Heidi Ganahl, the visionary behind Camp Bow Wow, embarked on her journey by establishing the first Camp Bow Wow location in Denver, Colorado during the autumn of 2000. Over the span of just 13 years, she accomplished the remarkable feat of transforming Camp Bow Wow into the world’s largest pet care franchisor.
In 1994, Heidi and her first husband, Bion, cherished two large shelter dogs. When they needed to travel, they faced difficulty in finding a suitable place to leave their beloved pets. Fortunately, fate intervened when one of the earliest doggie daycares in the United States opened right next to her father’s business. Seizing the opportunity, Heidi and her husband observed the joyous interactions among the dogs at the daycare. Witnessing the dogs’ enthusiasm for playing together ignited the spark of inspiration, leading to the birth of the Camp Bow Wow concept.
Together with her husband, Heidi Ganahl devised a comprehensive business plan that involved offering overnight boarding and doggie daycare services, incorporating a fun and upscale camp theme. Tragically, just six months after finalizing the plan, her husband passed away in a devastating plane crash on his 25th birthday. This heartbreaking event led to a period of shelving the business plan as Heidi faced numerous personal and professional hardships. From experiencing financial setbacks due to bad investments and business failures to enduring the pain of unpaid loans and a challenging custody battle for her daughter, Heidi’s life took a toll.
During her darkest moments, Heidi’s brother became her source of encouragement, urging her to pursue her passion and bring the Camp Bow Wow plan to fruition. With renewed determination, Heidi invested her entire savings into the project and reopened the business plan. Finding a location she adored, she launched the first Camp Bow Wow, which was met with resounding success. The following year, she opened a second location near Boulder, Colorado.
From the beginning, Camp Bow Wow offered Day Camp, Overnight Camp, and Camp Showers, all with a distinct lodge or ranch ambiance that reflected the Colorado spirit. Heidi’s core focus was always on the dogs’ safety, health, and happiness, believing that by prioritizing these aspects, success would naturally follow.
Each Camp Bow Wow facility typically features five to six spacious indoor/outdoor play yards, including a special Old Camper Lounge for less active older dogs and a Teacup Pup Lounge for dogs weighing 15 pounds or less. The Day Camp areas boast puppy playground equipment, paw- and bone-shaped pools, and ample space for playful interactions.
The dogs at Camp Bow Wow get to enjoy endless playtime with their canine companions, both indoors and outdoors. Even the overnight boarding guests get the chance to join in on Day Camp activities at no extra cost. Each evening, the boarders receive delightful Campfire Treats™, peanut butter-stuffed Kongs that dogs and their owners alike adore.
With passion, dedication, and a genuine love for dogs, Heidi Ganahl’s Camp Bow Wow has become a haven where furry friends can experience joy, care, and a true home-away-from-home.
“Our staff receives extensive training,” reveals Heidi Ganahl. “All of our Camp Counselors are certified in pet first aid and CPR. We maintain a ratio of one staff member per 15 Campers at most of our Camps.”
One of the key features we offer is the ‘Camper Cams,’ a pioneering addition to pet care facilities that our clients absolutely love,” shares Heidi. We are streaming live video from 12 to 16 high-definition cameras placed in various locations. We constantly work to stay in front of the curve in this area because technology adoption is a big part of our business.
“We’re thrilled to introduce the new Camper Corral System,” adds a excited Heidi Ganahl. These patent-pending systems are crafted from heavy-duty, long-lasting plastic that is also effortless to clean. The collapsible cabin design allows for easy boarding during the night and expands in the day, providing more daycare play space for dogs.
As Camp Bow Wow grew, clients began requesting expanded services beyond daycare and boarding. They wanted options for pet training and in-home pet care for pets that couldn’t come to Camp Bow Wow, such as cats, fish, birds, and unneutered dogs. This demand led to the creation of Home Buddies, a service that caters to pets in their own homes. Home Buddies offers an array of services, including pet food delivery, pet waste cleanup, dog walking, pet sitting, and care for special needs pets, all customizable to meet each client’s specific needs.
Home Buddies even provides the option to have a Home Buddies Cam® installed in your home. This wireless camera allows you to see, hear, and record your pet’s activities, accessible from any computer connected to the Internet.
Another facet that emerged due to client requests is Behavior Buddies, the dog training division of Camp Bow Wow. Whether it’s puppies as young as 10 weeks old or adult dogs of any age, they can participate in basic and advanced obedience training. Clients can opt for group obedience classes or choose private in-home training sessions.
Since 2003, Heidi began franchising Camp Bow Wow, and she has successfully sold over 200 franchises to date. Today, Camp Bow Wow holds the distinction of being the largest woman-owned franchise and the world’s largest doggie daycare company.
Heidi enthusiastically shares that there are approximately 4,400 franchise companies in the United States, and she proudly announces that their Camp Bow Wow franchise ranks at #214 on The Franchise 500 list, which features the top 500 franchises.
The collective Camp Bow Wow franchises are projected to achieve a remarkable $75 million in system sales this year.
Every individual who invests in a Camp Bow Wow franchise receives extensive training and ongoing support. Ms. Ganahl explains that as soon as they sign the agreement, they enter a comprehensive business coaching program and collaborate with the real estate and site selection team. Subsequently, they attend a 12-day corporate training in Colorado, followed by an additional 14-day Behavior Buddy training. A week before their site opens, a team of three corporate representatives assists the staff, ensuring thorough preparation with about 30 full days of training provided.
An invaluable resource for franchise owners is the corporate website, which showcases the services offered by every Camp Bow Wow location. The company invests significantly in nationwide advertising to drive traffic to the website, even running an ad during the Puppy Bowl on Super Bowl Day in 2011. As a result, the typical franchisee receives about 200 leads per month from the website.
In 2007, the Bow Wow Buddies Foundation became a part of the Camp Bow Wow family. This non-profit foundation is dedicated to enhancing the health and lives of animals globally. Many Camp Bow Wow franchisees actively contribute to this cause by fostering two or three shelter dogs from local rescues, assisting them in finding permanent homes. Over the past five years, their efforts have resulted in more than 10,000 dogs finding forever homes. Additionally, the Bow Wow Buddies Foundation has successfully raised over $1 million for canine cancer research, as one in four pets over the age of 10 is affected by cancer.
The On Our Way Home Project is dedicated to renovating animal shelters with play areas, fostering socialization among adoptable pets, and easing their stress in kennel environments.
Presently, the Scout’s Angels Program is engaged in a special project, providing funding for two therapy dogs with specialized training. These dogs will be sent to Newtown, Connecticut, where they will reside with therapists and serve as mascots to aid the town and its residents in recovering from the tragedy of 2012.
Despite being constantly occupied, Heidi Ganahl and her team, along with franchisees, have numerous exciting plans for the future. They are in a high-growth mode and aim to open 500 units by the end of 2016. Additionally, they intend to expand the Bow Wow Buddies Foundation and establish non-traditional sites, such as in hotels and corporate campuses.
Heidi Ganahl is highly sought-after as an industry speaker, and she has penned a compelling book called “Tails from the Bark Side.” In the book, she shares her struggles and how she transformed them into successes. Heidi’s profound love for dogs led her to create a multi-million dollar business and a charitable foundation through which she gives back. Her extraordinary journey is a tale of adversity, inspiration, and entrepreneurship, which has earned her the title of “Top Dog of Camp Bow Wow!”