Dogged determination pays off for Ganahl Heidi Ganahl, Camp Bow Wow • 2018 Boulder County Business Hall of Fame

Turning tragedy into triumph has propelled Heidi Ganahl to success in the business, political and charitable worlds — success she might not have imagined just a couple decades ago.

The Camp Bow Wow chain of doggie day-care centers she founded in Broomfield in 2000 grew from a 10-employee startup to a $100 million juggernaut whose franchise owners employ about 3,000 people. But the path to that fetching fame wasn’t a walk in the park.

She’d sold pharmaceuticals, worked at advertising agencies and as a certified financial planner, and launched Nursery Works, a baby-bedding catalog. None of that really stirred her passion, however, and after her first husband, Bion, died in a plane accident, she felt lost. Her brother suggested the Camp Bow Wow idea, which she and Bion had developed but had been shelved after his death. She opened the first center in Denver using money from Bion’s life insurance settlement, and in 2003 started offering franchises. Camp Bow Wow was acquired in 2014 by animal-hospital operator VCA (Nasdaq: WOOF), which had a reported market capitalization of more than $4 billion. VCA, in turn, was acquired for $7.7 billion in 2017 by privately held food giant Mars Inc., which has a pet-care division whose holdings include the Banfield pet clinics often housed inside PetSmart stores.

Ganahl remains CEO of Camp Bow Wow and launched the Fight Back Foundation, a nonprofit startup incubator for social entrepreneurs who want to address issues facing youth in Colorado. In 2015 she was appointed by Gov. John Hickenlooper to the state School Safety and Youth in Crisis Committee. In 2016, she ran as a Republican for an at-large seat on the University of Colorado’s Board of Regents and defeated former state Rep. Alice Madden, D-Boulder.

She also founded Moms Fight Back, an organization focused on child safety in Colorado, and wrote “Tales from the Bark Side: My Journey from Wayward Stray to Top Dog.”

Under her leadership, Camp Bow Wow has developed apps that let pet owners have FaceTime with their animals and began working with DogVacay, which matches pet sitters with people who are traveling.

Ganahl was named one of Fortune magazine’s Top 10 Most Promising Entrepreneurs and won a 2016 Colorado Brave Leader award from the Colorado Business Roundtable. Parade magazine named her one of the nation’s top women entrepreneurs, and Camp Bow Wow appeared on Inc. magazine’s list of fastest growing companies for five years in a row.

Ganahl also serves on boards that focus on women’s issues, entrepreneurship and education reform. She is married to Jason Ganahl, who owns the GQue barbecue restaurant in Westminster. Their children are Tori, Hollie and twins Jack and Jenna.

See previously published articles for Heidi.

View 2018 Boulder County Business Hall of Fame publication.