The pet industry is booming. But it’s not all about boutique grooming products or homemade treats. Service businesses like Zoom Room are also appealing to pet owners.
The company takes a unique approach to dog training, focusing on training with dog owners and also giving the animals a place to exercise and socialize. You can read more about the business in this week’s Small Business Spotlight.
What the Business Does
Provides dog training services that focus on helping dog owners.
Mark Van Wye, CEO of Zoom Room told Small Business Trends, “Zoom Room is a national indoor dog gym and training facility with the moto, “We don’t train dogs, we train the people who love them.” Zoom Room focuses on providing curriculum that deepens the bond between dogs and their owners. This allows the owners to fully understand their dogs’ behaviors and creates a distinctly social atmosphere at Zoom Room. Zoom Room also has philosophy to train dogs using only positive reinforcement. This is not only the most effective and humane means of dog training, but it’s also something every dog owner can do.”
Involving the owner in every step of the process.
Van Wye says, “Unlike other dog training facilities, Zoom Room is climate controlled and owners are required to be with their dogs at all times, which plays into Zoom Room’s mission to deepen the bond between dog and owner. Zoom Room also features cutting-edge curriculum not seen anywhere else. In addition to being experts in dog agility – which can be taught to any dog, no matter its size, age, breed or experience – Zoom Room also offers specialty classes including Shy Dog, Calm Down!, Pup-lates®, Scent Tracking, Urban Herding, Flyball, Rally Obedience and more.”
How the Business Got Started
Because of a gap in the market.
Van Wye explains, “Zoom Room was created because there was no indoor space for owners to train with their dogs and there was a lack of quality dog training curriculum outside of the traditional obedience training. We wanted to create a unique place where dog owners could come and play, train and exercise with their dog, while socializing with other like-minded dog lovers.”
Securing investments for franchise growth.
Van Wye says, “One of our biggest wins in Zoom Room’s history would have to be the recent investments we’ve secured with experienced franchise investors to spur the franchise growth of our brand around the country. We’re confident Zoom Room would become the epicenter of any dog-loving community and with the pet industry expected to top $96B in sales by 2020, we feel there’s no better time than now to expand the brand.”
Increasing retail offerings.
Van Wye explains, “When we began, our focus was almost 100% on the training and socialization services we offered, and the only retail products we carried were minimal and meant to enhance the training. Even though it seemed that consumers had countless options for purchasing pet retail at big box stores, boutiques, and online retailers, we took the risk of slightly increasing the footprint of our stores and dramatically increasing the amount of retail products we offered. It was a gamble because the investment was significant, and there was no guarantee that we could compete with all the other well-established options. But our conviction was that we could differentiate by carrying a curated line of solution-oriented products, almost all American-made, with all-natural treats, eco-friendly toys and puzzles, and truly the best in class across all product categories. We knew that clients whose dogs we had just trained would deeply trust our recommendations of the best stuff for their dogs. And the gamble paid off. Retail product sales now account for as much as 40% of gross revenue at our stores. We haven’t looked back.”
Find the right franchisees.
Van Wye says, “In our early days, we were so excited to get the Zoom Room concept launched across the U.S. that we didn’t do enough due diligence into the financial wherewithal of those applying to become franchisees. We didn’t verify their amount of available liquid capital to ensure that it was sufficient for launching and growing a business. As a result, we saw some stores close because the owners, from the outset, were unable to properly stock, staff or market their locations. If we could do it all over again, we would have asked the hard questions at the beginning, and worked with a great partner like Benetrends. These days, we partner with them – experts in the field – to diligently qualify our candidates as well as to assist them in securing all necessary funding to make their business a success.”
How They’d Spend an Extra $100,000
Spreading the word to potential franchisees.
Van Wye says, “We would use 100% of it toward marketing, advertising and PR. After the investment we received in the late summer of 2017, and all of the profound improvements we’ve since made to our infrastructure, we now have the bandwidth for limitless growth, so we’d earmark those funds to help us get the word out about the Zoom Room opportunity to dog-loving entrepreneurs across the U.S.”
A Komondor named Clyde.
Van Wye explains, “Our Mascot almost since our inception has been Clyde Orange, a hilarious and majestic Komondor. He’s appeared in movies and commercials, like Beverly Hills Chihuahua 2 and Marmaduke, but it’s his Therapy Dog training that best defines him. He is eternally patient with the literally hundreds of people a day who stop and ask to take his picture, and with children who love to hang onto his cords. The Komondor has for centuries been a serious working dog, guarding livestock, but thanks to his training since puppyhood at the Zoom Room, Clyde can also ride a skateboard around his home in Venice, CA, or let his awesome dreadlocks fly as he runs the agility course. But most often he is just the perfectly mellow and loving family dog. Our CEO’s son learned to read by reclining against Clyde – more than twice his size – and uninhibitedly reading books like Dog Man aloud to him. (This mirrors a program we offer at the Zoom Room called Ruff Reading®, in which kids can leave fear aside by reading boldly aloud to trained therapy dogs.)”
“The time to make up your mind about people – is never.” Katharine Hepburn to Cary Grant in The Philadelphia Story
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Image: …Zoom Room, Mark Van Wye