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Women in Business: Q&A with Taffy Miltz, President of FlipFlop Dogs

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Raising their daughters, Jack and Taffy Miltz always had a house full of animals including dogs, cats, bunnies, horses, frogs, mice and the occasional hermit crab. They felt that having pets taught responsibility and compassion. All their pets became an important part of the family.

Their love of dogs prompted them to look for a business opportunity in the pet industry. For Jack and Taffy, kenneling their dogs was not an option, and they had begun to wear out their welcome asking family and friends to care for their canines while they were away. Using dog sitters didn't work well for them either. Tapping into their savings/retirement fund, Taffy launched FlipFlop Dogs, the alternative to kenneling that allows dogs to stay with carefully screened and selected "Companion Families" who maintain the dog's day-to-day routine in a safe, warm, loving home environment. They created the company in 2011 and started offering a franchise opportunity in the Fall 2013. They currently have two locations open and operating in Ohio and Georgia.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?

Through the years, I have learned that it is better to talk less and listen more. Often people just want to be heard, but listening to all perspectives allows you to make more informed decisions. Carrying this over to franchising, it is imperative to listen to our franchisees because they are the heart of our business. They have their feet on the ground and are operating under our business model.

How has your previous employment experience aided your position as the President of FlipFlop Dogs?

I had the opportunity to work with the Invisible Fence Brand® for 25 years. As the president of a dealership, I know first hand what it is like to grow a business from the ground up, especially a business in the pet industry. In the development stages of any new business, you are the jack-of-all-trades. At the same time, you have to know when to step back, outsource and build a good team.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?

This is probably one of the biggest struggles for women, especially those that have a home-based business. You need to step away from your desk and allow uninterrupted time for yourself everyday. Also, as we raised our children, they were our priority. We vacationed together and always made it a point to have dinner as a family. No business talk was allowed in our household during dinner time.

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure as a business owner?

Nothing ever happens overnight. It takes patience and hard work to grow a business, and it is a challenge to keep expectations in check. We hear countless stories from our franchisees of how their customers are able to go away and feel confident that their dog is safe and happy. Not only that, but many of their dogs run to the FlipFlop Dogs vehicle because they are so excited to go on a FlipFlop Dogs vacation. This makes everything worth while.

What advice can you offer those seeking to establish their own business?

Do what you are passionate about and believe in. For me this was simple because our pets have always been members of our family. Leaving them during a vacation has always been a struggle, and we always thought - there has to be a better way. Taking that passion and developing it into your career, takes hard work and perseverance. Your passion will make forging ahead through tough times easier. Love what you do and you'll be happy every day.

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?

Women make great FlipFlop Dogs franchise owners, because they are responsible, goal driven, passionate and caring. One big issue for many women is getting too emotionally involved when work is purely business, not personal. Women tend to pour their hearts and souls into what they do, but should hold back from letting their emotions get in the way of work.

What are your thoughts on Sheryl Sandberg¹s Lean In book and movement?

I recently began reading the book, but have already realized how realistic this image is. Women are perceived to not be able to hold both a successful career and fulfilling personal life. I do agree that fear holds many back and we need to challenge women to face those fears. Women can have it all if they believe in themselves and aspire to lead.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?

Mentors played a huge role in my professional and personal growth. First and foremost, my father was my most important mentor. From him I gained the importance of honest, patience and work ethic. On a professional level, one of my mentors would have to be Peter Cancro of Jersey Mike's. Not only was he Entrepreneur of the Year, but he has also devoted many hours to campaigning for charities.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?

I am fortunate enough to have met and spoken with so many brilliant women who are members of the International Franchise Association (IFA). A few standouts are Dina Dwyer of The Dwyer Group and Shelly Sun of BrightStar Care. Both women have gained outstanding reputations in the franchise community, while growing multi-million dollar businesses.

What are your hopes for the future of FlipFlop Dogs?

FlipFlop Dogs' intent is to give dogs a joyful vacation experience while providing peace of mind for their owners that their canine is being cared for in a safe, loving home environment. We hope to further capitalize on the growing demand for more compassionate boarding options and expand our national footprint through a unique pet franchise opportunity. Plans call for adding 8-12 new locations in 2014 and having as many as 25 franchises operating nationwide by the end of 2015 and 100 locations in the next five years.