As we celebrate women’s achievements across cultural, political and social sectors, there’s one particular voice we’d like to hear from on this International Women’s Day – Hounds Town USA CEO Jackie Bondanza.
We sat down with Jackie to learn more about how she got to where she is today and her advice for other women who aspire to become leaders in their respective fields.
Jackie, you’re the fearless leader of our brand. Can you tell us how you get started in your career and what motivated you to become a CEO?
My background is in journalism, and I spent many years as an editor before joining the Hounds Town team more than 10 years ago. I first encountered the business as a customer when I brought my dog in for training and saw the opportunity to help develop the Hounds Town brand into a top player in the pet care space. I chose to leave my career in publishing and transition into an exciting new career path. I’ve learned a lot along the way, and that’s where my journalism experience came in handy.
As you took on the role of CEO, what are some key leadership lessons you’ve learned throughout your career?
First and foremost, the most important thing for me is to be able to walk the walk. I came into this role by doing, learning, observing and listening. I learned the craft from the ground up and that gave me the best perspective on how to then lead people to do the same thing. Other CEOs who make lateral moves can pull from leadership experience with other companies. For me, I acquired my experience from within the brand and relied on my own intuition to craft my own leadership style.
Some important leadership lessons I’ve learned along the way are:
- Put your money where your mouth is. It’s important to do what you’re asking of others first. That leads to a lot more respect in the long run.
- Learn to lead by listening. Oftentimes those on the ground level offer the best perspective. I always have my ear to the ground in our corporate store to ensure I’m getting every angle.
- Be humble. Anyone who believes they have all the answers is living in the past. There is no place for ego in leadership.
Knowing what you know now, what advice would you give to women who aspire to become leaders in their field?
It’s important to recognize that as women, we can do whatever we set our minds to. It’s easy to doubt ourselves, and it can be especially intimidating to break into male-dominated industries. I’m a good example of how learned behavior can accelerate a career, and how it can support success when taking a chance on a newfound calling. Just because you aren’t naturally inclined to something doesn’t mean you won’t excel at it.
How does Hounds Town support female mentorship within the organization?
We are a female-heavy brand. The nature of what we do attracts a lot of women because of our nurturing and caring nature. Our team has many inspiring female owners who juggle raising children and running a household while simultaneously owning a Hounds Town or two. When communicating with any franchisee, we try and consider the whole person and the things going on in their personal lives that may be adding stress to their professional lives. We always try to go out of our way to support them as humans – not just franchisees – as much as we can. We want them to spend as much time as they need with their kids and show up to work fulfilled.
What message would you like to share with women on International Women’s Day?
As a former journalist, I’ve always read a lot. I recently read a quote from a New York Times article that said, “Giving yourself permission to be fragile and to defend yourself as a whole person is a lot of work as a woman.” It actually is a lot of work, but it’s always worth it. Keep pointing your sphere right into that headwind!