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The Great Franchisees: Steve and Nicky Darwin, Hounds Town USA, Michigan

The husband-and-wife team left their corporate careers to open their own business with the fast-growing doggie daycare franchise.

Married couple Steve and Nicky Darwin are taking their love for dogs to a whole new level. The husband-and-wife duo have left their careers in corporate finance and nursing, respectively, to open up their own business with Hounds Town USA, the 10-plus-unit doggie daycare franchise.

The couple originally set out to open a restaurant franchise, but when COVID-19 hit, they changed gears. Once they came across Hounds Town, they say everything fell into place quickly. Now, the Darwins are preparing to open three Hounds Town units throughout Michigan. 

1851 Franchise: Tell us your story – what did you do before franchising? 

Steve Darwin: My background is in corporate finance, and my wife Nicky’s background is in nursing.

1851: How did you initially find out about franchising?

Steve: We’ve always had a general idea about the industry, but we never really considered a pet franchise. We looked for opportunities for a while specifically in the restaurant industry until I came across an advertisement for Hounds Town USA on Facebook and the rest is history.

1851: Why didn’t you initially consider opportunities in the pet industry?

Steve: We were primarily focused on the restaurant industry and we're really excited about opportunities there, until COVID-19 hit. 

1851: Why did you choose franchising over starting your own business?

Steve: The marketing capabilities that come with a franchisor were a big draw for me. We did think about opening a kennel for a little while, but Hounds Town’s low cost was attractive. The fact that there was a proven system and a fast-track way to get things moving was also appealing. 

1851: What types of brands did you look at? 

Steve: We looked at brands in the restaurant industry.

1851: Why did you choose Hounds Town USA? What excited you most about the potential? 

Steve: We researched several brands in the pet industry, but Hounds Town proved to be the best model. We love how fun the brand is and how the core values aligned with our own. Here, it’s all about the dogs and we really liked that.

1851: What are your dreams with the business? What does the future look like?

Steve: We’re definitely excited about future growth opportunities beyond our three locations.

1851: What value do you see your business providing to Ann Arbor and the surrounding communities?

Steve: One of the greatest things about Hounds Town is that it does not discriminate against breeds. The relationships and partnerships with different municipal and private rescue and shelter groups will also be profound. We’re really excited to be an active part of the community and will be employing a handful of locals as well. 

1851: What advice would you have for others looking into buying a franchise?

Steve: We’re still really new, but I’d say to surround yourself with like-minded people to help you achieve your goals. It’s a lot of work and the right people can guide you in the right direction and help make sense of the business’s plans, financials and projections. 

1851: What do you do in your personal time?

Steve: I enjoy golfing and spending time with our kids and four dogs.

Nicky: I also enjoy walking our dogs and spending time with the family. I also love spending time gardening in the yard, reading and doing jigsaw puzzles, too.


Since 2000, Hounds Town USA has offered a safe and welcoming environment for dogs to be dogs. With interactive doggie daycare, pet boarding, dog grooming, a pet taxi and retail services, Hounds Town USA’s unique town for dogs is home to the happiest dogs -- and franchise owners -- on Earth. Founded by former NYPD canine handler and commanding officer of the Nassau County Police Department Michael S. Gould, Hounds Town USA has grown to more than 10 locations with plans to expand to 30 units before 2023. For more information please visit