[Glen Kowarsky emailed me the other day, and I had to pass along his story. It’s a great rural small business story. -Becky ]
I started Dogs at Camp back in the Spring of 2002. At that time, I had a dog named Abby, who was my ‘one and only’, as I don’t have children.
and the Dogs at Camp
Abby came from the Humane Society in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, which is where I was living at the time. She was a very nervous dog, who had clearly been in an abusive situation in her previous home. In addition to that, she experienced epileptic seizures, which were controlled for the most part by medication.
I was very attached to Abby, as so many of today’s dog owners are to their own dogs, and I found it very difficult to leave her. When I was out at work during the days, I had a dog walker who would come and spend time with her and take her for walks. But I worried about leaving town (to travel), as given her nervousness, fear, and epilepsy, my concern was that if she were to be nervous or frightened, she’d suffer a seizure.
She therefore could not be left in a traditional kennel environment in which she would be in a ‘dog run’. The anxiety she would experience would just be too much for her.
I had a dream of a large country property outside of a small town, where dogs could come to stay while their owners travelled, and where they would be cared for by well trained ‘dog loving’ staff members.
The result is Dogs at Camp, with three locations and two more in the works. We are Canada’s largest dog boarding business. We are an ‘open concept dog camp’ as opposed to a traditional kennel. The difference is that our locations are in small town / rural settings on large acreage, and the dogs are cared for together with full time staff – socializing, playing, and just ‘being dogs’. They are not kept in crates or in runs. We do screen each dog first of course, to ensure sociability.
Most of our business draws people from nearby cities, who prefer a small town / rural based setting for their dogs. We have created a franchise package which includes all of our advertising materials, our web site, our online booking systems, etc., and we are now getting franchise inquiries from the U.S. as well.
We are in our 9th year of business, and we have worked out all of the ‘kinks’ over time, so that new franchisees have a solid, profitable, small town / rural business.
I lost Abby in October of last year, after 14 years, and I still miss her dearly each and every day. But her legacy lives on as we provide a wonderful and caring environment for dogs while their owners are away. We also have what we call a ‘Foster Camper’ program, through which we take dogs out of shelters and other rescue situations, and bring them to camp, where they stay at no cost while we help to find new homes for them. This program has been very successful, as we’ve placed some 20 dogs in new homes within the last six months!
I wish you all the best with your continued efforts to help small businesses. Only those who have owned small businesses, particularly in small towns, know of the challenges – and I applaud you for supporting them!
CEO, Dogs at Camp Canada Ltd.
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