Franchising Fred Heritage · 15 February 2016
Franchise startup stories: Part 2 Home dog boarding firm Wagging Tails
In the second part of our three-part franchising startup series of features, we meet Lisa Suswain founder of disruptive new dog housing venture Wagging Tails. Born in 2007 as a dog kennel business with a difference, the business now has 20 franchisees nationwide. Suswain talked to Business Advice about her experiences as franchisor, including how her role has evolved from employer to mentor. Designed as a home dog boarding service, Wagging Tails provides holiday homes for dogs, with the animals? welfare and the peace of mind of their owners at the heart of the business model. The concept proved very popular with dog owners that mistrusted regular kennels, and the business took off quickly. In 2010, following several years of successful growth, Wagging Tails set up its first franchise in Oxfordshire. Founder Lisa Suswain talked to Business Advice about her venture’s experience. originally I really didn’t want to franchise, explained Suswain. The franchise companies I’d looked into that offered dog boarding and pet care all had compromises and I felt were quite corporate looking. It was all about the money for the bookings and not about the dogs. Wanting to retain the ethical aspects of her business model, Suswain chose the franchising route when demand for the Wagging Tails service became too great for her to manage alone. She knew that nationwide expansion would mean hiring dog carers in other parts of the country that wouldnt necessarily share her same vision, and her mission statement would be compromised. So Suswain took the decision to join the British Franchise Association (BFA). working with the BFA and ensuring I worked with the right franchise development manager meant I could retain what made Wagging Tails the service dog owners wanted whilst developing business systems that enabled it to become a viable franchise. wagging Tails was never meant to be a large company, it was something for me to do to fulfill my passion for dogs and to give owners an alternative to kennels. I simply wouldn’t let the ethics which had made Wagging Tails such a success slip away by trying to over stretch myself so franchising was the sensible option for expanding, added Suswain. The business is now in its sixth year of franchising and Suswain has welcomed the evolution of her role into that of a mentor helping franchisees with their businesses. The most satisfying moments are seeing the success our franchisees achieve, she continued. taking on a great new carer, for instance, or gaining repeat and new bookings. Getting a discount with a council which no other company gets and seeing the wonderful holiday photos and the heart warming testimonials we receive from owners. It’s great to know we’ve been able to help people fulfil their dream of working with dogs and making a living from doing so.
ABOUT THE EXPERTFred Heritage
Fred Heritage was previously deputy editor at Business Advice. He has a BA in politics and international relations from the University of Kent and an MA in international conflict from Kings College London.