Zionsville Country Kennels
Debbie Douglas has double vision when it comes to her perspective on buying and selling a pet resort business. That’s because she’s done both with the help of PET|VET in the span of about 11 years.
In 2010, Debbie had just returned from a five-year stint overseas, where she was living and working as a finance professional. She was newly retired, with the energy and drive to pursue a second career. As a lifelong animal lover, Debbie knew she was interested in owning a pet care services facility. Getting out of the hustle and bustle of corporate life and staying closer to home sounded appealing.
Debbie started researching the industry, interviewed several brokers and decided to work with Teija Heikkilä of PET|VET. “She got to know me and what I needed and was able to put that into finding the [right] kennel,” she said.
Debbie was open to looking at available businesses all over the country. Thanks to her nationwide network of contacts, Teija provided a wide range of options for consideration, including operations of various sizes in diverse locations. Debbie’s final choice was Zionsville Country Kennels, a large full-service boarding, daycare and grooming facility in central Indiana. The sellers included plenty of training and transition assistance, and it was really good value.
The PET|VET team provided support throughout the buying process, from paperwork to arranging surveying crews to recommending attorneys. In hindsight, Debbie appreciates the high level of service even more than she did at the time, especially in comparison to her most recent experience purchasing a new home.
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When Debbie took over, the kennel already had a good manager who could run the day-to-day operations without her, but she wanted to be involved. She truly enjoyed the unconditional love from the dogs and found the daily physical tasks to be refreshing, compared to the mental stress of the corporate world. “In my previous career, I dealt a lot with people. Dealing with dogs is a lot easier,” she said.
Over the years, Debbie made improvements to the facility, such as adding a 5-acre members only dog park with two big ponds for dogs to play in, leash free. She was blessed with good managers and employed as many as 40 staff members to help run the operation.
Her original plan was to keep the business for ten years, then sell it and fully retire. When COVID hit, the timeline stretched out an extra year, which she spent keeping everything afloat. In 2021, customer traffic started to bounce back, due in part to the large number of families who adopted dogs during quarantine. The kennel had long waiting lists but was short on staff, which has remained an ongoing challenge since the pandemic.
When Debbie first started thinking about retiring, she was getting frequent calls from consolidators interested in buying the kennel. The offers were tempting, but she wasn’t quite ready to sell. Those calls dried up during COVID, but she was keeping Teija’s services in the back of her mind. She even told her kids who to call if they ever needed to sell the kennel because something happened to her. “I had given them her information just because of what a good job she did when I was buying,” Debbie said.
By the beginning of 2022, the business was strong again, and it was time to sell. A couple of individual buyers and two consolidation groups were showing interest, so she decided to get Teija on board. The PET|VET team helped throughout the process, from the initial discussions to the marketing to the final negotiations. Their understanding of the industry and the interests of parties on both sides of the deal makes all the difference, Debbie said.
The sale of Zionsville Country Kennels marks another new beginning for Debbie Douglas. A lucrative deal with a consolidation group was finalized in September 2022, and she has since bought a lake house in Pennsylvania, where she can enjoy retirement with family nearby. With her usual sunny attitude and a tinge of sadness, Debbie is thankful for her experience as a pet resort owner, the people and pets she was able to serve, and the PET|VET team who supported her at both ends of the process. “I would do it all over again,” she said.