If you’re passionate about dogs (and other pets), you’ve probably, and maybe just secretly, wished you could have a pet-related small business with products or services. If you are reading this, you likely already know the pet industry is booming with no end in sight. Though you already know the American Pet Products Association (APPA) conducts the most comprehensive survey of pet owners and has become the key source of industry statistics in this realm. Here are some facts from APPA:
- 68% of US households own a pet, which equates to 84.6 millions homes. In 1988, the first year the survey was conducted, 56% of US households owned a pet.
- There are close to 90 million pet dogs across 60 million dog-owning households, many have other pets as well
- Pet industry spending in 2018 is expected to be $72 Billion. That’s a 20% increase in 3 years and 100% increase since 2005
In the past few decades, the family dog has moved from the backyard to the bedroom, and into the bed (there are APPA stats for that as well). Dogs have been humanized and become like family to many. It’s no wonder there is so much interest in related businesses. We love our dogs (and most others’ dogs) and to be able to make a living working in that passionate sounds like a dream.
Because “dog lover” has become as much a lifestyle as anything else we do, and because we contort our schedules and our bank accounts around it, there is a lot more spending going on than is reported by the APPA. The indirect costs of pet ownership are very real, and they create a lot more opportunity.
Though you may not want to quit your day job and jump into a new business immediately, here are some timely ideas you can start without buying a franchise or having to go through long and tedious training courses.
- Pet Sitting and Boarding. To many, this is a part time gig, and for others it is serious business. Pet boarding and daycare centers are growing rapidly across the country to fill a growing need, but a lot of people prefer to have the dog stay home with a pet sitter or stay in the pet sitter’s own home. Dog Vacay and Rover have created big business of the latter, and they merged in 2017. Still, there are many pet parents who need more personalized service and the consistency of a regular sitter. Pet Sitters International (PSI) has been around since 1994 and provides training standards and courses to become a PSI-certified pet sitter. Though not a requirement to be a pet sitter, a certification will ensure you know the basics, have an authority with whom you can consult on technical and business issues, and it will give you credibility as you build your customer base.
- Dog Walking. This seems pretty obvious, but there is a ton of opportunity nonetheless. Dog walking services are inhighdemand. Though Wag (an Uber-like service) seems to be all the rage, there’s plenty of room for the consistent, trusty dog walker – you. There is a lot you should know about dog walking, and about running the business, but there are apps available to stay on top of scheduling and invoicing so you can just get on with your walk. As an example, one such app is DoTimely or Wag (not an endorsement), but there are several others for dog walkers and pet sitters that can handle scheduling, invoicing and much more.
- Dog Selection Specialist. Is car-shopping a crazy, time-consuming endeavor or what? Did you know there are “spotters” who will find the new or used car you want, and even negotiate a better price for you? Like many things, there is a lot to know about car buying and it’s great to know an insider. The spotters know cars, they know how to deal with individual sellers, they have relationships with dealerships and they save you a ton of time and frustration, and money, too. Do the same for people who want a new family pet. If you are knowledgeable about breeds, pet selection, perhaps you know breeders and the nearby rescue facilities, why not be the spotter? Do all the leg work and get paid by providing this valuable service and maybe with a percentage of savings you negotiate. As a bonus, you can also refer them to your network of favorite service providers who may pay you a 10-20% referral fee.
- Sell Totally Unique Dog-themed Merch at events and temporary locations. The best way to start a business is to find a viable niche and fill it. Dog is Good, LLC has done exactly that and they now provide a lucrative business opportunity for the dog-loving entrepreneur. Their secret? Connect with dog lovers emotionally and satisfy their need to surround themselves with apparel, gifts, accessories and decor which remind them “how great it feels to be with Dog.” Now working with dozens of part and full-time “dog-preneurs” in the US, DIG provides you with a powerful, credible brand name, a proven concept, training and support, and a network of like-minded “DIG Mobile Pop-up” operators to communicate and share with. Dog events are the obvious place to sell, but the brand appeals to dog lovers wherever they are (that’s everywhere) and the venues are limited only by your imagination and energy.
- Pet Concierge. If organization is a forte, this is good for you! In our harried, tech-crazed lives with way too many emails, too much social media, too many apps and tons of info to track, it’s hard to keep up with our personal and human family needs and commitments let alone tracking our pet’s needs and requirements – and they directly or indirectly create more needs than we do ourselves. If you are the organized type, take that burden on as a business opportunity. Set up vet appointments and visits, dog walking, boarding, grooming, prescription refills, food delivery, poop scooping, carpet cleaning, and more. You can be the tracker, the appointment maker, the product recommender/buyer and, if you can squeeze it in, the service provider. It’s almost limitless. And because many of the services you will connect with will pay you for referrals, you can get an extra 10-20% from them.
No doubt, there are a number of generalized and dedicated apps and online resources to track all the requirements, so the organizational part of the job could be largely automated. If you are really enterprising – develop the dedicated app and license it to like-minded concierges everywhere.
Before jumping into any new business, do your homework. Know the risks, the potential rewards and how long it will take to earn the money you need to sustain it. When you drill down in a rigorous planning exercise, you may find that yes, it’s a great idea, but nothing more than that. There’s a big difference between an idea and an opportunity!