Kendrick Perkins, a former NBA champion and star analyst at ESPN, could very well make more money from his Frenchie business than he does in broadcasting over the next five-plus 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 did not know what Alpough was talking about.
“What dog-breeding business?” he asked.
“Frenchies,” Alpough answered. “I’m telling you, man, it’s the best thing popping.”
At the time, Perkins brushed off the idea, but his interest was piqued when Alpough acquired a male and female on his own, bred them and had a litter of puppies.
“I need you to post this on your Instagram. Let’s start it up. I don’t need money from you. And we’re going to sell them,” Alpough told Perkins.
The six puppies ranged in price from $8,000 to $20,000 apiece, and they sold out in three days, for a total of nearly $60,000.
Alpough bought another female dog, and another litter of seven puppies emerged, and they sold out right away again.
“I was like ‘OK, you really getting money right now,’” Perkins said. “Now he had my attention and I’m all the way in.”
The brothers-in-law formalized a partnership in a company called Big League Exotics (BLE), built up a kennel, social media pages and began reinvesting the proceeds from the litters into purchasing more adult Frenchies to breed.
BLE is a four-person company: Perkins, Alpough, Dung Nguyen — a serial entrepreneur who works with Alpough on other ventures including real estate — and John Shenkir, another businessman who struck up a friendship with Alpough after the two met at the vet.
Now, BLE has 42 dogs and Perkins estimates their sale value to cumulatively be about $4 million-$5 million. The dogs are spread between their own compound, and other families and kennels who could be eventual partners in the business. There is a significant emphasis placed on the dogs’ welfare and quality of life.
There are cutting-edge strategies to deploy — it’s not just as simple as getting two dogs to fornicate and raking in the profits. There is a constant need to stay ahead of the curve in terms of genetics, which means anticipating future breeds that will be in demand even if they don’t exist yet.
“Originally, Frenchies started, and there were black and white Frenchies. Then, all of a sudden, they started coming out with lilac Frenchies, that were bluish-white, with polka dots and things of that nature,” Perkins said. “Then you have the Merles [which resemble Dalmations’ patterns]. But now you have fluffy Frenchies, which are high-dollar. Fluffy Frenchies have fur, different colors, it’s the new wave. Those dogs start out at $100K-$150K.
“We started developing relationships. I started learning more about the DNA, the color, the structure — the things that people want. And now we’re to the point where we actually have dogs that are in our kennel that are worth $250K, $500K — and we even have one that’s worth $1 million.”
And this brings us to Jay-Z, a pink husky fluffy purchased from a UK-based breeder named Diego Sanchez, whom Perkins refers to as the “Godfather of Frenchies.” Sanchez works with his life and business partner, Susan Bello, running a firm called Deziner Bullz.
Jay-Z has pink fur and spots like a panda bear, and is a pioneer in his bloodline which had never before been seen in the United States. His purchase price? As Dr. Evil once said, one million dollars.
He was originally posted on Instagram as not for sale; that was until BLE blew Deziner away with the biggest offer they’d ever gotten.
“It was hard, because they didn’t want to give Jay-Z up at all. They knew he was one of one,” Perkins said.
There is, Perkins explained, a misconception where people think that female dogs, which carry babies, are more valuable than the males. However, if you think of them along the lines of, say, a Kentucky Derby winning horse, a male can stud repeatedly whereas females can only carry one litter at a time.
“You make money from selling their semen,” Perkins, who played 14 years in the NBA, said matter-of-factly. “You’ve got your stud fees, and with Jay-Z, the semen starts at $100K.”
The breeding process is complicated.
“There’s a lot of work that goes into it behind the scenes, like making sure your dogs’ progesterone levels are tested, making sure it’s the optimal time to breed for the females’ fertility rates. If you’re shipping the semen you have to know it’s only good for a certain amount of time and meet the window of customers’ expectations,” Shenkir said.
There are large costs associated with the business and the progesterone testing is not cheap, Nguyen elaborated.
“We really take care of the dogs. We feed them premium food and take care of their health,” he said.
Perkins said that they received an offer of several million dollars for Jay-Z, which meant his value would have tripled in a short amount of time. Nevertheless, this offer was turned down.
“We know how much money he can make long term,” Perkins said. “We just did his first official breeding two weeks ago, because he just turned 11 months.”
Perkins also brought up a video in which his colleagues were walking down Newbury Street in Boston with Jay-Z and a koi Frenchie.
One group connected with them, knowing there was only a short time they would be in town, found out where they were and approached them on four-wheelers — and handed Alpough $10,000 in cash as a down payment, a 10 percent “early lock-in” on Jay-Z’s sperm.
“That was awesome,” Shenkir laughed.
Bello and Sanchez, the Deziner team, have been breeding dogs for about 20 years. They’ve progressed to be one of the foremost Frenchie breeders with 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 of these high-end special dogs, we have to know all about the DNA; we have 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’s gone on to create that dog.”
To come up with 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 have to match a boy and girl with the correct DNA to make sure they have an opportunity to make the dog you’re looking for. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t,” Bello said. “You can get seven, eight puppies, and only one in the litter comes out what you’re looking for. It’s a mixture of luck, education and understanding.”
After the Jay-Z purchase, BLE and Deziner Bullz formed a partnership, where the UK group sends cutting-edge puppies to Perkins’ group, which sells the dogs and/or breeding capabilities in the United States. Then the profits are split.
“They sent us three pregnant dogs, who were expecting exotic huskies that are like Jay-Z, but in their natural color, and look like panda bears,” Perkins, 37, said of one of their first partnership ventures.
There are high standards at both BLE and Deziner. The companies must reconcile the desire to maximize revenue with cautiousness against flooding the market and keeping their creations scarce. Both firms wanted to stress that they’re licensed businesses that treat their dogs with care.
The highest price BLE has gotten for a dog so far came when they sold a pink husky Frenchie for $250K. The furthest away they’ve sold a dog? Australia. They made the sale a couple weeks ago and are in the process of ensuring the pup meets all vaccination requirements.
Another element of BLE’s business is helping other breeders sell their Frenchies. Due to 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 shop.
There are, of course, many buyers out there who can’t afford a six-figure Frenchie from BLE for breeding purposes, but want to purchase a $5,000-$10,000 Frenchie as a pet. A Frenchie could be for sale from a small breeder for months with no takers, and find a buyer within hours if Perkins and the team get involved.
“We just kind of play the middleman and charge the breeder a brokerage fee,” Perkins said; their cut could be something in the vicinity of $1,500 on a $6,500 sale.
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 about 100 acres of property, with a 10-acre yard that is fenced off, with surveillance cameras all over the place and four Cane Corso dogs patrolling. When they take the dogs to shows, they have to hire security.
When a massive sale goes down, one of the four from BLE has to make the delivery.
“When you’re dealing with a transaction that large you can’t trust nobody except someone that’s in your inner circle to deliver that dog,” Perkins said. “Because you could drop a person off to the airport with the dog, and that person could make a detour and not even get on the airplane, and change their phone number, and now all of a sudden they’ve done walked away with a $100K dog and everyone takes a loss.”
Frenchies are the most-stolen dogs in the United States, Nguyen notes.
“Even in Houston, they had on the news to be careful if you own one because people are losing their lives or getting robbed because it’s that hot,” Perkins said. “The Frenchies are hotter than real estate.”