Woof’s Play & Stay: The Business of Success
Profile of Success
By Kathy Hosler
Photos Provided By "Woof's Play & Stay"
Andy Wiltz, owner of Woof’s Play & Stay, entered the pet care field in a rather unique way. In college, Andy studied entrepreneurship. After finishing his education, he did strategy consulting throughout the U.S. and overseas. One year, Andy did extremely well at the consulting company he was with. For his efforts, Andy received a whopping 0% raise.
“That’s when I decided I was done working for someone else,” Andy said. “I had always known that I wanted to have my own business someday, and that 0% raise convinced me that now was the time to do it. Over my 10 plus years of doing strategy and consulting work for others, I had saved money—and I was ready.”
Andy looked at about a dozen businesses. He was determined to find one that would make him happy and excited to go to work every day. In early 2015, he found the perfect fit in Woof’s Play & Stay. It was a family-owned business with about 15 employees located in Merriam, Kansas, a suburb of Kansas City.
Andy grew up with pets. And his Giant Schnauzer, Brizo, was the real inspiration for Andy entering the pet care business.
“Brizo was my best friend and business partner,” says Andy. “Owning Woof’s Play & Stay meant that she could come to work with me every day.
“My training in business, entrepreneurship, and strategy consulting has allowed me to take all that knowledge and apply it to my passion for dogs,” Andy says. “I know that a lot of people in this industry follow their passion first. They start a small daycare and they learn the business as they grow. I pretty much did it the opposite way by learning the business first.
“I spent the first six months of ownership doing everything from working the front desk to giving baths, cleaning and feeding, and managing the play groups,” Andy continues. “I needed to learn every aspect of the business in order to develop my team. For the first two years, I never had a complete day off, but all that hard work has paid off in a big way.
“One of the areas I really focused on was developing a capable, strong team,” stresses Andy. “I can only be in one place at a time, but if I have a strong team, I know that the standard I have set for myself is going to be upheld at the other locations.”
There are currently nine Woof locations throughout Kansas and Missouri.
“My employees are my biggest asset. Without them, I don’t have a business,” he continues. “Each location has between 15 and 20 employees. We provide health insurance, paid vacations, retirement planning, supplemental insurance, and more to our staff. It’s expensive, but I have such low turnover, that my human training costs are really low. Because of that, I can invest that money back into the team.”
In the beginning, that single location offered daycare, boarding and grooming. In addition to those services, most of the nine locations also offer cat boarding, multiple group and private dog training options, and retail sales. And, like many other facilities, Woof’s Play & Stay offers standard and luxury suites, and multiple add-on options for their overnight boarding guests.
When it comes to daycare, they have their basic daily rates, as well as multiple half- and full-day packages, and a new membership program. The special membership program that Andy has created is for dogs that regularly attend daycare. For a set monthly fee, Woofpack daycare members get unlimited daycare visits and exclusive perks, including a free monthly nail trim and buffing, and/or a free bath and blow dry. They also get preferred boarding and can make holiday reservations before the general public is able to. And, being a member locks in the daycare pricing for the life of the dog. Owners really like that.
2020 was a difficult year for most pet care facilities, and Woof’s Play & Stay was no exception.
“COVID-19 made us take a step back and look at how we ran the stores,” Andy says. “From a labor and cost perspective, we lost control of income. With no one traveling, it’s hard to get dogs in for boarding. And, with people working from home, daycare is not as important to pet parents. This was a really good time for us to look internally to see how we were doing things and how we could do them better and cheaper. We have been able to streamline some of our processes and do things in a more efficient way going forward.”
Their website, www.woofsplaystay.com, has proved vital to their success. Through it they can inform the public about the services, facility hours, prices and more that they offer at each location. Owners can even make reservations online for their pets.
“Even before COVID, we gave online tours of our facilities through our website,” says Andy. “That’s more important now then ever. It allows potential clients access to our facilities where they can see our accommodations and play areas. And, our 24-hour streaming webcams enable owners to watch their dogs play and have fun. That’s so much more valuable than just emailing them a photo.
“Being able to post on social media is also crucial to our success. It’s a free outlet to connect with our customers. It provides a high engagement between them (and their group of friends), and ourselves,” shares Andy.
Andy’s business background also helps him select the best and most cost-efficient marketing strategies.
“When we do target advertising, it allows us to get a lot more for our marketing dollars than a blanket ad through a print magazine or radio which goes out to a broad audience of people who may not even have a pet,” Andy explains.
Andy Wiltz combined his business knowledge with his love for pets to expand Woof’s Play & Stay from a single location to nine—in just five short years.
“The approach I took of learning business practices first, then getting into pet care was rather unique,” says Andy. “It enabled me to take all of the experience I gained working with different clients across many industries and relate it to the pet care industry. As a result, Woof’s Play & Stay has become a business that truly makes me happy, and I am still excited to go to work everyday.”
Now, that’s the real measure of success!