Kendrick Perkins, former NBA champion and star analyst at ESPN, could very well make more money with his Frenchie business than he does with broadcasting over the next five years.
About four years ago, Perkins was approached by his brother-in-law Thomas Alpough with a succinct business pitch: “Man, we need to get into this dog breeding business.”
Perkins has always been a fan of dogs and had them as pets, but didn’t know what Alpough was talking about.
“What dog breeding business?” ” He asked.
“Frenchies,” Alpough replied. “I’m telling you, man, it’s the best thing that pops.”
At the time, Perkins spurned the idea, but his interest was piqued when Alpough acquired a male and a female on his own, bred them, and had a litter of pups.
“I need you to post this on your Instagram. Let’s get started. I don’t need any money from you. And we’re going to sell them,” Alpough told Perkins.
The price of the six puppies ranged from $8,000 to $20,000 each, and they sold out within three days, for a total of almost $60,000.
Alpough bought another female dog, and another litter of seven puppies appeared, and they sold out again.
“I was like, ‘OK, you’re really making money right now,'” Perkins said. “Now he had my attention and I’m all in.”
The brothers-in-law formalized a partnership in a company called Big League Exotics (BLE), set up a kennel, social media pages, and began reinvesting the proceeds from the litters into buying more adult Frenchies to breed.
BLE is a four-person company: Perkins, Alpough, Dung Nguyen – a serial entrepreneur who works with Alpough on other projects, including real estate – and John Shenkir, another businessman who has bonded of friendship with Alpough after they met at the vet.
Now BLE has 42 dogs and Perkins estimates their sale value at around $4-5 million. The dogs are split between their own dealership and other families and kennels who could be potential partners in the business. The focus is on the well-being and quality of life of the dogs.
There are cutting-edge strategies to deploy – it’s not as simple as having two dogs fornicate and reaping the benefits. There is a constant need to be one step ahead in genetics, that is, to anticipate future breeds that will be in demand even if they do not yet exist.
“Originally Frenchies started out, and there were black and white Frenchies. Then all of a sudden they started coming out with lilac Frenchies, which were bluish white, with polka dots and things of this nature,” Perkins said. “So you have the Blackbirds [which resemble Dalmations’ patterns]. But now you have fluffy Frenchies, which are expensive. Fluffy Frenchies have fur, different colors, it’s the new wave. These dogs start between $100,000 and $150,000.
“We started to develop relationships. I started learning more about DNA, color, structure – the things people want. And now we’re at the point where we actually have dogs in our kennel that are worth $250,000, $500,000 – and we even have one that’s worth $1 million.
And that brings us to Jay-Z, a fluffy pink husky bought from a UK-based breeder named Diego Sanchez, whom Perkins calls the “Godfather of Frenchies.” Sanchez works with his life and business partner, Susan Bello, running a business called Deziner Bullz.
Jay-Z has pink fur and spots like a panda bear, and is a pioneer in his line that had never been seen in the United States. Its purchase price? As Dr. Evil once said, a million dollars.
It was originally posted on Instagram as not for sale; that was until BLE blew up Deziner with the biggest offer they had ever received.
“It was tough, because they didn’t want to give up on Jay-Z at all. They knew he was one of the only ones,” Perkins said.
There is, Perkins explained, a misconception that people think female dogs, who carry babies, are more valuable than males. However, if you think of them as, say, a Kentucky Derby winning horse, a male can ride multiple times whereas females can only carry one litter at a time.
“You make money selling their sperm,” said Perkins, who played 14 years in the NBA, in a matter-of-fact tone. “You have your breeding fees, and with Jay-Z, sperm starts at $100,000.”
The breeding process is complicated.
“There’s a lot of work to do behind the scenes, like making sure your dogs’ progesterone levels are tested, making sure it’s the optimal time to breed for female fertility rates. If you’re shipping sperm, you need to know that it’s only good for a certain period of time and meets customer expectations,” Shenkir said.
There are significant costs associated with the business and the progesterone test is not cheap, Nguyen explained.
“We really take care of the dogs. We feed them premium foods and take care of their health,” he said.
Perkins said he received a multimillion-dollar offer for Jay-Z, which meant his value would have tripled in a short time. However, this offer was refused.
“We know how much money he can make in the long run,” Perkins said. “We just did his first official breeding two weeks ago because he just turned 11 months old.”
Perkins also featured a video in which his colleagues walked down Newbury Street in Boston with Jay-Z and a koi Frenchie.
A group connected with them, knowing they would only be in town for a short time, found out where they were and approached them on four wheels – and handed Alpough $10,000 in cash as a down payment, a 10% “early lock” on Jay-Z’s sperm.
“That was awesome,” laughed Shenkir.
Bello and Sanchez, the Deziner team, have been breeding dogs for about 20 years. They have progressed to become one of the best Frenchie breeders in the world, and they are constantly trying to mix DNA to create breeds with new textures and colors – husky Frenchies, koi Frenchies, pink Frenchies, fluffy Frenchies, etc.
“To create all these special high-end dogs, we need to know all about DNA; we need to know the right types of dogs to start the program. It takes five to seven years to create [a new breed]”, Bello said. “It’s not a quick process to finally get the finished article. There’s a lot of work that has gone into creating this dog.
To find a dog with a shade of pink like Jay-Z, it’s a mix of generations of dominant and recessive genes – where dogs can carry, say, a lilac gene but not necessarily show it.
“You need to match a boy and a girl with the right DNA to ensure they have the opportunity to create the dog you’re looking for. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t,” Bello said. You can have seven or eight puppies, and only one of the litter comes out what you’re looking for.It’s a mix of luck, nurture, and understanding.
After the purchase of Jay-Z, BLE and Deziner Bullz formed a partnership, where the British group sends top puppies to Perkins’ group, which sells the dogs and/or breeding capabilities in the United States. Then the profits are shared.
“They sent us three pregnant dogs, expecting exotic huskies that look like Jay-Z, but in their natural color and look like pandas,” Perkins, 37, said of one of their first joint ventures.
There are high standards at both BLE and Deziner. Companies must balance the desire to maximize revenue with caution not to flood the market and keep their creations rare. Both companies were keen to emphasize that they are licensed companies that treat their dogs with care.
The highest price BLE has secured for a dog so far came when they sold a pink Frenchie husky for $250,000. The farther they sold a dog? Australia. They made the sale a few weeks ago and are in the process of making sure the pup meets all vaccination requirements.
Another part of BLE’s business is helping other breeders sell their Frenchies. Because of Perkins’ social media prowess — he has over 370,000 followers on Instagram, and the Exotics account has an additional 31,000 — they can move dogs much faster than the standard mom and pop store.
There are, of course, many buyers who cannot afford a BLE six-figure Frenchie for breeding purposes, but want to purchase a $5,000-$10,000 Frenchie as a pet. A Frenchie could be for sale at a small breeder for months with no takers, and find a buyer within hours if Perkins and the team get involved.
“We just sort of play the middleman and charge the breeder a brokerage fee,” Perkins said; their cut might be around $1,500 on a sale of $6,500.
With so much money at stake, extreme precautions must be taken. The only people who know where BLE’s Frenchies are housed, at an undisclosed location in rural Texas, are the four people who work together. The house sits on approximately 100 acres of property, with a 10 acre fenced yard, with CCTV cameras throughout and four Cane Corso dogs patrolling. When they take the dogs to shows, they have to hire security.
When a sell-out breaks down, one of BLE’s four must make the delivery.
“When you’re dealing with such a large transaction, you can’t trust anyone but someone in your inner circle to deliver that dog,” Perkins said. “Because you could drop a person off at the airport with the dog, and that person could take a detour and not even get on the plane, and change their phone number, and now all of a sudden they’re walk away with a $100,000 dog and everyone takes a loss.
Frenchies are the most stolen dogs in the United States, notes Nguyen.
“Even in Houston, they had to be on the news to be careful if you own one because people are losing their lives or getting robbed because it’s so hot,” Perkins said. “Frenchies are hotter than real estate.”