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Kathryn Robair’s Journey to Franchising Success with Woofie’s

Written by:

Howard Tillerman is the Chief Marketing Officer for Step By Step Business and an award-winning marketing professional.

Kathryn Robair’s Journey to Franchising Success with Woofie’s

Transitioning from a solo venture to a flourishing franchise, Kathryn Robair‘s story unfolds as a tale of resilience, strategic shifts, and an unwavering love for pets. In this candid interview, we explore Kathryn’s early challenges with Critter Concierge, her pivotal decision to join Woofie’s, and the transformative impact of this move on her business.

As she sheds light on the perks of franchising, team dynamics, and aspirational goals, Kathryn’s narrative offers rich insights for both aspiring entrepreneurs and pet care enthusiasts. So, let’s dive into Kathryn’s world, where every hurdle leads to new opportunities, and every decision marks the beginning of a bigger, better chapter in the pet services realm.

Initial Challenges

SBS – What were the biggest challenges you faced when you started Critter Concierge, and how did you overcome them?

Kathryn – My biggest challenge when I started Critter Concierge in 2013 was that we endured a government shutdown two weeks later. Many people in our area are government and government-adjacent employees, so many potential customers were home and closely watching their discretionary dollars.

Unlike my current work-from-home clients, the furloughed employees did not have to worry about their dogs barking during a Zoom meeting or interrupting their workday with the need for a walk.

Decision to Franchise

SBS – What were the key factors that influenced your decision to convert your independent business to a Woofie’s franchise?

Kathryn – I love working in the pet space, but the pandemic hit us hard. Clients canceled their reservations with us when they had to cancel their spring break plans, and, pre-vaccine, many people did not want anyone outside of their “bubble” coming into their homes. COVID also affected our staffing since many of my walkers resigned due to their own health issues or immune-compromised family members. It took me an exhausting two years to rebuild my business, and I was pretty burnt out. It also made me realize that I needed more support and that being a one-woman company was exhausting. 

I wanted to have the opportunity to expand into additional revenue streams, as well. I have never been a groomer and would not have had the confidence to expand in that direction on my own.

Franchise Advantages

SBS – How has franchising with Woofie’s benefited your business compared to when you operated Critter Concierge independently?

Kathryn – I don’t have the words to adequately describe how supportive the entire Woofie’s corporate team has been. They are phenomenal! The team is extremely responsive when I have an issue or if I just need to bounce ideas off someone. They are experienced, patient, and positive.

I had the pleasure of meeting Woofie’s co-founder Amy Addington pre-pandemic at a pet sitters’ networking event, and I was struck by how results-oriented she was. While many business owners were concerned about challenges, she was the only one asking what they had done to remedy their situation and what their next step was going to be. She is a critical thinker, and she encourages those around her to push forward no matter what the circumstances are.

Learning Curve

SBS – What were some unexpected learning experiences you encountered during the transition from an independent business to a franchise model?

Kathryn – I was pleasantly surprised how much freedom I had to run my business.  There are a few parameters in working with a franchise, but I have always had — pardon the pun — a long leash. Woofie’s encourages authenticity and originality. We are urged to share our ideas with other franchise owners, and there is wonderful camaraderie amongst us.

Customer Experience

SBS – How has the transition to Woofie’s impacted your customer service and offerings?

Kathryn – We have always had wonderful customer service, and the marketing, technology, and human resources support that we get through Woofie’s has made it even better. Through Woofie’s established vendor relationships, I have been able to offer overnight pet sits and pet sits in a sitter’s home without having my insurance rates soar.

Revenue Streams

SBS – Can you share how the addition of grooming services and other revenue streams through Woofie’s has affected your business’s financial health?

Kathryn – Our grooming and overnight services have a higher dollar range than drop-in pet sits and dog walking, and we work hard to cross-promote our services.

Through Woofie’s relationship with Farmer’s Dog Pet Food, we have also been able to promote a healthier food choice to our clients. Farmer’s Dog wanted to partner with a national brand, so this is an opportunity that I never would have had as an independent company.

Team Building

SBS – How did you approach building a team to assist with everyday tasks and grooming services, and what advice do you have for effective team management?

Kathryn – Building a team with the right people takes time. Fortunately, I already knew what I wanted in pet sitters and dog walkers, but groomers and bathers have been more of a challenge. Once again, I give full credit to our franchise support team. They are available, present, and a wealth of information. Our franchise grooming Instructor, Natalie Charlson, has been a huge help with reviewing groomer and bather resumes and doing hands-on training, and our director of training and support, Lydia Best, has been incredibly helpful in assisting me in building a support team.

Franchise Support

SBS – In what ways has Woofie’s provided support and learning opportunities that have been crucial to your success?

Kathryn – Woofie’s has an amazing collection of training manuals and videos, along with document drafts for almost any location. While we all tweak most of the documents to fit our own franchises, it is a huge time saver to not have to reinvent the wheel at every turn.

Future Goals

SBS – Now that you are part of Woofie’s, what are your long-term goals for your franchise location?

Kathryn – I am planning on acquiring my second van within the next year as well as starting a dog training program. I am also discussing the benefits of attending Woofie’s Accelerated Grooming School (WAGS) with three of my pet sitters, who have expressed interest in taking their careers to the next level. Talented groomers are always in demand, and it can be an extremely lucrative career. 

Within three years, I will be interested in purchasing a second franchise and expanding my territory.

Advice for New Entrepreneurs

SBS – Based on your experience, what advice would you give to someone considering starting their own pet care business or joining a franchise like Woofie’s?

Kathryn – Be brutally honest with yourself. Do you have the self-discipline to run your own business? Can you be a leader who inspires your staff? Research your geographic area and find out if you have the potential clientele for these services. Ask as many questions as you need from your franchise representative to see if you will be a good fit.


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Kathryn Robair’s Journey to Franchising Success with Woofie’s