SUCCESS STORY

Carroll Ray

Meadowlake Pet Resort

Carroll Ray

After building a very successful high end pet resort business with two locations, pet industry veteran Carroll Ray had her eyes on adding a third location, but during the process, a couple of events occurred to turn her 180 degrees. She ended up selling – and has no regrets.

Carroll is well known and respected in the pet resort industry for her achievements in building a state-of-the-art facility and joyful, safe experiences for her clients, their pets, and her staff. Carroll’s vision to create a fun and safe place for dogs to play and be cared for stemmed from her lifelong love of animals coupled with her joyful childhood. Growing up on Meadowlake Lane
in Houston, Carroll treasures memories of carefree days playing with neighborhood friends. She researched for 5 years to create a place where dogs could feel that same joy and freedom, while simultaneously providing a needed service for pet parents. Her vision became a reality in June of 2009 when her first Meadowlake Pet Resort location opened for business.

After nine successful years growing a large, single location business, Carroll opened a second location at the Galleria in 2018, also a state-of-the-art facility with glass fronted suites, high level security, high level fire safety features, water features, and a sound system playing soothing music for lodging guests.

Fast forward to 2021, Carroll had enlisted the help of Teija Heikkila, Principal Broker and Owner of PET|VET M&A, Sales & Advisory, to help her locate a good facility to buy and turn into a third Meadowlake Pet Resort location. “Although we had a wonderful facility with wonderful clients, I knew that we needed to grow or we would get taken over. That’s the way the industry was going. I wanted to take Meadowlake to the world, so I started exploring ways to grow. It was in talking with Teija about that, that I came to where I am today. She and I went through the process of exploring my buying another facility. It was very interesting because we had located one we wanted, and Teija spent a lot of time talking with the owner and working toward getting us to a place where we could buy his facility for our third location. But the next thing we knew, a national consolidator company came in and scooped him up out from under us, even though we were in negotiations. That’s what this industry is like.”

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Over the years, Carroll had been approached by several different national consolidators, but being uncomfortable with the way their mode of operating would change Meadowlake’s character, she had not given it a second thought. One day, following up with Teija to find out if there were any new potential resorts to buy, Carroll learned about a new and unique opportunity that PET VET was putting together, and it piqued her interest.

The opportunity was being part of a select group for a new consolidator, backed by a national private equity firm, forming a unique pet resort platform which enabled and rewarded ongoing owner involvement. Carroll saw a level of commitment to high quality pet care and staff care that she had not seen before from a consolidator, and she liked the idea of getting in on the ground floor. As well as making business sense, the opportunity came at a unique time in Carroll’s life.

ABOUT THE BUSINESS

  •  Locations: Houston, TX
  • First location established in 2009; second location established in 2018
  • Owned for 14 years
  • Services provided: Boarding, Daycare, Grooming, Training
  • 4 buildings, 34,000+ combined SF on 5 acres
  • 200+ enclosures with 325+ dog capacity
  • 100+ full and part-time staff

“I realized if I continued owning Meadowlake, that this was not going to be a generational thing. My children all have successful careers of their own so they were not going to leave those and come run Meadowlake. “When I asked them what they thought, my son said to me, “Mom, we know how much you love being a grandmother, and if you go try to build this thing bigger, it’s going to be a lot of work. If you have a passion for it that is okay but I don’t want to see you do something that would take you away from the
other things you love in your life.”

Having worked incredibly hard for decades, running a two-location pet business and volunteering at a high level in Houston’s cultural life, 70-year-old Carroll found herself taking a step back and really looking at what ‘taking Meadowlake to the world’ would entail. Her son’s words echoed in her mind, and the opportunity made good sense. It wasn’t long before the would-be buyer became a seller. “So, I sold - but I could have gone on longer. I loved that business, and I loved everything that we built. I loved the clients and staff and the spirit of what we built, the staff team building and the way in which we had run
the business. So, I really had loved it all. And actually when I sold, there was a feeling sort of like the day when you send your children off to school - you miss them. I did miss it right after I sold but there is now plenty of time for all the other things I love in my life.”

Working with Teija at PET VET was an excellent experience. “I already knew Teija from the pet industry conferences and she had come to do some consulting for us. She did an EBITDA study for us way back to show us where we needed to get to. She was the first one to point out the labor ratios we needed to get to, and the EBITDA we needed to get to if we wanted to build a strong business. She was also helping us track our results.”

When it came to making the big decision to sell, Carroll’s relationship with Teija was already solid and she didn’t need to interview other brokers. “Teija has such a great reputation and knows the pet industry so well. I knew some of the others, but I never really talked with any of them. She had connected us with a couple of other different consultants who also improved some of our departments, so she was a good resource as well.”

Since the sale of Meadowlake near the end of 2023, Carroll has enjoyed taking a long-awaited vacation, more family time, and is planning her next adventure. “This has worked out to be a great result for me. Someone else is going to bring Meadowlake to the world, and even though it won’t be me, there will still be a bit of my spirit in there.”