EarthWise Pet Franchisee: ‘The pet industry, itself, is bulletproof’
Q&A with Mason Hartman, one of the first EarthWise Pet franchise owners
Mason Hartman, an EarthWise Pet franchise owner in Oregon, is one of the brand’s earliest franchise owners. Before joining our pet franchise, he spent 13 years at Nordstrom in sales and management. Hartman discovered the brand through a friend who worked with CEO Michael Seitz. From there, he’s enjoyed focusing on doing what’s best for his customers. This is his story.
Why did you choose EarthWise? Retail clothing sales and pet food and supplies are pretty far from one another on the industry spectrum.
I actually didn’t choose the pet industry at first. I was going to open up a coffee shop. I looked into it and found one that I liked, and talked with the owner, and was going to purchase it, but the landlord didn’t like my business plan so he basically shot us down. I was like, okay, it just wasn’t meant to be.
I talked with CEO Michael Seitz, who at the time was just starting the franchise with President Daniel Webb. Like most people, I didn’t really know that there were healthier options for pets. I had pets, and I love my pets, and I wanted to do the best I could for them, but at the time I just didn’t realize there was a whole other option for feeding them and taking care of them. Being able to match my desire to start a new business and do something that I love for my pets made it a no-brainer.
What do you like most about owning the business?
It’s a chance to do business the way that I feel is best for my customers. Even with my former employer, who is known for customer service, you were still limited in what you could do. Having my own business for myself, I can cater to what I feel customers want and give them the best.
What makes your job fun for you?
It’s kind of like a Cheers sitcom lifestyle almost. Owning my own store and just being able to create an environment that I love working in. I can hire the people that I work well with and that I know will create a positive environment. I love coming to work and being able to have employees that really care about the customers, and when customers come in, they go straight to my employees. It’s a really neat environment to just be part of. It’s like a family. The customers are part of this big family instead of just having customers that come in and buy their bag of food and leave.
Having owned a store since 2010 and knowing what you know, if you were to start over from the beginning, would you still invest in this brand?
Yeah, definitely. There’s a lot of people that grumble about certain things, like paying the franchise fees, but the thing is that with all the buying power that the franchise has now, those discounts that we get from the distributors and the vendors more than pay for the franchise fees.
When you strip everything away, how would you describe the brand at its core?
They really have a huge, really high-quality system of the best pet nutrition out there. They are looking for independent companies that are not big sellouts. They’re looking for brands that I do business with that are independent, that never have recalls, that make their own food in their own factories. They’re really passionate about finding the best quality foods and products for the pets. They do have this corporate mentality — they are trying to make us profitable, high-volume stores — but at the core of it, they are more concerned about the pets’ health, our customers’ pets, the value of their life and providing high quality products to those pets.
What about this business makes you think you will still be around in 10 years?
t’s just a solid business model. The pet industry, itself, is bulletproof. People want to take care of their pets, the pets have to eat, and pets are not going away. With all that in mind, the pet industry just keeps on growing and growing. I started this business when we were in the middle of a recession and it’s been strong ever since. There are other industries like, say, the coffee industry or the clothing industry that will suffer when the economy suffers because people may buy cheaper clothes, or not buy their Starbucks. With pets, they want to take good care of their pets by buying good quality food or toys. Even if times are tight, they’re still going to buy food.
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