Bone A Fide Dog Ranch
Wondering what business she could start in New York City with virtually no money, Lauren Rick decided on dog walking. Little did she know that 16 years later, she would sell her own pet resort for over $1M. But all along, her focus has not been on the money, just on making dogs lives better.
“If you look after the dogs, then the rest just comes.”
Lauren has always had an entrepreneurial streak. “Growing up, I had three paper routes and I had kids in the neighborhood working for me. My parents always said I was going to be a business owner.” Years later, finding her job at a software company deeply unsatisfying, she decided she did want to work for herself and stepped out, literally, into a new venture.
She made herself a website and put an ad on Craigslist and from there got her first dog to walk. “I had no pets growing up, other than a goldfish. But when I started dog walking, I discovered I had a connection with dogs that I didn’t know I had.”
One happy customer and neighbor spread the word and Lauren soon found herself walking up to 10 dogs at a time through New York’s Flatiron district. Eventually, she had 40 doggy customers, each needing walks two and three times a day. Something had to give. “New York has such extreme weather - cold winters, hot summers. I realized I couldn’t keep doing this like I was. I need a facility.”
In 2007, Lauren started looking online for a pet facility to buy and discovered Teija Heikkila, a business broker who specialized in buying and selling in the pet space. “From the moment I called her, I realized how much knowledge she had.”
Teija and her team started working with Lauren to look for a pet business and in 2009, she settled on Bonafide Dog Ranch, in Snohomish, WA. “Teija was so patient. She stuck with me all the time it took to find me exactly what I was looking for.” Having made the purchase, Lauren flew across the United States to start another new life – as a pet resort owner. Formalizing processes and streamlining systems, Lauren made changes that she saw would help dogs and their owners immediately. She also adopted her first dog – Lennon - who would become her constant companion, ‘human-trainer’ and little business partner. Gradually, as Lauren put the needs of the dogs first, her business grew from around 60 per day to 200 per day. Lauren loved being able to offer the dogs lots of safe playtime together on the 5-acre property.
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After almost 14 wonderful years (during which time she met her husband who also joined the business), Lauren’s precious Lennon passed away. Amid juggling staff shortages, capital improvements, and ever-increasing customer demand, the grief of losing her little pup loomed large. Three months later, her other little dog died also, cementing her thoughts that now might be a good time to sell. She rang Teija to get her advice, and with market conditions what they were, Lauren put the property on the market in March 2022.
“There was never any doubt that Teija would not be involved in selling my business. I didn’t have a specific plan on time to sell but I did know that I wanted Teija involved.”
Teija and her team took care of everything. The sale closed to a great private buyer just six months later, a buyer who has kept her loyal staff on, and is continuing the legacy of Bonafide Dog Ranch. Lauren and her husband are now adjusting to life without the stress of running their pet resort.
“The first time in 14 years that I stopped worrying was September 16, 2022. My business was sold and the underlying worry you have as a business owner was gone. Not having that is wonderful. I am living life, instead of living for the business. We have another two of our own dogs, so we are doing things with them we were never able to do before while we so focused on the business. So, I don’t miss the business part but I do miss the dogs that were in the business - terribly. Going through the yard, surrounded by dogs. . . that is my happy place.”