Industry Veteran Takes Brand to New Levels
When pet industry veteran Rick Billups was invited to lead Pet Wants as the franchise’s new president in late 2016, he recognized it as a unique opportunity. Here was a chance to take the helm at a growing brand truly committed to pet health at a time when consumer preferences for pet food are changing right along with their shopping habits. This franchise had both bases covered with their business model of fresh food delivered to the home. What they needed was a leader experienced in the pet retail category to guide them to the next level of success.
“With pet food making up $24 billion in a $64 billion-dollar pet industry, I saw this as a great opportunity to build something special in an industry that just keeps on growing,” said Billups during a recent interview from the company’s headquarters in Cincinnati, OH.
Billups joined the franchise as president in August 2016, bringing along 30 years of overall experience in the pet industry, and 21 years in pet food distribution. Before taking on his current role as Pet Wants president, Billups had spent the previous 9 years working with Pet Valu – a large retail chain with around 1000 locations and over 300 franchised stores – where he handled areas of marketing, merchandising and site selection for retail stores.
With all that industry experience under his belt, Billups was quick to spot how the franchise was well positioned in a competitive industry given its superior product and a delivery model unlike any other pet franchise currently in the market.
Fresh. Local. Delivered.
Pet Wants was founded in 2010 by Michele Hobbs and Amanda Broughton, when they began to suspect that the health conditions of their pets could be related to their diet. Shocked to learn that the pet food brand they had been feeding their pets was filled with processed ingredients and by-products, and had also lost most of its nutritional value from sitting for months in warehouses and on store shelves, they decided there had to be a better way to feed their four-legged family members.
They started producing their own pet food using only the freshest, highest quality ingredients available. When the health of their pets improved, they knew they were onto something.
“Fresh. Local. Delivered.” became the brand’s guiding principle, with a focus on making it easy for pet parents to provide the freshest, top-quality food for their dogs and cats by having it conveniently delivered right to their doors on a recurring subscription basis.
The company has since grown into a quickly expanding franchise with nearly 70 locations spread over 26 states.
A fresh advantage
Billups explained how this focus on fresh ingredients is one of the brand’s key differentiators in the pet food category. While most of the food sitting on pet retailer shelves are usually 4-6 months old, Pet Wants food is slow-cooked monthly in small batches and delivered directly to the customer’s door within 4-6 weeks of production.
“People love their pets. They’re part of their family and we want to ensure their pets are fed the best,” said Billups. “The freshness of our product means the food is not only higher in nutritional value, but is also better tasting for the pet. When I began to transition my own pets onto our food, they shoved aside the other food in their bowl trying to get to the fresh Pet Wants food.”
Low cost mobile delivery model
While the fresh, premium quality product ensures happy and healthy pet customers, it’s the brand’s unique delivery model that makes it particularly attractive to prospective franchise owners, who can choose between a mobile delivery only model or a retail storefront with delivery concept.
The mobile delivery model is particularly unique since it allows franchisees to move into the lucrative pet industry at a low start up cost, with minimal overhead compared to other opportunities in the industry.
For those who would like to own a retail store, there is also a retail storefront with delivery model available, with stores ranging in size between 600 to 1000 square feet and the option to include grooming services as an added revenue stream.
“Owners of other pet franchises are often burdened with high overhead and debt,” explained Billups. “We provide a low-cost option to move into the industry, where you can build up your equity and cash flow before moving over to the retail side.”
Moving ahead into 2017
With 68 territories already established across the U.S., the Pet Wants franchise is poised for further growth in 2017.
“We continue to get prospective calls from all over the country and are being approached by prospective business owners in every state,” said Billups.
To support the growing number of franchisees and plans to continue expansion, the company has recently beefed up its operations team, adding another industry veteran in Jim Curran, who brings over 40 years of experience in the pet industry to his managerial role. Curran will regularly interface with franchisees to address needs, develop processes, and ensure each location is reaching their full operating potential.
2017 will also see Pet Wants working closely with a veterinarian to develop new pet food formulas, and to provide nutritional training to franchisees and their staffs. It’s initiatives like these that Billups believes will strengthen the brand’s identity in the minds of consumers as trustworthy leaders in pet nutrition.
“Our goal is to stay ahead of the curve and give our owners the leading edge to differentiate themselves from what’s out in the mass market,” explained Billups. “The new staff and partnerships give us the support structure that we need to help our owners succeed by giving them the road maps and knowledge of how to navigate the competitive pet industry.”
For more information on how to get started in the industry with a Pet Wants franchise, please visit www.petwantsfranchise.com
Written by Diana Cikes, Franchising USA