Hounds Town USA
Executive Q&A with Jackie Bondanza, CEO of Hounds Town USA
1851 Franchise: Tell us about your background.
Jackie Bondanza: I’ve been working for Hounds Town since 2013, when I started using the corporate store as a customer. I walked in with my two dogs and knew it was something special, so I asked the founder Mike Gould, “Why are you not franchising this?!” I believed that the concept had the potential to be a real competitor in the pet care space mostly because of Mike’s background and his unending knowledge about dogs. It’s unparalleled.
Prior to my roles at Hounds Town as president and now CEO, I was a book editor and ghostwriter for a variety of publishers, most recently Abrams Books.
1851: Tell us a little bit about the leadership team.
Bondanza: Mike and I have been at the helm for the last eight years, and we made a very key hire in Rob Flanagan, our new COO. Rob is a seasoned operator, a guru in all things franchising and one of the most driven, organized and hard working people I have met. I have worked with Rob for the last three years as a consultant and knew I wanted him on my team one day. He is heading up the internal team growth. We also recently hired Abe Dunaway from Wag N’ Wash Natural Pet Food and Grooming to be our senior director of operations and training.
As we roll into 2022, we will be looking to make high-level hires in construction, marketing and finance and have begun looking for leadership candidates to fill these roles.
1851: What makes Hounds Town USA a good franchise opportunity for an investor?
Bondanza: We have several key differentiators: First, we are very conscious about our Item 7. Our investment requirements are significantly lower than those of our competitors, and that’s because we have developed proprietary methods of building out a facility that allow us to achieve opening a store for much less. Our philosophy is, “Why ask franchisees to pay $1 million plus for something they can get for half of that?” The less the initial investment, the more money in franchisees’ pockets, the better their ROI is and the more likely they are to open another store and help us grow our brand organically.
The second major differentiator is that we know what we’re doing! We are founded by Mike Gould, one of the founding members of the NYPD canine unit. Mike has more than 40 years of dog management experience, and everything we do with dogs at Hounds Town is rooted in this knowledge. The fact that we actually know something about dogs goes a very long way in attracting customers who trust we know what we’re doing and in running a very fruitful operation.
1851: Who is the ideal franchise candidate?
Bondanza: Our ideal franchisee is either semi-active or an owner/operator who is looking to do something different with their life, either personally, professionally or financially. We look for people with sales backgrounds, who are enthusiastic about getting out there in their communities and making connections and building the Hounds Town brand in their market. Our top performers also have some hiring and management experience with entry-level employees and some business acumen. Building and opening any franchise or business is a higher risk, higher reward adventure, and we look for people who have an even temperament to handle the challenges this can sometimes present.
1851: What are you excited about for the future of Hounds Town USA?
Bondanza: We have been working for more than 20 years for this moment, so we are excited about finally realizing all of our visions for the brand. The pet care industry is on an impressive growth trajectory, and we are happy to be at the forefront of that with an affordable, simple and personally and financially rewarding business model.
1851: What are your growth goals for 2021 and beyond?
Bondanza: We are on track to have close to 30 stores open by the end of 2021 and nearly 50 by the end of 2022. In the next two to three years, we’ll be at 100. Our ultimate goal is for every dog in the country to have access to a Hounds Town, so that means we’ve got hundreds of stores to open over the next decade!