dogs while he was on vacation. He called 27 facilities, looking for a place that would let his dogs out of their pens for walks. He found none. "I thought, `I can't be the only one who wants something different from what's out there.' " During the next 10 years he attempted to find an institution that would finance his boarding facility idea--but to no avail. Eventually, Lauver used personal savings and credit cards to get his pet retreat started.

Now that his first location is a success, Lauver wants to use franchising to teach others the right way to care for animals. It costs $188,000 to $747,900 to start one of Lauver's pet camps. Franchisee training can last up to three months and begins at Lauver's facility, then continues at the franchisee's facility after construction is completed.

Lauver is quick to note this franchise isn't for absentee owners. He and his wife, Amy, live in the same building as the dogs and have only been away from the camp twice in the past 12 years. "This isn't a business--it's a lifestyle," says Lauver, whose day starts at 6 a.m. and ends at 9 p.m. "It's just like farming. You're tied to this business day and night."

Help Wanted

How staffing experience can equal franchise funding

Sometimes, becoming a franchisee can seem a little intimidating--and expensive. TRC Staffing, an Atlanta-based staffing company, makes the transition a lot easier by providing about 85 percent of a franchisee's total start-up costs in the form of a loan through its Freedom Franchise program. "It's a program we put together about six years ago to help people with industry experience become franchisees," says Steve Sanders, vice president of field operations for TRC Staffing's franchise division.

Qualified candidates should have at least five years of management experience in the temporary help or staffing industry and $25,000 of capital to invest.

A $78,000 business loan is distributed to the franchisee in installments each month for the first year. The franchisee begins paying back the loan at the beginning of his or her third year. During the first two years, the loans for franchisees who reach certain gross margin benchmarks are partially forgiven in amounts between $12,500 and $50,000.

In addition to the loan, franchisees receive a $50,000 stipend that's dispersed in equal installments over the first year. The franchisor also provides "back office" support and local staff training, 100 percent financing of payroll and receivables, nationwide field support, and additional financing for expansion after the first year.

TRC still has markets available in major U.S. cities. It adds an average of six to seven franchises each year and currently has 44 franchises nationwide.

Contact Sources

Golden Lake Recreational Pet Camp, (888) 858-7638, glprez@pipeline.com

TRC Staffing, (800) 488-8008, http://www.trcstaff.com