While some businesses saw declines in sales during the pandemic due to stay-at-home orders and other COVID-19 restrictions on in-store activity, Keith and Patrycia Miller welcomed an increase in people wanting to use their self-serve and full service dog grooming salons.
"You were home a lot more, so now you realize [the] dog smells," Keith Miller said. "At the start of the pandemic, it was 'I just need to get out because everything else is closed,' so we were sometimes the only contact people had for the day, either dropping the dog off or coming in and bathing them."
And with people staying in doors for a prolonged period during the pandemic, pet adoptions increased, leading to more business for the Millers.
Now the Millers are launching their franchise option outside of the Twin Cities.
"We've always debated if we want to do it and [asked] is now was the right time, but the pandemic hit and shockingly, when you're stuck as home with nothing to do, you have time to franchise," Keith Miller said.
There are four Bubbly Paws locations in the Twin Cities — St. Louis Park, St. Paul, Minneapolis and Maple Grove. From June 2020 to May 2021, total gross sales at were $1.5 million, more than the $1.39 million sales total for the previous 12-month period, and up from the $1.2 sales total for the same period between 2018 to 2019. The company only earned $1,321 for the month of April in 2020, which was at the onset of the novel coronavirus outbreak.
The Millers opened their first location in St. Louis Park in 2011. They've opened a new location about every two years since. The Minneapolis salon opened in 2018.
With their franchise option, the Millers plan to branch out slowly, following the same pattern they've used the past 10 years. Keith Miller said the goal is to add three stores in the next 12 months, "which, in the franchise world, is very slow," he said.
"To us it's more about quality than quantity."
From the initial conversation with interested franchisees to construction of the salon, the process to build a franchise will take about six months, Miller said. Each salon would have between two and four groomers, as many as four part-time staffers and one manager.
To start, the couple wants to branch out in the Midwest. So far, the Millers have received inquiries from Chicago, Milwaukee and Fargo, as well as other cities in Minnesota like Duluth and Rochester.
Keith is from Chicago and Patrycia is from the Appleton area in Wisconsin.
"Helping others succeed and follow their passions has always been important to me, and now I get to help entrepreneurs around the country help achieve their dream of owning their own small business," Patrycia Miller said.
One inquiry to buy into the franchise came from Arizona, Keith Miller said.
"Every time I see an e-mail in, it's same level of excitement, whether it's Green Bay or Milwaukee," he said. "It's like, wow, this person is actually interested in what we've built."
In addition to launching their franchise option, the Millers have begun selling their house dog shampoo and conditioner at their salons, along with a line of new bandanas.
"It's stuff we've always wanted to do, but being home more, you finally have the time to do that," Keith Miller said.