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Amy Nichols, CEO of Dogtopia

Archive for July, 2009

Dogtopia’s 5th Annual Charity Dog Wash

Thursday, July 16th, 2009

Dogtopia and K9 Support

A Dozen Locations Across the U.S. Set Goal to Wash More than 1,000 Dogs

July 09, 2009 // // Bethesda, MD – For working police dogs across the country, the comforts of home are few and far between. With budget cuts a reality in cities everywhere, animals in law enforcement’s K-9 units can use a little pampering on the job.

That’s why a dozen Dogtopia locations from California to Maryland will simultaneously participate in the company’s fifth annual charity dog wash July 18 and 19 to raise money for local police K-9 units who play an important role in keeping their communities safe.

“We are pleased to expand our mission of raising money for working dogs to animals in our own communities,” said Amy Nichols, CEO and Founder of Dogtopia. “Realizing that budgets in local government have been cut, we want to ensure working police dogs get the supplies necessary to do their job in as much comfort as possible.”

Working police dogs play an important role in detecting narcotics and explosives, search and rescue operations, evidence recovery and criminal apprehension in their communities. In addition, the dog is responsible for protecting their police handlers. Proceeds from the Dogtopia dog washes will defer costs for equipment such as ballistic vests, safety harnesses and the outfitting of cars.

Nichols began her campaign to raise awareness for military dogs, as well as working dogs of all kinds in July 2005. To accommodate the success of the campaign, she established a permanent charitable wing of her company called K-9 Support. To date, K-9 Support has raised more than $30,000 and sent more than 7,000 lbs of supplies overseas. Last year, seven locations participated in the annual dog wash and more than $7,000 was raised.

This year, locations in Manassas, VA; Chantilly, VA; Alexandria, VA; Woodbridge, VA; North Bethesda, MD; Danvers, MA; Waco, TX; Austin, TX; Omaha, NE; North Raleigh, NC; Temecula, CA and San Marcos, CA will participate in the dog wash with a goal of washing at least 100 dogs per location.

“The Dogtopia annual dog wash is our biggest event of the year for K-9 Support. I’m thrilled that so many of our locations are participating and that together we will raise needed funds and awareness for working dogs,” Nichols said. “Most dogs we’re in contact with lead pampered lives. We want to take care of the dogs that watch over us.”

Owners can bring their dogs in for a bath, where both can enjoy food and games. Several local businesses have committed to the fifth annual dog wash through donations and representation, including major players in the local canine industry. A $10 per dog wash donation is requested. Proceeds will go to the local Dogtopia franchisee’s organization of choice.

About Dogtopia®

Dogtopia®, founded in 2002, began offering franchises in 2005. Dogtopia prides itself on being a place where pets are valued as family and­ where dogs enjoy endless playtime and spa treatments in a positive environment. Dog owners have the assurance of leaving their beloved pets in the hands of trained professionals. Dogtopia® staff willingly nurtures each pet with attention and love. Each location offers a variety of fun activities, sociable training and comfortable boarding for dogs of all ages, shapes, sizes, abilities and temperaments.

Flexible Fridays

Monday, July 13th, 2009

Washington DC is known as our nation’s capital, but it also has another national moniker, that of one of the worst cities for traffic in the country. Forbes ranked us in the Top 3 Worst Traffic Cities with the likes of Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Commuting in our area is grueling, and after leaving the “rat race” seven years ago to start my own business, I thought I had found a way to truly control the time I spend in my car. I opened a doggie daycare, Dogtopia, just seven miles from my house. Our business hours had me commuting outside of the most congested periods of the day and I felt that I had solved the problem. No longer would I be subjected to hours of wasted time in my car. Until I decided to expand the business, that is.

A few years later we decided it was time to grow Dogtopia. We had great success with the first dog daycare in Tysons Corner, VA and felt it was time to add a “sister store” in North Bethesda, MD. The new Maryland store would be only 14 miles from the Tysons Corner location – an easy commute between the two. Or so we thought. Apparently, the Wilson Bridge that takes you over the Potomac River and from Virginia to Maryland, had other ideas.

Skip forward a few more years and we are now a growing franchise company with 20 locations across the country. We also have over 30 employees, six of which are in franchise management and report daily to our North Bethesda location. The North Bethesda location now housed our national headquarters and training center. Since we began the business in Virginia that also happened to be where everyone lived, and thus the daily undertaking of the Wilson Bridge. Somehow I was back to where I started eight years before and dealing daily with the horrors of DC traffic.

It occurred to me last summer that it would be quite easy to work from home on Fridays, and I felt that I deserved a day free from commuting. My second thought was that my employees would really enjoy working from home on Fridays. If I could do it, why not everyone on our management team? They would each save up to two hours in commuting time and could therefore have an earlier start to their weekend and more time with their family. I even came up with a clever name, “Flexible Fridays.” You can work wherever you want, but there were a few rules.

1. Must be available by phone

2. Must be online and available in email

3. Must be on Instant Messenger

The first two are quite obvious; the third requirement is because even when in the office, I often use IM to communicate with my team. I might have a quick question while on the phone with a vendor or franchisee and it prevents me from having to yell and/or put the person on hold.

Last summer Flexible Fridays worked great. Knowing they had at least one day per week where they could avoid traffic really improved their outlook and I know that they appreciated my gesture. There have been a few frustrations, but the slight inconveniences are more than outweighed by the increased satisfaction felt by my staff.

This year I decided to once again offer Flexible Fridays and so far, so good. Other times of the year it would not be possible due to franchisee training and other commitments, but it has become a nice summertime perk, and one that I plan to continue indefinitely.

Thankful Thursday

Thursday, July 9th, 2009

As some of you may know, I have been trying to encourage “Thankful Thursday” on Twitter.  I have been so pleasantly surprised by the great “tweeps” I have met that I thought a weekly shout out to all these cool folks would be a great way to acknowledge them.  Gini Dietrich (@ginidietrich) posted a very thorough blog listing her “Follow Friday” recommendations, so I thought I would follow suit and list my Thankful Thursday folks and why.  (Thanks Gini!)

I am thankful for the following Tweeps:

Franchise Folks:

@ginidietrich – Gini Dietrich is the CEO of Arment Dietrich PR Firm.  I thought I would start with her since she was the inspiration for this posting!  Gini is so full of energy! I just love her posts and interesting topics that she brings up.  She is a PR master and a super nice person!

@debraprgirl – Debra Vilchis is the COO at Fishman PR, the public relations firm for Dogtopia.  Debra has endless energy and enthusiasm plus a great sense of humor!

@DebCE – Deb Evans is the CEO of Computer Explorers.  A fellow franchisor with a positive outlook who is always willing to share ideas and her experience.  (I have found Franchisors in general to be very helpful and supportive, I think it comes with the territory)

@PaulSegreto – While I have never met Paul in person, I truly enjoy his insightful tweets and blog postings about franchising!

@DavidHandler – David is a business coach, and while not specific to franchising, he has been a tremendous help to me as I learn the “ways” of franchising!  A big fan of LOA and a positive force who always stears me back when I veer into the negative.

Dog & Pet Lovers:

@dogtopia – Got to give a shout out to our company twitter account!  Alex Bowens tweets for us and does a great job of sharing interesting pet stories, photos, and Dogtopia news.

@centerpet – Center Pet Pharmacy is right in our backyard in DC, yet we never met them until Twitter!  We are now working on some cross-marketing together, all because of Twitter!

@OBGCockerRescue – Oldies But Goodies Cocker Rescue is a great group that specializes in senior dogs who often have a harder time getting adopted.  We have been fostering their rescues for 3 years now at our Dogtopia of White Flint, MD store and have been happy to assist with more than 75 dogs finding homes!

@labradors – Dogtopia pretty much “runs” on Labs, so we love Lab lovers!

@barrie – A pet sitter in Lexington, KY who loves animals and is very supportive of rescue and other pet industry folks.

@amandaspetcare – Amanda Carlson is a dog walker and pet sitter in Arlington, VA.  She is also a customer of Dogtopia of Alexandria.  It has been great getting to know her on Twitter – lots of positive energy.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, and I hope to have a new post each Thursday.  Gratitude is such a powerful force and I am grateful for all of the positive influences in my life – both on and off Twitter!