This Franchise Is Going to the Dogs, and That's Absolutely Fine
Names: Jerry and Nick Masino
Franchise: Dogtopia, in Chester Springs, Pennsylvaia
Number of years in business/Number of employees: 1.5 years in business/12 employees
Franchisee's initial investment/the company's estimated figure: $650,000/$454,437-$735,275
Father and son team Jerry and Nick Masino have always had a great love for dogs -- “We've always had dogs and love being with them," father Jerry says via email.
But, over the years, dogs were (mostly) for fun. When it came time for serious work, son Nick got himself a desk job in IT, following in the footsteps of his dad, who formerly was head of international sales for an IT cloud and managed-services company.
Nick, however, realized early, at age 25, that corporate life wasn't for him. He began talking to his dad about going into business together -- a business they could relate to: dogs! -- and the two settled on Dogtopia, the daycare/boarding/dog spa franchise system. At Dogtopia, "We truly felt we could trust the people and top executives who owned the franchise," Jerry says.
The son's proposal wasn't a big surprise to the elder Masino. "My son and I always wanted to run our own business together, and we wanted our business to reflect something we were passionate about that that benefits the community," Jerry says. Even as his son labored away as a technical analyst, he -- the father -- couldn't help noticing the passion his son had for the canine community: "Every summer, he worked with dogs either in the kennel or with therapeutic dogs," Jerry notes.
Father and son made a plan, then hammered out the details during a three-week sojourn hiking the Appalachian Trail. In August of 2014 they acquired the franchise and opened their doors the following March.
"Extensive research" predated that opening, Jerry says, "considering everything is out there on the internet." After looking into basic franchises and exploring websites related to the kind of business that interested them, the Masinos stopped in at various franchisees' shops and relied on word of mouth, consulting en route with a financial planner.
In terms of lessons learned, Jerry Masino suggests using your franchisor's template and training, understanding customer service -- "it's the cornerstone of a lot of businesses" --- and making sure your location is right by hiring a corporate realtor to provided the demographics needed.
Dogtopia turned out to be a great choice: The Masinos sound like they're having a blast: "We are fulfilling a lifetime dream of running a family-owend business and hanging out with dogs all day!" Jerry points out, noting the constant presence of Nick's Golden Retriever. "It doesn't get much better."
The business side doesn't, either. The Masinos have impressive revenue numbers that they expect to double. And their business has apparently turned into a community favorite, with more than 60 percent of new customers coming from referrals. For the future, the father and son have no plans to open additional locations, because they enjoy the "family feel" of their single franchise, they say.
"From the minute we opened on day one," Jerry says, "we bent over backwards to win people over, know people personally and treat them like family and friends."
Including everyone's best friend, Fido. And that's nothing to growl at.