Dogs are indeed man’s best friend and deserve the best of care when away from their humans. That was how Heidi Ganahl and her first husband, Bion, felt when they sought high quality pet care for their two dogs in 1994. When they couldn’t find any, they decided to create their own vision for a doggy day care service complete with a fun camp theme, exclusive services. and 24/7 access.
Heidi and Bion’s dream came to an abrupt halt when he died unexpectedly in a plane crash. Over the next five years, Heidi pursued other projects but remained passionate about caring for dogs. Her younger brother encouraged her to start the doggy day care business and, in 2000, she opened her first Camp Bow Wow location in Denver, one of only a few doggy day care facilities in Colorado at that time. Additional locations opened in 2003 when Heidi began franchising her concept.
Colorado Enterprise Fund involvement
Despite the success of Camp Bow Wow, the oncoming US recession made it challenging for Heidi to secure the funds she needed to open more franchise locations. “The recession was in full rage,” Heidi recalled. “I looked for additional financing from banks but they weren’t lending to small businesses then.”
Eventually she was referred to Colorado Enterprise Fund (CEF) where she qualified for a loan in 2010. “CEF’s help was pivotal,” Heidi stated. “Their loan completely got us over the hump to continue moving forward to grow.”
Today, there are more than 200 Camp Bow Wow locations in the US and Canada that have helped more entrepreneurs become business owners. Services have expanded to include in-home pet care and dog training. The success of Heidi’s $100 million business, ranked as the pet and franchise industry leader, caught the attention of VCA Inc. - a leading animal healthcare company with over 600 animal hospitals in the United States and Canada - which bought Camp Bow Wow in 2014. Heidi stayed on as CEO until recently when she stepped down to pursue another passion - child, family and community safety - through her newly launched nonprofit, Moms Fight Back!.
Heidi expects Camp Bow Wow to continue to grow to 1000 locations eventually so more dogs can experience the standard of care she and her first husband envisioned as supported by her foundation, Bow Wow Buddies. But she said lenders like CEF are critical to success. “I’m a firm believer in free markets but this specific financing niche is ignored by banks and traditional lenders,” Heidi remarked. “CEF fills the gap and allows so many people to launch businesses, and create jobs and opportunities for their families.” Including the four-legged kind.
Heidi’s small business accomplishments have reaped big rewards. She was inducted into the 2016 Colorado Wall of Fame award by the US Small Business Administration in Denver for her success as a small business owner and community leader. Heidi has also shared her inspiring entrepreneurial comeback story on TEDxMileHigh and on CNBC’s The Big Idea with Donny Deutsch. Additional top company rankings in INC and Entrepreneur magazines, and other media features can be found on her website, HeidiInc.com.