Are you someone who loves animals? Do you have experience owning or working with dogs? If you want to combine your passion for pets with a desire to start your own business, then the pet industry is an ideal entrepreneurial venture for you to consider. Nearly 67% of American families, about 85 million, own a pet, and they spent $72 billion on their pets in 2018 alone.
That spending level is expected to increase, with research showing that millennials, in particular, view their pets as “fur babies” and are already paying upwards of $1285 a year on their dogs alone. The pet industry is expanding, and with more people treating their pets like children, many unique pet needs, as well as traditional products and services, are in high demand. There’s never been a better time to start your own pet-based business, so here are some crucial tips to help you start on the right paw.
What to know before you start your business
While a love of pets is necessary to succeed in a pet-based business, there are other essential factors you need to take into account as well before you establish your store or service. First, you must be prepared to dedicate extraordinary amounts of time to research both the type of business you are interested in starting and also the basics of running a business, period. Check out the local competition from brick-and-mortar stores in your area, or if you’re creating an online business, look at what other web businesses are providing in either services or products. Identify a lack of a specific service, as starting a new business in an area that is oversaturated with competitive pet stores or services is likely to make professional success more difficult to achieve.
Financial means are also a critical factor in getting a business off the ground. Even if you’re planning a small online store or service, you need to have some passive income or savings available. Starting a business can be a significantly expensive undertaking, especially with factors such as rent and taxes. If you don’t have access to savings or other forms of start-up capital, there are many small business financing options for you to consider as well. Financial stability from the start will allow you to focus on your company and plan for future expenses.
It’s also important to remember that no matter how much you love pets, some of the responsibilities associated with operating a small business are less pet-oriented. Skills in public relations, customer service, accounting, networking, and social media will take up a considerable amount of your time, and knowledge and training in these areas may be necessary. That said, running a pet-based business that you truly love will make these tasks easier to bear.
Make sure you’re thoroughly educated in your chosen dog service. Today’s pet owners are more knowledgeable and sophisticated than ever before, and therefore, more discerning about where they shop for their dogs. These owners are more likely to patronize a service with a caring, friendly, and informed owners and employees rather than a large retail outlet.
Find your specific niche
As a growing industry, pet stores and services are fast becoming an oversaturated medium. To give your new business a fighting chance, you’ll want to focus on a niche that is either unique but not too specific or a traditionally successful service to which you can bring a fresh appeal.
Here are some tried-and-true and unusual pet niches to consider:
Traditional dog services and products
- Dog daycare is an increasingly popular service for dog parents who want their puppy to reap the physical and social benefits of playing with other dogs during the day rather than sitting in their crate at home for hours or barking and being destructive. Renting a warehouse space or stand-alone facility is ideal for a dog daycare business. Investigate municipal bylaws and zoning regulations for the location you choose for this business.
- Dog photographers are in demand in this age of social media and viral content. If you have an artistic eye and a talent for capturing the heart and energy of dogs, photography might be the business for you. Skill and intuition are significant parts of a successful photography business, as is a quality camera. Owners may want digital photos for posterity or to create family holiday cards, or print copies to frame for their home. Dogs’ lives are too short, and there is always a market for memories of families’ loyal canine companions.
- Dog walking services cost relatively little to start, and with your marketing skills and motivation, this job can quickly bloom into a lucrative career. Many dog parents need their dogs walked regularly, and a person with excellent time management skills and patience can supply that need. Experience with dog training can be helpful in this field, but not necessary. Don’t forget the multi-lead dog walking collars, either!
Unusual and unique services
- Canine massage therapy is an up-and-coming niche for people who want to help their dog lead longer and healthier lives, and to help their dogs manage injuries and arthritis as they age. Certification is typically necessary, but the trade-off is a thriving business that serves dogs. Other forms of pet therapy include hydrotherapy, acupuncture, and laser therapy. With people willing to spend more on their dog’s health, this is a unique pet-based business that is definitely on the rise. Some states only allow massage therapy through veterinarian offices, so check if your state is the place for this kind of business.
- Dog bakeries cater to one of the biggest trends in pet ownership: nutritious and safe food for dogs. If you have culinary skills, you can produce, package, and sell your organic treats, and even sell them wholesale online or with other stores. Label your products and let customers know why they are the best treat choices for your dog.
Establish trust with those clients, and your business will become popular through word-of-mouth alone.
Be prepared for legal and financial challenges
Whether you have a physical or online store, or if you are starting a daycare or dog walking business, you will need to financial and legal protection. Insurance for your business is a must as it covers legal fees associated with claims made against you from damages or injuries sustained by a third party in or during your business operations. General insurance features coverage for medical expenses, advertising or personal surgery, veterinarian expenses, and product and operations expenses.
Additionally, animal bailee coverage is necessary to cover the injury or loss of a dog in your care. In some states, bonding may be required as well. Bonds assure your customers that you are trustworthy, and fidelity bonds protect you against employee malpractice.
Combine your passion with service
If you love dogs, you can start a business that involves them in a variety of ways. Whether you want to cater to a dog’s medical needs, indulge a dog’s sweet tooth, or walk alongside a team of outstanding pups, your passion for pets can lead to a successful business and an enjoyable career.