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Retailer of the Year 2012-2013: Outstanding Pet Services

Posted: Jan. 30, 2013, 2:15 p.m. EST

Training Dogs and Owners—Together
With nearly 20 franchises nationwide (and more on the way), the Zoom Room offers a unique and winning combination of services and products that keeps clients coming back for more.
By Wendy Bedwell-Wilson

“We don’t train dogs. We train the people who love them.” 

This is the Zoom Room’s motto, and it succinctly describes what its owners, Mark and Jaime Van Wye, and its franchisees do.

“Zoom Room is a dog agility training center and canine social club that offers classes, including puppy training, dog obedience, tricks training, therapy dog training and a custom-designed agility course that all dogs of any shape and size can venture on,” said Mark Van Wye, COO.

But that’s not all.

Zoom Room offers obedience and agility training.
Zoom Room dog training
Zoom Room, a growing U.S. franchise, offers dog obedience and agility training. Photos Courtesy of Zoom Room
The booming franchise, with 17-plus locations across the United States, also serves as a retail resource for dog necessities and an events center for birthday parties, charitable fundraisers and other canine entertainment.

It comes as no surprise then that Pet Product News International’s editorial team selected Zoom Room as the recipient of the 2012-21013 Retailer of the Year award for Outstanding Pet Services.

The Concept
Jaime Van Wye is no stranger to the dog training and agility world. In addition to serving as a Pet Care Services Association representative, she is a certified master dog trainer, a graduate of the North State K9 Academy and a professional level member of the International Association of Canine Professionals—not to mention a graduate of UC Berkeley with a degree in philosophy.

While running a successful dog training business in Southern California in the mid-2000s, Jaime discovered a need for agility courses in the thriving metropolis.

“After trying to refer dog training clients to local agility classes—and finding that there were none except one person out in Thousand Oaks—she decided to offer her clients something more,” said Mark Van Wye, who is a marketing/branding professional and business consultant. “That need gave birth to the concept for Zoom Room.”

In 2007, the couple developed the curriculum and layout, launched the brand and opened their first facility in Los Angeles.

“From the very beginning, we planned for Zoom Room to be a franchise,” Mark said. “We concentrated exclusively on providing a much-needed social outlet for the discriminating urban pooch owner.”

Pets and their owners train together.
All Zoom Room locations encourage pet owners to participate in training.
Two years later, the first franchisee jumped onboard with a Zoom Room in Culver City, Calif. Soon after, there were more.

“Now, we have locations across the country [including Texas, California, North Carolina, Florida, Ohio, Colorado, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Maryland, with shops opening in Washington and Oregon soon], Mark said. “Our goal is to launch facilities in major metropolitan areas.”

The Services
What sets the Zoom Room apart from other pet retailers or pet service businesses is its combined class-plus-product approach.

“If you have a training challenge with your dog, we have a class and a product for that,” Mark said.

Every location promotes companion animal ownership by giving dog owners practical tools they can use and teaching them how to use them.

“Zoom Room is the perfect bonding experience for an owner and a dog,” Mark said. “The key to dog agility is teamwork and communication—which, of course, are also the very core components of a great relationship with your dog.”

At a Glance
Zoom Room

Location:17 franchises in nine states, including Texas, California, North Carolina, Florida, Ohio, Colorado, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Maryland

Owners:Jaime and Mark Van Wye

Size:1,400 square feet, average, for retail area

Employees:3 full-time, 2 part-time per location

Years in Business:5+

Products and Services Offered:Dog and boutique products; along with adoption days, obedience training and agility training.

Unlike dog daycare or boarding facilities, or even dog trainers who work one-on-one with peoples’ pets, Zoom Room encourages dog owners to participate in the training process.

“It’s not a drop-off facility,” he said. “This is one of the most critical aspects of our business model that sets us apart from competitors. We train owners to train their dogs, and to more deeply understand, communicate and bond with their pets.”

But it’s not all business at the Zoom Room.

In addition to holding dog adoptions, offering classes on dog first aid and pet safety, and hosting low-cost microchipping clinics, Zoom Room franchisees also throw parties and fundraising events—and lots of them, Mark said.

“Every single month at every Zoom Room location, there is a fundraiser or local event put on to benefit a local animal welfare nonprofit,” he said. “For instance, we’ve hosted Take Your Dog to Work Day and Responsible Dog Ownership Day events.”

They also host super-popular Doggy Disco parties in conjunction with birthday parties and fundraisers, Mark said.

“Last June, all of our locations held Yappy Hour events with a Doggy Disco party—complete with a music and pulsating light show—on Take Your Dog to Work Day,” he said. “And all the proceeds went to local charity groups. We had hundreds of participants at the centers, and a lot of people told us how much they appreciated having an after-work event on that designated day.”

The Facilities, Products
When the Van Wyes created their franchise concept, plans included standardizing the facilities as much as possible, Mark reported. As a result, each Zoom Room location features two distinct areas—a 1,400-square-foot retail center and a spacious gym—that are joined by a cash wrap in the center.

Zoom Room retail
While they train, owners learn how to use products they can pick up in the retail center and continue to train with at home.
“There’s a half wall between them so clients can see what’s going on,” he said. “It also creates a direct line between the products and the services we offer. Our inventory is geared toward the clients who are attracted to our services. It’s a very ‘un-boutique’ setting.”

The product mix, which includes dog and gift items, ranges from USA-made leashes, collars and toys to all-natural treats and premium dog food.

“All the dog products we carry are trainer approved,” Mark said.

The Zoom Room founders also develop their own products, he added, such as dog training gear made to their specifications, gluten-free dog donuts, jerky treats made with beef and flaxseed, and Logger Lickers made with waste products from beer manufacturing.

“We engage heavily in R&D,” Mark said. “We wish to provide pet owners with the very best options available. At the same time, we strive to provide our franchisees with a wide range of differentiating pet retail products not available elsewhere.”

Another feature of Zoom Room facilities that makes them unique: the “loungelike feel” in the space, he noted.

Training the Trainers
To become a Zoom Room franchisee, prospective operators must go through an intense three-week training process, said franchise co-owner Mark Van Wye. The process includes graduate school-level animal behavior courses designed by Jaime Van Wye and hands-on volunteer work at a local animal shelter.

“We want our franchisees to learn animal behavior systems that are rooted in science,” Mark said. “They need to be able to articulate to the dog owners how to manage their dogs’ behavior and understand how their dogs think.”

The Van Wyes also encourage their franchisees to continue to develop their skills.

“We’ve been training dogs forever, and yet not a day goes by that we don’t pick up some new insight, technique or modification,” Mark said. “Recognizing this, we make sure that all of our franchisees receive ongoing training when it comes to marketing, event planning, new curricula and metrics for running their business smoothly.” —WBW

“We provide all the comforts of a cool hangout, including free direct trade coffee from Intelligentsia, cool tunes and free WiFi. The Zoom Room is a great place for both you and your dog to socialize,” Mark said.

Zooming into the Future
Mark and Jaime Van Wye have developed a strong brand—and it’s one that they see growing well into the future thanks to their solid business model and community-centered approach.

“We have perfected our business model to avoid many of the pitfalls we’ve seen in other pet services business, such as zoning, staffing and liability issues,” Mark said. “Our offerings center around the fun factor: If it isn’t fun for our clients and fun for our franchisees, it’s not part of the picture.”

To keep themselves competitive, the Van Wyes look toward “continued innovation and staying ahead of the curve,” Mark said. “We’re rational pragmatists. Everything we do, we do for a reason.”

And that deliberate and continual business development will carry Zoom Room into a prosperous future.


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