Wednesday, Feb 22, 2023

Why This Former Stay-at-Home-Mom Decided to Follow Her Entrepreneurial Dreams with a Pet Wants Franchise

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After seeing first-hand the impact nutrition can have on the health of pets, Amber Sutfin decided to invest in Pet Wants and satisfy an unmet need for fresh, natural pet food in her community of Pittsburgh.

Pet Wants, the pet food franchise with over 140 units open that offers specially-crafted, private-label pet food formulas made in small batches with fresh, natural ingredients, is emerging as one of the most exciting franchise opportunities in the pet industry. As a result, the franchise has amassed a diverse group of franchise owners. In honor of Women’s History Month, Pet Wants is highlighting some of its female franchisees that are finding success with their business. 

Amber Sutfin, for example, is the franchise owner and businesswomen behind three Pet Wants territories in the greater Pittsburgh area. Sutfin, who received her United States citizenship in 2019, is originally from Canada and has lived in the States since 2007. She has a degree in Interior Design and is a Certified Life Coach as well as a Certified Reiki Master and Animal Reiki Master Practitioner. She and her husband have two children.

“After getting married, I was a stay at home mom until my kids went to school,” said Sutfin. “I wanted to get back to work, but it can be hard to go back to an office job. So many years of freedom are all of a sudden gone. Our son has type one diabetes, for example, and I knew I needed something with flexibility so I could take him to school or appointments. I did some recruiting and sold life insurance, but I didn’t love any of it. I missed that freedom.”

So, Sutfin started looking into entrepreneurship to take control of her own destiny. 

Around the same time, one of the family dogs, Abby, was dealing with some health issues. Sutfin started cooking her food with fresh, high-quality ingredients and immediately saw improvements in her coat, weight, energy level and quality of life.

“Late one night, I was browsing the internet and I found a quiz you could take to find your ideal franchise concept,” said Sutfin. “When I filled it out, based on what I was looking for, Pet Wants came up right away. The Pet Wants philosophy on nutrition was a huge selling point for me after what I had gone through with my own pets.” 

As an entrepreneur, Sutfin says she was also drawn to the mobile option, which made the entry cost much more reasonable since she didn't need to open a brick-and-mortar storefront right away.

Startup costs for a Pet Wants franchise range from $42,500 to $202,000, which is tens, even hundreds of thousands of dollars less than big-box pet franchises. This is because Pet Wants franchisees like Sutfin can start with a mobile or event-based business and focus on acquiring subscription delivery customers and building connections with local pet parents in their first year. At the end of their first year, franchisees will add the launch of their retail pet store and grooming center that sells Pet Wants food, custom chews and treats, as well as supplements. This allows them to take advantage of dual revenue streams once they open their brick-and-mortar store: retail sales (both in-person and online through the brand’s eCommerce platform) and grooming services. 

“The flexibility is amazing,” said Sutfin. “You really get to make your own schedule. If I am going to work as hard as I was, I want to do it for myself.”

Sutfin started her mobile Pet Wants business in October of 2019 in South Hills. By 2022, she had achieved her goal of opening a brick-and-mortar store. 

“Despite the pandemic, we’ve managed to continue to grow year-over-year and we continue to add services like grooming and hosting successful events,” said Sutfin. “I am one of the only Pet Wants locations in Pittsburgh, so it really was a leap of faith to begin with, but we knew we could have a big impact because it is an emerging brand.”

When it comes to her experience as a female entrepreneur, Sutfin says she is proud to be a part of an industry — the pet industry — that features a higher percentage of women. And, as part of a company founded by women and currently run by a woman, Sutfin says it has been an ideal environment for her entrepreneurial mission. 

“The Pet Wants team is always there to answer the call — they are highly available,” Sutfin said. “Even better is the network of other owners, both men and women, who we can share ideas with. We have our own little support system within the group, which is very helpful.”

Sutfin started a franchise mastermind group last year, for example, selecting a handful of successful Pet Wants owners to meet once a month, share best practices, ask questions, drive each other forward and cheer each other on. 

Looking ahead, Sutfin says she is eager to continue growing and hopes to add a second brick-and-mortar store in Pittsburgh. 

DeNita Carani, who recently joined Pet Wants as brand president, says she is proud to lead the Pet Wants team and watch female franchise owners like Sutfin thrive within the system. 

“It is so exciting to be leading an organization that is driven by passion,” Carani said. “I love being able to help individuals who have a passion for being in business for themselves, but not by themselves.”

The total investment necessary to begin the operation of a Pet Wants Franchise is between $42,500 to $202,000, including a $42,500 franchise fee that can be earned back through the brand’s Winner’s Circle program.

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