Mark Van Wye loves to teach. Specifically, he loves to teach about teaching.
He once ran a summer program for teens called School School that laid bare the motivations of teachers, administrators and test-makers to facilitate higher performance.
Van Wye’s first job was teaching computer programming at a night school for adults. He was 11 years old, and the following year he would start his first entrepreneurial adventure — a two-sided marketplace for schools to increase efficiency while reducing friction between students and teachers. For this endeavor, he was presented with an award from the Governor of Florida that is usually reserved for superintendents and principals.
In high school, Van Wye split his time between working in biomedical research laboratories and ghostwriting educational newsletters on personal finance for Shearson-Lehman. He then went on to receive a Ford Foundation grant to conduct educational research with Easter Seals, employing emerging technology. This was all while he was a neuroscience major at Amherst College.
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After college, Van Wye worked in educational television, taught in classrooms and developed educational curricula for clients such as Microsoft, Disney and Nintendo.
Today, Van Wye has found enormous success in his company, Zoom Room.
“I know it sounds a bit meta, but we as franchisors teach franchisees how to teach their trainers, how to teach our clients, how to train their dogs,” says Van Wye.
How exactly did dogs enter the picture?
“The pivot from teaching kids to dogs was surprisingly easy,” Van Wye said. “On the business side, there was an addressable market in the billions — an opportunity to own an entire category worldwide, one that had seen almost no innovation. But on the personal side, I think it was something else.”
It’s not unusual for CEOs to talk about passion for what they do.
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“The most formative work I did for Zoom Room was developing curricula for millions of kids through the Boys & Girls Clubs of America. I learned how to pilot and evaluate. I learned how to turn volunteers into skilled tutors. I learned that the most meaningful outcomes came from anything that led caregivers to spend more time with their kids. And I learned that those kids in disenfranchised communities who had a family dog regularly outperformed their peers.”
Van Wye himself grew up with Snowy, a standard poodle.
“The reality is that not every kid has loving parents, but having a dog provides people of any age — most profoundly children — with the perfect crucible for experiencing true unconditional love,” says Van Wye.
It’s little wonder that the staff uniform at Zoom Room doesn’t even include the name of his company. It reads, “Love. Unconditionally.”
Zoom Room is unique. You can’t drop your dog off. You attend classes with your dog, but you yourself are the student.
“One time, I was at these MTV Movie Awards and my Komondor, Clyde, and I were called up on the stage and asked to describe Zoom Room. I sort of faltered a bit and said I was there from Zoom Room Dog Training, but, ‘We don’t train dogs. We train the people who love them.'”
And thus the Zoom Room’s official motto was born.
One of Van Wye’s parallel goals for Zoom Room is to create a platform that celebrates teaching as a profession, while also elevating dog training as worthy of a serious career path.
Van Wye has leveraged decades of knowledge about education into Zoom Room’s success. For example, work with differentiated learning became the franchise’s celebrated and lucrative Levels system, affording clients flexible scheduling and the ability to proceed at one’s own pace.
“For me, Zoom Room has been a dream come true because it’s centered on my lifelong commitment to and belief in positive reinforcement. I’ve even raised my son with this philosophy.” Van Wye says.
There’s no denying the successful outcomes for Van Wye and Zoom Room. The company entered 2020 with nine locations, and today it has 90 franchise agreements across 26 states. Van Wye even authored the best-selling dog training book, Puppy Training in Seven Easy Steps, as well as a puppy training book just for kids. Zoom Room boasts more five-star reviews than any other dog trainer in the country, resulting in an NPS score of 90 for the business.
“I won’t rest until Zoom Room is truly synonymous with dog training, not just here in the U.S., but worldwide,” says Van Wye.
Based upon the financial success of the model and its meteoric trajectory, Zoom Room is the culmination of Van Wye’s lifelong love of learning and teaching.
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