Published: May 11, 2011

The Conscious Capitalism Conference, hosted by CESR every March, challenges the thinking and stimulates the creativity of great business leaders of tomorrow by exposure to great business leaders who have made values-driven choices today. For the Annual Conscious Capitalism Conference CESR assembles an influential group of business leaders and entrepreneurs who have created remarkable enterprises.

One of the speakers at the most recent conference was Heidi Ganahl Founder and CEO of Camp Bow Wow. One of the country’s most extraordinary, respected and in demand women entrepreneurs, Heidi has triumphed over staggering adversity. Beginning with the loss of her husband at the age of 27, to losing a million-dollar insurance settlement, Heidi’s entrepreneurial spirit and extraordinary leadership skills have helped her pick herself up and emerge as a Top Dog of Camp Bow Wow, the $40 million leader in the pet and franchise industry.

Heidi’s company Camp Bow Wow was recently named to the Inc 500 fastest growing company list, #88 on Entrepreneur Magazine’s 105 Fastest-Growing Franchises in North America and the 26th fastest growing women owned business in the country! Her energetic and inspiring talks are lessons learned from the years building Camp Bow Wow, from the first camp which opened in Denver in 2000 to a $40 million business with more than 200 franchisees in 40 states and Canada, to the value of giving back to the inspiration for the passion, the dogs, through The Bow Wow Buddies Foundation.

After a lively and inspiring presentation and interactive session, conference attendees submitted a series of follow-up questions. Heidi’s answers to these questions are as follows.

1) How do you prevent your passion from turning into a career you don’t enjoy given the day to day challenges?

A. It takes a lot of commitment and focus – spending time with the parts of the business that you love! (the animals : ) and hiring the right people to do the parts you don’t enjoy…

2) Does franchising present a concern for brand erosion at all? How do you maintain the power of the brand and consistency? How much follow up with franchisees is required?

A. It takes a team of people and a strong commitment to excellence! It requires constant monitoring and customer feedback to make sure everyone is on board with the brand representation. We use live web cam evaluations, customer survey software, an anonymous Bark Back form on our web site, and annual corporate visits where we do a full evaluation.

3) What does the support structure to your franchises look like? You spoke about working with zoning, how much real estate or other help do you offer?

A. We offer a tremendous amount of support on site search, zoning and build out to our franchisees. We also have an excellent training program, and a great pre-marketing plan the franchisees follow. Once open, we have a team of about 12 on the franchise relations sub -team that are constantly working with the franchisees.

4) In people that you accept to franchise your business, do you feel the same passion and drive to make a difference in them as you personally put into the company?

A. Yes! They all LOVE what they do and are very committed to it, and to our brand!

5) Have you ever received an criticism about your dog foster care program given that there are a lot of homeless children in this world and you are putting resources towards helping dogs?

A. Not at all – animals are an integral part of our society, our ecosystem, our connectedness to our planet and to other creatures we share it with. I am very involved in children’s charities as well – I am a big supporter of those that are helpless to help themselves (kids, animals, disabled…) so I understand the concern, but I think we can do both!

6) At what point did you know Camp Bow Wow was the right decision for you and that it would become successful?

A. I’ve always known that in my heart!

7) If you didn’t have the $80,000 left over – how would you have obtained the money to open Camp Bow Wow?

A. Probably credit cards or a home equity line…

8) I haven’t discovered my passion yet, how did you find yours?

A. What do you love doing? What hobbies do you have? What causes are you committed to? Try a lot of things on for size until something fits right!

9) What would you suggest to students in terms of education and job opportunities to find a career in an industry like yours? What subjects would you recommend for your particular industry and career path? What skill set, experience and course of study would you recommend for your industry?

A. Business, social entrepreneurship, communications, charity, marketing….all would be good choices!