After training dogs to be ring bearers in mock weddings, Dog Training Elite hosted their own wedding for the first time at their Utah headquarters, but instead of getting married for clients, they are two new franchisees who said “yes”.
Based in Charleston, South Carolina, Valerie Mosier and Steve Thompson have signed for three territories in South Carolina’s Lowcountry region. Wedding planning was dropped when the couple traveled to Utah in May for a month of training. So they decided to just find a celebrant to marry them on a Zoom call after class one night.
But Robin Mestas, business partner and wife of Dog Training Elite founder John Mestas, said “no, that’s not how it’s going to be,” Mosier recalled.
On May 19, Mosier and Thompson returned to headquarters to find the training room decorated and set up for them to exchange vows.
“We had our two dogs at the wedding,” Thompson added. “Hank was the ‘top dog’ and Rusty was the ‘honor dog.’ They even got two cakes because Valerie is gluten intolerant.
When Mosier asked CEO Kelley Rosequist how much they owed the franchisor for the ceremony and celebration, the response was nothing. “She was like, ‘you’re family, like of course we’re going to throw you a wedding,'” Mosier said.
John Mestas walked Mosier down the aisle, and Rosequist and his team were all in attendance, even though it was after practice hours. “People could have been home with their families and they chose to be there with us to celebrate our day,” Thompson said.
It was this community and sense of belonging that drew Mosier and Thompson, two former truckers, to Dog Training Elite when they first considered opening a business. Feeling exhausted from driving for long hours, the couple adopted Hank, “a crazy dog who needed training”, which spurred their investigation for dog training programs. Although they both ran businesses on “an extremely small scale in our past lives”, neither had franchise experience.
“What stood out to me the most was how welcoming the Dog Training Elite team is,” Thompson said. “We could feel that they wanted success for us as much as we wanted success for us. So it was hard to turn away from someone, the founder of the company, telling us that he was basically ready to accompany us throughout the kilometer.
Another positive factor noted by Mosier was Dog Training Elite’s difficulty in vetting and choosing franchise partners. “They give you a lot of information so you can make a good decision,” she said. Looking at other potential dog training franchises, “Dog Training Elite was so far ahead of everything else that it was a very quick decision not to go anywhere else.”
Mosier and Thompson opened their first franchise on June 1 and had 13 sales in their first month, which Thompson said exceeded their expectations.
The obedience and specialty training franchise offers a wide range of services, from therapy dog training to advanced service dog training for people with PTSD, mobility impairments, autism, diabetes and people in need of psychiatric support. Training for service work takes six months to two years with packages ranging from $3,000 to $7,000, while standard puppy obedience packages cost $395 to $2,000 and take two to four months.
John Mestas started Dog Training Elite as Arrow Kennels over 40 years ago and started the franchise in 2020, in partnership with Denver-based franchise sales company Raintree. The company has 62 franchisees and more than 120 total territories sold, the majority of which are owned by multi-unit operators. The investment for the mobile franchise is $101,400 to $122,250.
Mosier and Thompson plan to expand their business into at least 10 territories over the next two years. Additionally, they want to continue contributing to their local communities through the Hometown Heroes program and the Malinois Foundation, DTE’s nonprofit that trains service dogs for veterans with PTSD and physical disabilities, which Thompson himself appreciates as a veteran.