As we close out Women’s History Month, we want to take a moment to share a bit more about how our very own co-founder, Jackie Jordan, has been writing Central Bark history even before the brand was born.
It all started in the mid-90s when Jackie, a young, single Pfizer rep living in the outskirts of Milwaukee, got a puppy. For a while, Jackie was able to dash home during appointments to let out Saspirilla and play with her a bit and, at day’s end when it was dark and cold at 5pm in Wisconsin, Jackie would take her sweet little rottie mix to run around in a big field, occasionally happily running into other dogs and their owners.
With increased travel and less job flexibility, Jackie had to cobble together a care plan to properly care for Sassy. When she was out of own or just on day trips, a neighbor stay-at-home mom and her three boys came over to play with Sassy. For extended trips, Jackie forged a solid relationship with a responsible college student to come live in and be a “dog nanny.”
Increasingly frustrated, Jackie kept thinking there has to be something better than this disjointed plan for Sassy. There had to be somewhere she could take Sassy to be cared for and loved like at home. And inside was key because, after a long day’s work the last thing Jackie wanted to do was play with her in the cold, dark, Milwaukee weather.
She began talking to friends, colleagues and even veterinarians – all agreed there was no such thing as doggy day care. The vets even told her you can’t mix dogs from different families, but Jackie remembered those pleasant (albeit cold and dark) evenings in the field with all the pups romping around.
Undeterred, Jackie kept thinking: “I can do this.”
She put together a business plan and approached banks and lenders, but no one wanted to take the risk. Her doggy day care idea was just way too new. She shopped around, seeking large facilities with the space to accommodate the various play, rest, and socialization areas she envisioned for her business. Each time she found a suitable, available location, the owner’s next breath was always “no dogs.”
Then luck: space became available at a former dog training facility. Without traditional funding, Jackie took out her own home equity line of credit, secured a loan from her grandmother, and she got another couple of friends to invest. Her dad called her crazy, but she quit her job and forged ahead.
Jackie opened Doggy Day Care on Jan. 27, 1997 on the northside of Milwaukee with just two employees, Jackie and her original “dog nanny.”
Within 11 months, Jackie outgrew that first location and moved, doubling her original space and adding an outdoor area. She paid back herself, her investors and Grandma – with interest.
“I just knew it would work,” Jackie said. “With the second location, we were able to expand and offer training, grooming, enrichment, personal behavioral assessments, kenneling and overnights and even retail.”
Barely two years later, at the end of 1999, Jackie opened a second location on the south side of Milwaukee and a third in 2000 on the west side that features a veterinary clinic called Harmony Pet.
Doggy Day Care was becoming big and Jackie needed some back up. In the early 2000s she participated in a venture capital “challenge,” a business competition in which University of Chicago MBA grad students analyzed the ideas, business plans, and potential for viability from a variety of entrepreneurial enterprises.
“It was kind of like the Shark Tank of the early 2000s,” Jackie said. “And here was my Doggy Day Care up against these internet technology and biomedical ideas.”
“I didn’t win one of the big venture capitalist prizes, but instead got some really valuable advice from venture capitalists recommending angel investors or franchising as a model for growth. But the big thing for me was that Newsweek covered the competition and profiled my cutting-edge Doggy Day Care concept.”
Chris Gaba, who had been having similar success and struggles with his South Florida business, saw the article. Chris and Jackie ultimately talked, visited each other’s Doggy Day Care locations, gelled as a team, and the rest is history.
In 2003, Jackie and Chris merged their Milwaukee and Fort Lauderdale locations, formed Barkley Ventures, Inc., co-founded Central Bark, and began franchising the concept. Today, the brand is a leader in the burgeoning pet care industry, has nearly 40 locations in more than 12 states, and has hosted more than two million dog visits. Co-founders Chris and Jackie still are actively involved in the day-to-day business with Jackie running the operations and financing and Chris handling marketing and communications, as well as his original Fort Lauderdale location. Jackie quips she’s the OG “task master.”
Kudos to Jackie and her hard work and devotion. We’re grateful for how she paved the way to give Central Bark a unique and personal story.
To learn more or inquire why Central Bark is one of the best franchises to buy, visit centralbarkusa.com/franchising.