Global Pet Foods multi-unit owner Amelia Kleinschmidt shares how she turned her passion for pets into a thriving business
By Joelle Kidd
Amelia Kleinschmidt always knew she wanted to start her own business one day, but it was a part-time job while she was a student at university that set her on her entrepreneurial path.
Kleinschmidt was hired at an independent pet supply store in Calgary, Alberta. “The store was so cool. I really loved everything about it,” she recalls. “[The owner] was so good at letting everyone do their own thing and have their own ideas to help support his business. When I was working there, I was going to university for political science, but mostly because I knew I had to go to university and had no idea what I wanted to do. It wasn’t until I was working there that I really figured out what I loved.”
Soon after, Kleinschmidt took a job at a Global Pet Foods in Calgary run by a friend. “I got to know the brand,” she says. Years later, “when I wanted to open my own store here in Vancouver, they were a natural fit for me.”
Good food, naturally
After university, Kleinschmidt moved to B.C. and got her Masters of Business Administration. She then spent some time working for a major bank in the U.K., building up her financial knowledge and savings to start her own business. “I learned quite a lot about finance—we’re talking about way larger-scale businesses, but at the end of the day, you really understood a balance sheet, a profit and loss statement, and [what makes] people successful or not successful. I was able to take all that information and when I got back to Canada, I was able to run with this dream of leaving the corporate space and opening my own pet food store.”
Kleinschmidt says she was drawn to Global Pet Foods because it offered a mix of flexibility and support. “I was looking for an opportunity to open a store and be an entrepreneur, really make something unique and special to me. But I wanted and needed the support of a franchise.” According to Kleinschmidt, the brand offered help with designing the store, crafting marketing campaigns, picking brands, and negotiating buying contracts, so she could learn from proven systems and hit the ground running.
Global Pet Foods “is not a franchise where you kind of press start and the business operates itself,” Kleinschmidt notes. “It really requires the owners to be very deeply involved.” Along with continuous support, the brand allows owners to stock brands that fit their market and personal values. Part of the appeal of the brand is this personalization, Kleinschmidt says.
“Within this franchise, [though there are] a lot of similarities from store to store, you know when you’re walking into this store that you’re walking into a store owned by me. Everything I care about is written all over the store—in the products, in the service, in the way we get involved with the community. So it’s this perfect merger of all the great things about an independent pet store with all the help and support of a franchise.”
When it comes to making sure her store has the right stock for her community, Kleinschmidt says it’s all about knowing your values and communicating them clearly. “Knowing who you are and understanding who your intended customer is a really big deal,” she says. As a benchmark for choosing products, she asks, “Would I feed that to my own pet?”
Kleinschmidt also sells products made locally by small vendors in Vancouver and the Lower Mainland, giving her shop hyper-local flair and helping to support the community.
“We’re not here to judge. There’s so many different products […] so our strategy is really to give everyone the tools and the service to make the best decision for themselves. Because nobody knows their pet better than they do.”
This approach attracts a lot of like-minded franchisees, says Kleinschmidt. “We really all care about our community and what we’re all trying to achieve, which is high-quality, wholesome, natural pet food.”
A paw-sitive attitude
The Global Pet Foods brand was founded in 1976 and currently has more than 215 locations across Canada. Along with food for all types of pets—including specialty diets and treats—Global Pet Foods stores offer pet accessories, grooming supplies, health supplements, and more.
Kleinschmidt opened her first store in Burnaby, B.C. in December 2019, just months before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. It made for a “stressful” first year, she says, but she weathered the storm and was able to open a second location last May. She has plans to eventually open even more stores.
Kleinschmidt’s day-to-day role as a multi-unit owner involves overseeing her managers and taking care of the behind-the-scenes work that keeps a business running smoothly: figuring out product mix, staffing, ordering, inventory management, and more.
“When I first opened, I was working open to close, seven days a week, really getting to know my customers,” she says. While diving in was helpful when starting the business, Kleinschmidt realized that schedule wasn’t sustainable. “Burnout is real,” she says with a laugh. “Now I’m in the store probably 50 per cent of the week.”
All this hard work has paid off: Kleinschmidt’s store has been nominated for an award from Pets Canada (formerly PIJAC Canada) for best store in the chain store category. While the nomination was exciting, Kleinschmidt was equally happy to see how many other Global Pet Foods locations were nominated. “Each year that we get nominated, we’re always up against other Globals. Which means that it’s really just a bunch of like-minded people, doing the same thing that I’m doing, which is trying to connect with our community and do the best for our community.”
For Kleinschmidt, the best part of working in a franchise system is the community among franchisees. “Everyone is really supportive. We’re all trying to accomplish the same things. It’s really nice to be able to pick up the phone and ask someone a question.” She has also recently joined the system’s franchise advisory board, which offers even more opportunity to connect with other franchisees across the country.
Despite her formal training and experience in finance, Kleinschmidt says she learned a lot in her first few years of business. “Nothing prepares you like getting your hands dirty and getting the work done. So when you’re able to learn from other people’s mistakes, that’s really nice!”
At age 36, Kleinschmidt is a young woman in business—“and I know that I look even younger than I am!” she adds—and she says she’s cognizant that she has to work hard to make sure her vendors and partners respect her as a business owner. Despite this, she sees her youth as a benefit, not a detriment.
“My personal experience has been that I come with a new perspective,” she says. “My franchise is really open to hearing what I have to say and adopting [different ways of doing things]. With such a longstanding brand, fresh ideas and new strategies are important,” she says.
“I’m certainly not as well-versed in, say, social media as some of the Gen Zs that are a little younger than me,” she says with a laugh. “But I feel like I was able to launch into some of those new platforms and new ways of marketing and connecting with people a little easier.”
Now, she says, she just has to make sure to return the favour. “I’m a millennial, and I do have people working for me that are Gen Z, and they even have new ideas that I haven’t thought of!”
When it comes to advice for those considering buying a franchise, Kleinschmidt says it’s important to consider work-life balance, right from the outset. “If I could go back in time, I would really tell myself that you’re doing better for your franchise and yourself if you make sure that you have a plan to find work-life balance,” she says. Franchises, like any business, require hard work, and it’s important to build that balance in from the jump.
“I would never not do a franchise. It’s been such a positive experience. But it doesn’t mean you’re not still working really, really hard. You still have to come in and be an entrepreneur and pull your socks up and work hard—a franchise is not going to do the work for you. So be prepared to work hard, find balance, and enjoy it.”