Small Business


A Small-Business Success Story: Barking Up the Right Tree

Poon Watchara-Amphaiwan

Amy Nichols, founder and owner of Dogtopia

Amy Nichols created Dogtopia because she worked long hours and felt guilty about leaving Griffin, her Boston terrier, alone at home. Nichols, who was a sales representative for a telecommunications company, thought her dog needed socialization and exercise while she was away.

See Also: High- and Low-Risk Ways to Launch Your Own Business

That was in 2000. Two years later, Nichols launched Dogtopia, a day-care and boarding center in Tysons Corner, Va., that features large playrooms designed for different types of dogs. Dogtopia also provides baths and other spa services for its canine clients.

By 2004, she had grossed $1 million; in 2005, she decided to sell Dogtopia franchises. She now owns five Dogtopia centers and has sold franchises for 22 others in 12 states. In addition to the $42,500 upfront franchise fee, she receives 7% of the franchisees’ revenues. Last year, revenue from all Dogtopia stores and franchises topped $14 million. In October, Nichols signed an agreement with Thomas Franchise Solutions to expand the company to more than 400 locations in the U.S. and Canada over the next seven years (for more on franchising, see Jump-Start Your Career With a Franchise).

Take Our Quiz: Test Your Small Business Know-How

Nichols says the investment has enabled her to hire more employees. She believes she can expand her operation in other ways as well. Nichols and her husband, Mike, who also works for Dogtopia, are building their dream house in northern Virginia and recently hired a nanny to help care for their two boys, ages 5 and 9, and twin girls born last November. They’re working with a financial planner to help them manage the additional income they’ll earn as the business expands. “I want to be smart about it,” Nichols says. “We have four kids to put through college.”

Nichols says she never doubted that she would succeed. “If you believe in yourself and your idea, it’s not that risky,” she says. “You’ll do whatever it takes to make it work.”

Editor's Picks From Kiplinger


You can get valuable updates from Kiplinger sent directly to your email. Simply enter your e-mail address and click "sign up".

More Sponsored Links


DISCUSS

Permission to post your comment is assumed when you submit it. The name you provide will be used to identify your post, and NOT your e-mail address. We reserve the right to excerpt or edit any posted comments for clarity, appropriateness, civility, and relevance to the topic.
View our full privacy policy


Advertisement
Get valuable updates from Kiplinger directly to your e-mail

Market Update

Advertisement

Featured Videos From Kiplinger