DoodyCalls takes tail end of pet jobs
A technician arrives in a DoodyCalls truck, with service calls ranging from $15 to $20 per week.
Picture the ideal summertime backyard scene: burgers on the grill, wind chimes clinking in the breeze and you suddenly step in a mound of Bandit’s poop, blasting you out of a blissful trance. Looking around, your little slice of heaven now resembles a war zone.
Depending on the size of the—how shall we say—problem, you can either bribe a child, don a hazmat suit to clean up the landmines yourself or hire somebody from DoodyCalls, a pet waste franchise that aims to scoop your poop with a smile.
Launched in 2000, Charlottesville, Virginia-based DoodyCalls first began offering franchises in 2005, and its CEO Jacob D’Aniello says the goal isn’t just cleaner yards and watersheds they inevitably impact, but also providing a good job to in-the-field technicians, a low-cost business opportunity for franchisees and a corporate culture that he hopes will transform a down-and-dirty industry.
“We decided we would bring a new level of professionalism to this industry,” D’Aniello said of founding DoodyCalls. “We would build it like we were building a Fortune 500 company, but it would just be in poop.”
With an initial investment ranging from approximately $36,000 to $53,000, DoodyCalls has 38 franchised and company-owned units, for a total of 10 million doggy deposits collected in a year. Although the company has units in 20 states, it’s heavily focused on the Mid-Atlantic states that have a lot of busy urban professionals with precious little time for pet waste cleanup—a key indicator for selecting territories.
In its FDD, the company lists average gross sales of $275,646, with a third of franchisees attaining or exceeding that figure. Its top-quartile operators have average gross sales of $575,060.
DoodyCalls founder Jacob D'Aniello sees a bright future in the franchised pooper scooper space.
By comparison, Mosquito Squad lists investment costs from $15,850 to $69,625, with average gross revenue ranging from $89,130 to $613,155, categorized by the number of full seasons its franchisees have been operating. Mr. Handyman, another hands-on franchise, lists total investments from $105,100 to $136,700, with average unit-level revenue of $319,284.
“We sell leisure time and freedom from doing something people don’t enjoy,” he added. “We do better in suburbs around busy cities where people are sitting in traffic and they’re just busy.”
D’Aniello specifically called out Atlanta and Chicago as two metros where he sees pronounced opportunities. He attributed a recent growth spurt to a “back to basics” focus on corporate values that, he said, changed how the company’s employees and franchisees carried themselves, from hiring down to fresh-looking trucks to friendly at-home customer service.
“We’ve really focused on creating this nice culture that people like and enjoy being a part of,” he said. “Because of that, we’ve been able to attract a better group of people who want to go out and do this job—in other words, it’s not just what you do, but how you do it.”
Depending on the yard size and number of pets, the DoodyCalls service ranges from $15 to $20 a week. Discussing my own yard that’s heavily trafficked by two well-fed pups, the CEO said the issues with pet waste go beyond an unpleasant appearance and smell.
Runoff water quality, the health of the turf itself and removing a food source for rats and other vermin should ideally stir pet owners to pick up the phone if they’re hesitant to grab a shovel and trash bag.
“If every one of your neighbors were pooping in their yards it would be a major hazard,” he added in a visceral throwback to humanity’s first, waste-fouled cities. “We always say, if you think picking up what your dog leaves behind is disgusting, try drinking it.”
Asked if DoodyCalls struggles to attract employees, D’Aniello stressed that the daily work is a surprisingly pleasant job, even though most franchise owners seldom or never do any of the scooping themselves.
“You’re outside, you’re walking around generally more upscale neighborhoods, you’re working independently, and you’re saying hello to the dogs. You’re not picking the poop up with your hands,” he said. “In many ways it’s a really nice job and nicer than many jobs I had growing up, from dishwasher to cleaning toilets or whatever else I have done on my path to today.”
He acknowledged the natural stigma in this line of work, and said that stink was one of the reasons the company’s leadership put such a strong focus on culture and values.
For potential franchisees, getting the brand in front of the community can include becoming involved in environmental organizations or other groups interested in community health and water quality.
“I think the opportunity is really limitless, because half of households have a dog and no one likes picking up what they leave behind,” D’Aniello said.