We’re only a couple of months into the new year, and for those with big resolutions like starting a pet business, the timing couldn’t be better. Pet businesses are thriving in a way that few industries can match in our current post-recession economy, and franchises are a big part of that success. To get a more in-depth perspective on this, Andrew Hill, founder of pet sitting and services provider Pet Assist®, answers some questions on this growing industry.
Q: Pet businesses do seem to be popping up everywhere. A survey of pet owners by the American Pet Products Association (APPA) revealed that currently, 65% of U.S. homes have a pet, up from 56% in 1988. How does Pet Assist® fit into this new trend?
A: Pet Assist® services a need amongst our clients: the need to have their pets taken care of at all times. Where people used to leave animals at home to fend for themselves until they came home, they now have higher standards of care. And the demand is only growing as more pets find their “forever homes.”
Q: Why do you think that is?
A: More and more people consider domesticated animals as a part of the family. They are also recognizing the emotional and health benefits of having pets.
Q: And how exactly has this affected your industry?
A: Pet owners have become increasingly willing to spend extra money on not only healthcare costs, but daycare, grooming, obedience training, accessories and clothing, and other specialty products and services. The industry is growing exponentially, allowing a pet franchise like ours to flourish, as more and more people invest in our unique services.
Q: What do you think caused this sea of change in opinion about pets?
A: Everything from the newfound popularity of animal awareness and welfare groups to the Internet’s non-stop obsession with cats and dogs has made the whole population more animal friendly.
Q: Do you expect this to change anytime soon?
A: No, I foresee this trend continuing in the future. Once people have let animals into their hearts and started seeing them as more than “just pets,” there’s really no going back. This will only increase the need for services like ours at Pet Assist®. There will be a time when it all levels out, perhaps, but right now we’re just getting started.
Q: According to a report by the International Franchise Association (IFA), 11,826 general franchise establishments were created in the U.S. from 2013-14. Do you think these numbers reflect the pet franchise industry and to what extent?
A: Yes. The increase in interest in pet welfare has definitely seen a corresponding growth among pet franchises and I believe it will probably continue to do so for some time in the future. To what extent that holds true remains to be seen – all I can say is that it’s an exciting time to be in the business!
Q: Do you believe being part of this latest franchise boom has given you any advantages?
A: We are definitely getting access to some new markets and seeing an uptick in the number and types of pets that we care for. While we’re obviously riding the wave of this boom, we have advantages in any case. Our franchise status allows us to provide a broader scope of care and interconnectivity. This gives us an advantage over a single provider, who may have to make some kind of alternate arrangements when sick or on vacation. We can have a team of familiar providers on hand, no matter what the need or circumstances. This means reliability over almost everyone else in our field. The fact that the industry is doing well at the moment is only helping.
Q: Some people are predicting that there could be another recession. How do you think that would affect pet franchises?
A: From personal experience, I can say that our industry has truly become “recession resistant.” My wife and I started Pet Assist® in 2009, at the height of the great recession, and we were still able to expand our business exponentially. I believe this is due in large part to the new way that pets are viewed. For many people, pets are like children – and you provide for your children no matter how tight times get. However, Pet Assist’s growth stems mainly from the professionalism of the organization and the fact that people know they can trust Pet Assist® to provide outstanding care for their beloved pets.
Q: For those considering starting a pet franchise, what would you say?
A: There has never been a better time.
About Andrew Hill:
Andrew Hill is owner of Pet Assist, a pet sitting and dog walking franchise based in Sharon, Massachusetts. With over eighteen years of experience as a successful entrepreneur, Andrew Hill alongside with his wife Janis, have combined their business experience and passion for animals to establish Pet Assist, and make pets happy . . . one tail at a time! Andrew and Janis are also proud founders of the Eastern Massachusetts Pet Sitters Association.
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