The Ark Pet Spa & Hotel: The Perfect Choice
Profile of Success
By Kathy Hosler
Photos provided by The Ark Pet Spa & Hotel
When Jay Floyd, Founder and CEO of The Ark Pet Spa & Hotel, set out to create an all-inclusive pet hotel, spa and daycare where pets of all kinds could have fun and feel safe and loved, he had no problem finding a name for it.
“The name came easily to me,” said Jay. “Every animal Noah took on the Ark was safe and well cared for. As I reflected on what The Ark represents, I knew it was the perfect choice.”
Initially, Jay was not involved in the pet industry. He was in advertising and became a real estate developer, and he fully expected to stay in that career. The plan to open and operate multiple pet care facilities—and then franchise his model throughout the United States—changed his career path. And, through The Ark Pet Spa & Hotel, this lifelong pet lover has found his niche and has never been happier.
“As a kid growing up, I had the usual pets—dogs and cats,” said Jay. “And I also had other pets like turtles and guinea pigs. Fast forward to 2003. I was living in Los Angeles and needed to find a loving, caring place for our Rottweiler, Sophie, while our family went out of town for a vacation.
“We found places that would care for Sophie’s needs, but none of them made me feel that she would be comfortable, safe, and also have fun while she was there. That’s when I first got the idea for The Ark,” Jay shares.
That idea continued to grow, and soon Jay was formulating his plan for a full-service pet care facility for domestic pets; dogs, cats and small exotics. His goal was to provide premium care for the pets, along with peace of mind for their owners. The happiness and safety of each pet was paramount in his mind as he designed the facility.
His objective was to have boarding, daycare, grooming, and a pet bakery and market all under one roof. Jay wanted to do everything right from the beginning, so he took his time, did his research and planned everything out.
He wanted the dogs that were boarding at the Ark to stay in private, air-conditioned rooms with soothing music playing throughout the building. They would enjoy full-service accommodations and participate in daycare. It would be a “free-play” facility. The daycare dogs would enjoy all-day group play with other dogs of matching size and temperament. The spacious outdoor areas would be equipped with synthetic turf and the indoor areas would have rubberized floors. And, twenty-four-seven, live-streaming webcams would allow owners to see their pets having fun.
His design placed the cat boarding, complete with spacious condos and play equipment, in a completely separate area that has its own HVAC system. The grooming department would be state-of-the-art, use all-natural products, and offer full grooming and spa service packages.
To complete his theme of having everything under one roof, he would add a pet bakery, raw bar and market. He already had the name: Slobberbones Bakery and Market. It would sell customized, freshly-baked pet birthday cakes and cookies, all-natural pet food, treats and supplements, as well as toys and pet merchandise.
Jay also knew that a great staff was crucial to the success of his plan. First of all, they would have to be animal lovers. Jay decided that all of the “crew” members of The Ark would be CPR and Pet First Aid Certified, and would also certify in Play Group Management and Dog Body Language. Continuing education and team safety meetings would be an important part of their program.
Jay moved from California to Chattanooga, Tennessee and kept on tweaking his business plan model. When he found a great location in Chattanooga, Jay knew it was the time and the place to go forward and “build The Ark.”
When the flagship location of The Ark Pet Spa & Hotel opened in 2006, Jay was able to implement everything he had designed. All that careful planning really paid off. The owners loved the personalized care their pets were given, and being able to board their small exotics at the same location as their cats and dogs was a real bonus. The convenience of having everything under one roof made The Ark very popular with pet lovers throughout the community.
Through their website, thearkspa.com, people can get information about all the services and requirements of the facility. There is a convenient online guest portal where owners can check and update their pet’s vaccinations, view photos, check pet report cards, pay their bill or request additional services.
The economy took a severe downturn in 2008, but the Ark continued to do well. So well that they needed to expand. In 2011, their second location opened. Even then, demand for their services continued to grow. More Ark Pet Spa & Hotels opened in places like Atlanta, Georgia and Huntsville, Alabama. Before long, there were six Ark locations.
“For some time we had been thinking seriously about franchising,” said Jay. “We began to build our corporate team, and have recently launched franchises nationwide.”
Adam Harbin, Vice President of Development, has been instrumental in the growth of the Ark model and brand.
“It takes a lot of time and effort to build a great team,” says Adam. “Our mission is to create quality facilities, crew members, procedures, and operations.”
“What makes the Ark franchise unique,” adds Jay, “is our front-end site selection on the real estate side, also our back-end training, along with the fact that we are open to all domestic pets. We are excited about being in this space.”
This June, The Ark was named “Franchise of the Month”by Franchise Journal. Their most recent franchise has been awarded to a dynamic mother/daughter duo in Salt Lake City, Utah.
“We’ve spent years developing our operations manual and handbook,” says Adam. “We leveraged technology—digitized the operations manual into the Ark University. Our unique online learning management software will take franchisees through each of our training videos on topics such as how to sanitize, how to check a dog in and out, etc. It includes both video courses and text copies.
“There’s nothing like ‘hands on’ teaching,” Adam continues enthusiastically. “We are creating an internal intranet. We call it ‘The Bridge.’ It’s basically a website strictly for our franchisees and managers. They can internally message each other. Through a collaborative, everyone is working together as a team. It will be an easy way to get information from corporate, to managers, and down to the crew.”
“We have been successfully active in this space for 15 years,” says Jay with a beaming smile. “We came in with a lot of experience. That keeps our franchisees from making lots of mistakes; we’ve already worked them out. We make everything from signing the agreement to opening the doors as turnkey as possible to make it easy for them.”
“When a franchisee comes on board with us,” continues Adam, “we are with them every step of the way. About eight weeks before they open their own facility, new franchisees come to the home office for training. They shadow the managers and crew. And, before, during, and after their grand opening, we are with them at their facility.”
From the first flagship location in Chattanooga, Tennessee to the most recent in Salt Lake City, Utah, the pets who visit any of The Ark locations are as safe, happy and well cared for as those who were on the original Ark!