When former NYPD canine handler and Commanding Officer of the Nassau County Police Department canine unit Mike Gould retired in 2001, his experience with dog behavior led him to start Hounds Town USA, an interactive doggie daycare, boarding, and grooming facility. He grew the brand to three corporate locations, two of which were sold as turn-key businesses to former employees and customers, before turning to franchising. Along with President Jackie Bondanza, the brand signed several more franchisees on their own and realized that in order to properly scale the brand, they needed a franchising expert to not only position their brand in the marketplace but to provide the strategy on how to recruit the franchisees that fit the brand best, both culturally and financially.
Enter RainTree, a franchise development firm that helps position both emerging and mature franchises for optimal growth. After working with several different sales companies over a six-year time period, Bondanza was referred to RainTree by a colleague.
“Meeting the team was like a breath of fresh air. They are not only professional and good at what they do, but they’re also smart and innovative and ahead of the curve,” Bondanza said.
And the feeling is mutual.
“The RainTree office manager is a Golden Retriever named Drummer, so it’s safe to say we have a strong cultural connection to dogs and were drawn to Hounds Town USA,” said RainTree Development Manager Alex Gesten. “When we did a comparative study of the other doggy daycare franchises, it was clear that the economics of Hounds Town were far superior to anything else out there, both from an investment and a profitability standpoint.”
RainTree quickly identified that founder Mike Gould’s background as a canine handler for the New York Police Department, as Commanding Officer of the Nassau County Police Department canine unit, and in charge of the Military Working Dog (MWD) program would be a differentiator that would resonate with potential franchise buyers.
To properly communicate how Gould’s background was operationalized to bring those same skills to franchisees and staff members, RainTree developed strong content, including a 6,000-word franchise report, and executed photoshoots to develop visuals to properly represent the story and deepen the emotional connection with prospects.
“With really strong content to rely upon, we were able to work with a minimal lead generation budget,” said Marketing Director Linton Dowling. “By focusing on creating compelling marketing collateral, we now need fewer leads to achieve our mutual franchise growth goals.”
That belief that content is king is shared by the RainTree the Hounds Town USA teams. RainTree co-founder and CEO Brent Dowling notes that “to win the awareness war in a highly competitive franchise landscape, you need not only regular content but effective and value-driven content.”
He adds, “Mike hosts a number of radio shows focused on pet care and training, and he and Jackie host an awesome YouTube channel called Hounds Town TV. Plus, Jackie posts regularly on their blog and sends out amazing newsletters. RainTree takes the same approach to content on the development side, and a lot of the content is transferable and translatable into the development program. Our role was to help find a voice for all that content that would resonate with franchise buyers, rather than doggy daycare customers. We simply built lead generation strategies and a franchise sales process that utilized this content in a way that better connects with the psyche of a franchise buyer.”
Bondanza identifies RainTree’s holistic approach to brand growth, particularly in an emerging franchise, as a key factor in the success of the relationship. RainTree has helped develop the long term marketing, operational, and system growth goals, making Hounds Town better positioned to grow.
“RainTree knows how to allocate budgets to maximize results, and there is always someone on their team who has a recommendation for improving the many aspects of our business, from legal to marketing and operations,” said Bondanza. “It’s refreshing to have professional, honest, and down-to-earth feedback and guidance even if this guidance comes at the cost of a lead, or of a short-term sales goal. RainTree fully understands that their job is not just to sell franchises; it’s to grow a brand. They see the bigger picture and are invested in it. And sometimes that means bypassing or turning down an opportunity for the greater, longer-term good. Understanding this is absolutely essential to a brand’s successful growth.”
Dowling notes that the two teams “quickly and seamlessly integrated into a singular, cohesive team, with shared goals, doing so in a way where we trust each other fully.”
“Like all brands in the RainTree portfolio, the working relationship is extremely strong, but in the case of Hounds Town, we’re all having an incredible amount of fun working on this concept and are even more excited for what the journey ahead of us,” said Dowling. “I have no doubt that Hounds Town USA will successfully penetrate a host of new markets in the US in the coming months and years. But today, we are all just enjoying the ride.”