"Connecting Pets with Loving Families"
Elizabeth Kunzelman followed her mentor, father, and founder of Petland, Ed Kunzelman’s footsteps, to promote his vision for a safe, responsible place for children to learn about animals. Petland’s Vice President of Legislative and Public Affairs started her career in journalism and public relations. From the beginning, Elizabeth honed strong work ethic and communications skills and worked her way up in the company. “Connecting pets with loving families never gets old. I’m very proud of the company he built.”
Elizabeth leads public and legislative affairs, national brand positioning, and tactical communications in her new role. During her 15 years at Petland, she served in various company public relations and communications roles. She championed legislation to ensure the highest animal welfare standards and protected Americans’ rights to own pets. Prior to her recent appointment, Elizabeth was Director of Public Affairs for Petland and currently serves on the board of directors for the Pet Advocacy Network board in Washington, D.C., and as a board member on the Ohio 4-H Foundation, Chillicothe-Ross Chamber of Commerce, and Downtown Chillicothe.
According to Elizabeth, many women face challenges at work, but Petland has always supported her growth and respected her abilities. “The most important thing I continue to do is to lead by example, mentor, and never stop trying to make things better in our industry. Petland has a unique and very special family culture. Everyone truly cares about one another,” elucidates Elizabeth. “I’ve learned so many lessons from my father. He started the company in 1967 and the business experienced many highs and lows during its 55 years. My father taught me many things, some have taken me a little longer to understand and implement.” He taught Elizabeth patience and to listen before speaking. “He has taught me empathy. These are all critical tools when serving customers, caring for pets, and defending our business against radical protestors,” she adds. “I try to impress upon our team how important it is to use your voice in the right way. Learning how to talk to colleagues, sharing ideas as well as frustrations is the key to finding success and finding happiness in your job.”
Success is a never-ending journey for the steadfast leader, and there’s no timer. It’s not necessarily about achieving some milestone; and it’s about being proud of the work one has done and knowing that no stone has been left unturned in trying to do the right thing. She strives to improve daily and remain an asset to the team she works with. “I believe you will constantly succeed if you are open-minded, willing to learn, and optimistic about the future,” she adds.
Animals are a love language in every country. Petland franchises are growing in communities across America and across the globe. In her role as VP of Public and Legislative Affairs, Elizabeth monitors, educates, and protects small business owners. She works with franchisees and legislators to explain the Petland business model, their breeder standards and animal care standards, and how they give back to the community. “I was honored with the 2021 Petland Impact Award for my work advocating for our company, our franchisees, and our customers,” says Elizabeth. “There are well-funded extremists out there who do not believe animals and people belong together. We know, however, and see every day how important the human animal bond is with people around the world. We believe, and there is an abundance of evidence, that pets make life better for both animals and their human families. I’m honored to champion that cause.”
The company’s biggest achievement is its ability to evolve to do what’s right for pets and customers. Petland now designs and builds its own store fixtures to house the pets. They work with state breeder organizations, USDA, state Agricultural Departments, veterinarians, and AKC to continue to evolve, improve, and grow.
“We are never complacent when it comes to improving the lives of pets and our customers. My biggest goal is to protect the right of families to purchase their family pet and the right of small businesses to operate,” explains Elizabeth. “People need loving pets now more than ever. They trust Petland for answers and expertise. Our business has grown and I’m confident it will continue to do so.” WL
Petland is consistently listed among Entrepreneur Magazine’s Franchise 500 top retail pet franchises. Our retail stores offer birds, fish, reptiles, small animals and puppies and kittens, including registerable breeds, crosses and mixed breeds from the community.