Franchise Players is Entrepreneur’s Q&A interview column that puts the spotlight on franchisees. If you're a franchisee with advice and tips to share, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Nancy and Dave Dalton wanted to open a business they were passionate about. So, the dog lovers decided to look into pet franchise options. They found the perfect fit with FlipFlop Dogs. In fact, they felt so strongly about the pet-care franchise, they decided to become one of the first franchisees to bring the brand to the U.S. Here's how they knew that FlipFlop was the right franchise for them.
Name: Nancy and Dave Dalton
Franchise(s) owned (location): FlipFlop Dogs of Hamilton Mill in Buford, Ga.
How long have you owned a franchise?
We have been a FlipFlop franchisee for three years.
We always wanted to have our own business, but were apprehensive about how to go about it and we wanted to be sure that we would be successful. We knew that starting our own business would require hard work, and were ready for that, but we lacked business start-up and operational knowledge. What we discovered about franchising is that you are given all the tools you need to be successful, you just need to follow the training and operational guidelines given to you.
What were you doing before you became a franchise owner?
Nancy was working as a realty agent prior to starting FlipFlop of Hamilton Mill. She was looking to start her own business in a category that she was passionate about, while being able to create her own schedule, establish loyal repeat business, and maintain a work-life balance.
Dave continues to work outside of the home, but offers Nancy operational support as needed.
Why did you choose this particular franchise?
We wanted to start a business that we're passionate about, which led us to think about our love for dogs. We started looking into pet franchise opportunities. After researching many different pet businesses, we really fell in love with the FlipFlop Dogs concept.
We do not kennel our own dog, and feel strongly that other dog owners in our area would prefer to have their furry family members stay in a loving home as opposed to a cold, concrete cage. Although the concept was fairly new in the U.S., there are more than 70 franchisees established in their sister company (Barking Mad, the alternative to kennels in the United Kingdom). The FlipFlop Dogs management team has extensive background in the pet Industry.
We also loved that it was a smaller franchise because we get more one-on-one attention from the founders and are able to bounce ideas off of them, which was important to us as first-time business owners.
How much would you estimate you spent before you were officially open for business?
First there are, of course, the franchise fees and marketing package. We had to purchase (or lease) a Ford Transit to transport the dogs to and from the customers’ homes. We also needed a tablet, because FlipFlop franchisees are set up to be completely mobile. The total cost was between $50,000 and $60,000. We also allocated additional funds for marketing our business.
Where did you get most of your advice/do most of your research?
First, we looked at the franchising portals and the International Franchise Association. Next we studied the different websites of the franchises we were interested in. We also investigated our own market. For example, we looking into how many premium kennels were in our area and what they charged for boarding.
What were the most unexpected challenges of opening your franchise?
Recruiting companions that fit our high standards. We need a certain number of companions to grow our customer base, but we don’t accept everyone. We are only looking for those who do not work, or do not work outside of the home while watching visiting dogs. Plus, they need to truly love dogs. Recently, FlipFlop rolled out an easier way to reach ideal companions through new strategic recruiting plans.
What advice do you have for individuals who want to own their own franchise?
First, figure out what you are passionate about, then do your homework. Make sure that the franchises you are looking at have a good training program and offer continued support that you will need to operate and grow your business. For example, our franchisor has a call center, so I will never need to hire office support personnel to schedule appointments and answer phone calls while I’m on marketing appointments, or meeting with customers.
What’s next for you and your business?
We are continuing our success by working on our business plan and putting in place actions to double our revenues for next year.