Going on vacation when you have a dog at home can be stressful. You can leave your dog at a kennel where it could spend most of the day isolated from people. Or you can convince a friend to look after your dog. Or you can take it with you on vacation. But FlipFlop Dogs offers a new option.
The company pairs vacationing dog owners with local caretakers who can look after their dogs in a real home while they are away. This model aims to give peace of mind to vacationing dog owners. And the business has even expanded with franchises and companion families in multiple states. Read more about this unique business idea in this week’s Small Business Spotlight.
What the Business Does:
Provides individual dog boarding options.
Founder Taffy Miltz explains:
“Our franchisees offer the alternative to kenneling. Our customers’ dogs stay in the home of one of our carefully selected Companion Families while they are away. Here they receive one to one care around the clock while maintaining their normal home-life routine in a warm, loving home. Round-trip transportation is provided to alleviate stressful departures.”
Matching dogs with the best companions in their area.
Instead of utilizing a traditional kenneling system, FlipFlop Dogs matches dogs with families who can care for them in an actual home setting. Miltz says:
“Our concept is different than the current options as we take care of all the details regarding the care of the dog. From arranging pick-up and return to matching the dog with our exclusive Companion Match system, that matches the best Companion Family to fit the needs.”
How the Business Got Started:
Because of a love of dogs.
Miltz and her husband had already worked in the pet care industry for over 25 years. They also owned dogs and didn’t really care for the kenneling experience. So when they were looking to start a new pet-related business, they decided to offer an alternative. Miltz explains:
“We had just picked up our 95-pound dog, Charlie, from the kennel. Like usual, he was not the same as when we took him there. Being locked in a cage, not getting outside for more than a few brief (paid for) 10-minute walks combined with the loud noises from other dogs barking, made him anxious, over stimulated and completely stressed out. While speaking to other people, they had the same problem. They would either choose not to go away, or only travel within driving distance. This led us to examining more options and realizing that, in the U.S., dog owners do not have a true alternative to kenneling that is convenient, reliable, consistent and reasonably priced. This is how we came up with the FlipFlop concept. We developed FlipFlop in a way that we would feel comfortable having Charlie stay with one of our franchisees. We are very picky dog parents, and the FlipFlop experience makes Charlie feel like he never left home! He loves going on vacation now.”
Bringing a new concept to the U.S.
The Miltz family first heard about the alternative kenneling method thanks to some friends who had used a similar service in Europe. But nothing quite like it existed in the U.S. So they were not only starting a business, but starting an entirely new concept that most people in the country were not familiar with.
Be selective with franchisees.
Because of the nature of the business, FlipFlop Dogs uses a franchise system to reach as many dog owners in as many locations as possible. So initially, the company might have been a little too eager to gain new franchisees. Miltz says:
“We found very quickly that just because someone had the money to invest in your company, does not make them a good fit. You will be working as a team for many years to come and if you do not have the same values and goals it will hurt you in the long run.”
Appearing on Taking Stock.
The Miltzs were invited to do an interview with Pimm Fox on Taking Stock, a show on the Bloomberg Channel in New York. This allowed them to really get the word out about their business and the new option they offer for vacationing dog owners. Miltz says:
“We were so thrilled to be able to share our franchise concept with millions of Americans. Watching the interview afterwards was really fun and made us incredibly grateful to share our growing concept with dog lovers around the country.”
How They’d Spend an Extra $100,000:
“We spent a fair amount of our budget on marketing avenues. This remains the best way to get our name, concept and interest from dog lovers. We are always brainstorming new ideas on how local franchisees can grow their business and how we can increase the number of franchise leads. Investing in marketing is such a great way to allow your brand’s identity to show, while informing and educating consumers about your brand.”
How the Business Got its Name:
By being forced to get creative.
“When we were looking for a cute dog business name, every name we came up with was already registered. After yet another name rejection, our business attorney told us to think outside the box. One evening, we were sitting around the dinner table, brainstorming some ideas and someone jokingly started listing vacation terms; such as beach towel, pina colada, beach chairs, etc. Then it finally hit us, flip-flops! You wouldn’t go on a relaxing, beach vacation without them! Flip-flops signify a fun, happy, easy-going vacation — exactly what a FlipFlop doggy vacation is like.”
“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” – Confucius
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Images: FlipFlop Dogs
I can totally relate. I also love dogs as much as you guys do. I have thought about getting a similar business.
I think it’s a great idea – pet owners are usually pretty willing to spend for better care. I know I would feel better with my dog in another dog lover’s home than in a kennel.
I wouldn’t be concerned with the risk of bringing it to the US. There are several similar companies that have been matching pet owners to caretakers for years.
Yes, people are usually willing to spend for better care for their pets. And it seems like they’re doing well so far!