THE PROOF IS IN THE POODLE: WOOFIE’S THRIVES UNDER EMERGING BRANDS INCUBATOR
By Nate McFarland, Authority Brands
Since joining the Authority Brands family as the first in our emerging brands portfolio, Woofie’s has grown from just four locations in Virginia to a coast-tocoast system of 18 locations with many more on the way.
Woofie’s rapid growth is no accident — it’s proof of concept for our approach to emerging brands: identify brands with great potential and plug them into the wealth of experience and expertise under the Authority Brands umbrella. The story of Woofie’s growth is a lesson in what it takes to successfully scale up a brand from hometown hero to national player.
The story of Woofie’s growth is a lesson in what it takes to successfully scale up a brand from hometown hero to national player.
Unleashing the Potential of Smaller Brands
We always have an eye out for promising brands, and the ones we select have three things in common: they’re market leaders, provide essential services with low disruption risk and have strong unit economics.
Prior to debuting our emerging brands strategy, most brands we acquired were already franchising on a national level. But we saw significant opportunity and potential in smaller, regional brands likes Woofie’s. In January 2022, the Authority Brands emerging brands portfolio was born, and Woofie’s would be its first test.
Letting Go to Grow
Amy Addington and Leslie Barron identified an underserved market and founded Woofie’s in 2004. The pressure of building and expanding a brand is a lot for founders’ shoulders to bear. “We didn’t have a roadmap, or anyone to mentor us,” says Addington on Woofie’s early years. “We were building something very special to us. Woofie’s will always be my baby, but as a founder, you need to let go a little and hire people who really get it. You won’t grow if you don’t let go and bring in really strong team members.”
As Woofie’s grew, Amy and Leslie trusted the process. They carefully nurtured the brand and eventually franchised the business in 2018, expanding to four locations in Virginia.
The owners loved the brand, their communities were thankful for the service, and the two Woofie’s founders were ready to move to the next level.
Building a Team that Values the Mission
We believe wholeheartedly in our brands. Our leaders have more than 240 years of franchising experience, and many of them are proud franchise owners. We know what’s on the line for franchise owners and for brand founders. When we designed the emerging brands program, we knew it was crucial to find the right person to lead it.
Stewart Vernon gets what it takes to grow from regional to national. He founded ASP — America’s Swimming Pool Company — with a $500 award and grew it into a company with $91 million in systemwide sales. While ASP continues growing with Authority Brands, Stewart leads emerging brands like Woofie’s. Scaling up a business is a major undertaking, but Stewart’s careful guidance and Authority Brands’ time-tested strategies are setting up emerging brands to take over their respective markets.
Striking the Perfect Balance
The emerging brands incubator leverages the Authority Brands’ in-depth home services experience to accelerate growth and development of smaller-scale franchise concepts that have a proven system and strong management.
With each emerging brand in Authority Brands’ portfolio, the central challenge facing the Emerging Brands team is finding the right balance between two strategies: applying the tried-and-true Authority Brands playbook (crafted largely for mature brands) while also customizing an approach for a smaller brand at a much different stage of growth. Woofie’s marketing strategy, for example, adopted Authority Brands’ scalable marketing infrastructure and core channels while also placing a stronger-than-usual emphasis on event marketing and social media — two channels critical to Woofie’s success historically. The results so far have been promising, as cohorts of new franchise owners have established themselves at a speed typical of larger brands while still maintaining the hightouch, relationship-driven approach that is critical to Woofie’s success.
Woofie’s success is proof that with the right strategy, we can propel smaller brands to new levels.
Leader of the Pack
Authority Brands has been growing rapidly since our founding in 2017. Our approach is to provide a platform that gives brands access to the resources of a much larger business. Critical systems like IT, HR, and marketing are handled by best-in-class professionals, so that franchise owners can keep all their focus on providing best-in-class service.
Woofie’s has embraced our process and flourished as a result. From a few locations in Virginia, to a nationwide franchise, the brand is poised to be the leader of the pack in the pet care franchise industry. Woofie’s success is proof that with the right strategy, we can propel smaller brands to new levels.
Nate McFarland is the marketing director for emerging brands at Authority Brands.