Hound HQ: A Journey from Investment Banking to Doggy Daycare

Jacob Sarver’s entrepreneurial story starts with the dream of opening a business in his hometown of Omaha. But when he opened doggy daycare and boarding facility Hound HQ off of West Dodge Road in February, the accomplishment was much more than a business venture, it was personal — right down to childhood connections. Pulling from experience in investment banking and the mentorship he received from a former supervisor, he was able to combine his finance experience with a love for both dogs and Omaha.

Drawing Connections

Hound HQ offers daycare, boarding, and grooming for dogs of all sizes. On the surface, it may seem like a typical doggy daycare business model, but when digging deeper, careful considerations are apparent in every aspect of the business.

Sarver, who had been working in investment banking in Washington, D.C., and Little Rock, Arkansas before that, said he began to experience burnout and was “at a fork in the road.”

He weighed his options of going to business school, joining a startup, or continuing down the corporate finance road — none of it was appealing.

When laying out his options, a perhaps unlikely supporter of his decision to transition into business ownership came to the forefront — his former boss.

“I was talking to my employer in D.C., and he gave me the encouragement. He said if there was one regret that he had it would be that he did not do something like [start a business at a young age],” he said.

The mentorship he received while working with a client who owned fitness clubs became integral when drawing up his business plan.

“My job primarily was to look at acquisitions of other companies to try to grow that footprint out west and to turn around some clubs that were poorly performing. So I got to know the four-wall retail service model pretty well,” he said.

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Hound HQ provides on-site grooming services to clients. (Photography by Debra S. Kaplan)
Hound HQ provides on-site grooming services to clients. (Photography by Debra S. Kaplan)

Taking the Leap

Sarver decided to start a dog boarding business when he and his fiancé noticed less-than-desirable conditions when boarding their two dogs Bourbon and Captain, such as collapsible crates for sleeping or no webcam to check in on their pets.

“The idea came up when I had to travel home for the holidays and we always had to board our dogs … and I always thought I could do better,” he said. “I did a couple of months of homework on whether to buy a small shop somewhere or to start my own and settled on starting my own.”

He moved back home to Omaha to stay close to family for support and began to search for a property.

Almost as though it was kismet, Sarver reached out to a friend at CBRE, who suggested he check out a vacant property near his childhood home. Seeing the potential, he purchased the building at 15721 W. Dodge Rd.

 The doggy daycare is located near 156th Street and West Dodge Road.(Photography by Debra S. Kaplan)
The doggy daycare is located near 156th Street and West Dodge Road.(Photography by Debra S. Kaplan)

Elevated Daily Comforts

Sarver’s first order of business was ensuring the space for the dogs was safe and comfortable. Hound HQ offers large kennels, and separate spaces for large and small breeds. It also maintains a small staff-to-dog ratio to ensure safety for the pets and the employees.

Sarver said he tailors services to each dog to ease them into the new environment, whether that be a special treat in their kennel or time away from the other animals.

“Overnight is scary for dogs. You’re away from your home, you’re away from the people that you know,” he said. 

Part of easing anxiety for pet parents comes in the form of report cards, text updates from staff, and webcams. Sarver wants clients to know that Hound HQ is an open book and they can come armed with ideas.

“I’m not a beat-around-the-bush guy,” he said. “If there’s ever anything, whether it’s recommendations, suggestions, concerns, questions, I’m here every day from open to close.”       

Now that the business has built a solid client base, Sarver isn’t just resting on his laurels. During the first three months of business, Hound HQ is donating a portion of its revenue to the Nebraska Humane Society.

His connection circles back to his childhood when visiting NHS became a summer tradition with his grandparents.

“One of the things that I remember most fondly is, to kill an hour on a random Tuesday or Wednesday, we would just go to the NHS and see the dogs that are available for adoption,” he said.

His grandma, a longtime volunteer at NHS, inspired him to do the same.

“When I was in college, I would come back and do walks with my grandma. So, it’s also always been a special place for me,” he said.

Sarver plans to continue community partnerships with other organizations each quarter, whether that be animal rescues or charitable organizations in the metro.