Small Business: Pets in the City - time to franchise?

By Gill South

Founders of upmarket pet hotel and day spa, Pets in the City, Rob and Carole Ellis, on why they are about to franchise their business.

Rob Ellis and Carole Ellis, owners of Pets in the City Hotel and Day Spa in Mt Wellington, Auckland. Photo / NZ Herald
Rob Ellis and Carole Ellis, owners of Pets in the City Hotel and Day Spa in Mt Wellington, Auckland. Photo / NZ Herald

We think that there is a huge amount of potential for a Pets in the City franchise in New Zealand. The idea of a luxury pet hotel and doggie daycare is a relatively new concept in this country, but is hugely popular in Europe and the USA. The growth trends we're seeing in the local market now are similar to those that occurred overseas five to ten years' ago, so we believe this is an industry on the rise.

We considered our options, such as financing ourselves and opening more branches; approaching angel investors; or selling shares to an active partner. The franchise option meant that we could control the brand and direction of the company.

Franchising enables us to bring onboard like-minded people who put "skin in the game". We want to make sure that franchisees love the business, but that they can make money and have fun at the same time. We also believe we can roll the Pets in the City offering out much faster through franchising.

Why do we think Pets in the City is well suited to franchising?

We are a profitable business that provides a new slant on a service that pet owners really need. It's a service whose time has come. Our business offering is expertly documented and is backed by 40 years of dog ownership, 25 years of dog showing and breeding and 12 years in the pet boarding business. We have invested in branding and have gone to great lengths to secure our IP. This in turn will give franchisees peace of mind long term.

It's been a long journey over the last year or so. Once we engaged Franchize Consultants, we began a process of analysing our existing business under Win Robinson and Callum Floyd's guidance. This was to establish if Pets in the City was franchisable, and whether it would be profitable both for us, the franchisor and, importantly, for the franchisee. Once this was established we then embarked on the process of designing the look of the business and, with the help of our advisors, write the manuals.

A specialised franchise lawyer was also engaged to draft the contracts.

We are finding franchisees mainly through our website, the Franchise New Zealand magazine and their website. We have also engaged communications agency, Acumen Republic, to help promote our business and assist us in reaching our target market.

Our franchisees will undergo extensive training in animal management, customer service and understanding of the pet care industry. Our ongoing support is vital and we will be standing alongside each franchisee to ensure they are doing a good job for the customer and having fun in the process.

We think people will be interested in a franchise with Pets in the City. Our concept has turned the pet care industry on its head in New Zealand. The model means that, for the first time, the boarding kennel owner does not have to live on site; they don't have to purchase a five acre block at residential prices; and don't have to live out of town. It's a pet care business that has come to its customers. It's a well proven concept that customers love and is profitable.

The business is well suited to a husband and wife team and can employ the whole family if required. It can also fit with a serious investor who desires a good return on capital.

We will charge an initial franchise fee and an annual 10 per cent royalty. We have deliberately kept our fees low to enable the uptake to happen as quickly and economically as possible for people interested in investing.

Our dream is to provide conveniently located pet care services around the country and we believe that Pets In The City is a game changer for customers and franchisees.

- NZ Herald

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