Executive Q&A: Paul Kamm, Vice President of Operations, Pet Wants
Kamm explains what makes Pet Wants different from other pet-food providers and why the pet industry is among the hottest available for franchisees.
1851 Franchise: Tell us about the history of Pet Wants. How did it start?
Paul Kamm: It’s a classic entrepreneur story. Michelle Hobbes, our founder, started the brand in Findlay Market in Cincinnati. Michelle is very plugged in, and she's very true to her passions, one of which is her pets. Back in 2012, the pet-food market was very crowded with big-box, high-production food. Michelle couldn’t find any kind of dog food on the market that could accommodate her pet's allergies, so she started doing some research.
She reached out to a family-owned business, Ohio Pet Foods, and through a lot of persistence, she convinced them to produce some fresh, small-batch food for her to sell at Findlay Market. She quickly sold out and went back for more, and she kept selling out and going back to them. Eventually, Ohio Pet Foods reached out and said they had never seen pet food sell so quickly. That’s how they knew they had something special.
The rest is history. Ohio Pet Foods was acquired by BrightPet Nutrition Group, but they retained the management team. So it’s been a long-standing relationship, and we still produce 100% of our food with them today. It’s good to know we have a partner we trust who knows why we do what we do and supports our values.
1851: What void does Pet Wants fill?
Kamm: We’re the antithesis of big-box, mass-produced pet food. People don’t understand that just because food is delivered quickly doesn't mean it's fresh. Large distributors like Chewy and Amazon are only purchasing maybe once every six months, so the food is probably between 12 and 24 months old before it ever hits your dog's bowl. It's been mass-produced, sitting in a warehouse.
We produce the healthiest pet food you can buy. Handcrafted, slow-roasted food that’s produced not just for animals with conditions, but for all kinds of pets. We're bringing awareness to the idea that our pets should be eating for health and vitality, and we’re providing freshly made, locally sourced pet food to support that.
1851: What are some of Pet Wants’ other primary differentiators?
Kamm: In addition to the quality and craft behind our food, which is what really sets us apart, our No. 2 differentiator is our owner base. Our owners are highly trained and super-knowledgeable about pet nutrition, with many of them completing college-level courses in pet nutrition. They’re the best resource in our communities for pet health and wellness information — in many cases, even more so than the veterinarian.
We even have some franchisee candidates moving through the pipeline right now who are veterinarians. Anyone can find a bunch of college kids to staff their stores, but it’s a different thing to have knowledgeable and educated pillars of their communities running stores.
1851: What does an ideal Pet Wants franchisee look like?
Kamm: Someone who has experience in retail and in multi-unit management. Someone who’s been involved in everything from supply chain to customer service. But most of all, it’s someone who is passionate about health and wellness for pets. That’s a major marker. If they don’t have the education, we’ll provide it. But we want people who have a passion for pets and their health and wellness, first and foremost.
1851: What are some of Pet Wants’ most recent milestones?
Kamm: We made the prestigious Entrepreneur Franchise 500 list in 2021, as well as its list of top low-cost franchises. We were also recognized by Franchise Gator as one of the fastest-growing franchises. From a numbers standpoint, we had record territory growth year-over-year, adding 47 new territories in 2021, while consumer spending at Pet Wants increased 42% — and that’s still growing.
We also just opened our first R&D store. It’s a new corporate store located in Blue Ash, Ohio, about a mile away from our corporate headquarters. This is where we test out new services, including pet grooming. Our goal is to continue to stay on the leading edge of innovation in pet food and wellness, staying on top of trends and introducing new and better products for our customers. Our first R&D store is a big part of that.
1851: Why is now the time to own a Pet Wants franchise?
Kamm: The pet industry is hot right now, as the number of pets per household continues to increase. But we’re not just looking at a hot pet industry, we’re looking at a social movement. Millennials want fur babies instead of human babies. You also have an expanding population of seniors who need companionship and service dogs. At the same time, you have that class of current pet owners who are becoming more aware of how big a difference nutrition makes in their pets’ quality of life. So the opportunity for Pet Wants is huge.
1851: What are some of your goals for 2022 and beyond?
Kamm: We currently have 150 territories. We added 47 in 2021, and so far in 2022 we’ve had about half a dozen signings. Our goal is to hopefully add 60 total units this year and surpass the 200-territory mark. We’re well-positioned to hit 400 by 2028, and we’ll continue to grow as long as we have available territory and consistent demand, which shows no signs of slowing.