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.
Wagging Tails insists on ‘sniffing out meetings? whereby owners meet carers before their dog boards with them, ensuring piece of mind. All carers are experienced home-based dog owners that go through a vetting process, and all are licensed by local councils and fully insured. Franchisees are all trained in Canine First Aid and have completed a diploma from the ADTB. All this combines to create a one-of-a-kind service. No other BFA franchise dog boarding company offers all of these things, Suswain emphasised.
franchisees get to offer the service dog owners actually want to use. They get a large, exclusive territory and masses of ongoing support covering every facet of their business.
For the franchisees, earnings come from owner fees minus the management service fee and carer fees. Wagging Tails sees bookings up to two years in advance, and with many repeat bookings, franchisees can forecast projected earnings well into the future, a cash flow positive service all round. In the next few years, Wagging Tails hopes to capitalise further on its franchising model.
the pet care industry is now becoming littered with dog boarding and pet care franchises, Suswain went on to say. This is great for us as it is drawing more attention to the fact that there is an alternative to kennels. We are regularly being told owners would rather use our service, and even have hosts and carers from other companies wanting to join Wagging Tails. The aim is for continued growth to match continued demand for the service.