Catching up with Trevor Robinson, Camp Bow Wow’s director of franchise development, at Franchise Expo South.

When franchise brands talk about the importance of bringing in only the right franchisees, Trevor Robinson acknowledges that not only does it sound cliché, “it’s 99 percent B.S.” But for Camp Bow Wow, “it’s 100 percent true,” continues Robinson, the director of franchise development. “You can’t fake loving dogs.”

“That’s the No. 1 thing we look for,” says Robinson, who I caught up with today at Franchise Expo South in Ft. Lauderdale. “We say, ‘never put the dollar before the dog.’ You don’t get past me if you don’t love dogs and just want to make money.”

That intense focus on signing franchisees with a genuine appreciation for and love of pets has translated into steady growth for the doggy daycare and boarding franchise, which last year opened 20 locations, more than double the previous year. It’s also meant Camp Bow Wow, which has more than 160 locations, has had to look beyond people simply interested in franchising to find candidates.

“We’ve done a lot of non-traditional trade shows,” says Robinson, calling out events with pet hospitals and veterinarian expos as opportunities to expose the brand to new audiences. That approach has also come with its own challenges.

“The people who are looking at us aren’t also looking at 10 Taco Bells or something,” says Robinson. “For us, there’s huge education around what a franchise is, how this will impact your life, really getting people to understand the commitment.”

As it continues to accelerate growth, Camp Bow Wow will introduce a smaller footprint model this year—5,000 square feet versus standard locations closer to 10,000 square feet—that also has a lower total investment. The new model comes in at about $800,000, says Robinson, versus traditional Camp Bow Wow units that cost more than $1 million to open. The new model “will also help increase our real estate opportunities,” he adds.

Equally important to signing new franchisees is supporting existing owners, and Camp Bow Wow has increased its number of field operations directors from three to six in recent years, with plans to hire two more this year. It also rolled out its Data Dawg 2.0 software across the system in 2018. The proprietary program provides franchisees with a range of business management tools, along with mobile check-in for pet parents and a client portal that includes information such as vet records.

“It was what franchisees had been asking for for a long time,” says Robinson.

Camp Bow Wow is among nearly 200 franchise brands and industry suppliers exhibiting at Franchise Expo South, which runs through Saturday at the Greater Fort Lauderdale/Broward County Convention Center.

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