From the garage to the kennel - how Ka-Pooch! found its paws
23 February 2018, Written by David Simmons
Just seven years ago Ka-Pooch!, a leading Melbourne dog day-care centre, was being operated in founder Sam Mendelson's garage.
Now, the trusted brand is expanding to its third Melbourne location, and Mendelson has his sights set on the rest of Australia.
But as is the case with most entrepreneurs, getting to this position wasn't easy. In fact, Mandelson says he had no idea he even wanted to become an entrepreneur in the first place.
Before 2011, Mendelson was an ex-postie with a degree in Philosophy, or to put it simply: he had no idea what he wanted to do.
"I was at a bit of a loose end," says Mendelson. "I'd studied Arts at university and didn't have great job prospects."
By chance, his partner, who worked in sales for a dog food company, told Mendelson about dog day-care centres in the Victorian capital and how business for them was booming.
"They were doing a booming business but they weren't particularly good," says Mendelson.
"I went along and checked them out myself and thought I could do a lot better."
Mendelson and his friend, now former-business partner, decided to start Ka-Pooch! from his garage. In the beginning it was just dog walking and grooming, but it naturally grew from there.
"There was enough business and we weren't very good at our jobs - we clearly had no idea, but we were very professional and built a bit of a customer base pretty quickly. There was enough demand that we persisted with the business and it kept growing really."
The first major milestone for Mendelson was when he secured space in an old factory and converted it into the very first Ka-Pooch! facility.
Ka-Pooch! centres have been a hit because of the group's terrific facilities for dogs. Both centres have indoor and outdoor play areas, with plenty of toys and activities to keep the dogs occupied.
The Ka-Pooch! indoor facilities
It is this attention to detail and genuine passion for looking after others' animals that has seen Ka-Pooch! quickly become the market leader in Melbourne.
"Though our industry is relatively young, the pet sector is booming across the country because our relationship with animals has changed," says Mendelson.
"To our customers, their dogs are fully fledged members of the family and as such the day-care service Ka-Pooch! offers is as indispensable as child care. First and foremost, our business comes down to trust."
The group is currently awaiting council approval for its third Melbourne location - but national expansion is certainly on the cards for this young entrepreneur.
"Particularly in the last six or seven months there's been a lot of outside interest in the dog business," says Mendelson.
"It used to be very niche - people who loved dogs started something for themselves. So it's just a dog lovers' industry at the moment, but I think there's a lot more interest from the commercial sector."
"It's in an interesting phase where I think it's ripe for someone to come along and take it to the next level and open it up across the country. I'm hoping it's us - I think we have a lot to offer. The only thing we can do is just to try to keep opening stores and produce a replicable model across the country. If we do that, it's definitely got a lot of legs."
Business News Australia
Author: David Simmons