Guest Contributor: Kayla Matthews
Pets are more than just non-human companions. They're practically part of the family: We feed them, house them, and even invest in veterinary insurance for them. Is it any wonder Americans spend billions of dollars (and counting) on pet products alone?
Not that it's a bad thing. If you've ever wondered whether you can make money from sharing your love for Fido with other people, you'll find plenty of opportunities to do so. Whether you should take advantage of those opportunities, however, is another matter. That's where this guide to setting up a pet-related business comes in.
Is a Pet-Related Career Right for Me?
Are you sure you want a pet-related career for the rest of your life? You might enjoy walking, bathing and feeding your own dog, but can you do the same for other people’s dogs? If you can extend your passion for pets beyond the ones in your own house, maybe starting a business based on that passion is a good idea.
The keyword here is business. Even if you're great at bringing out your inner Cesar Millan, you might get into trouble if you don't know the basics, such as pricing your goods and services, counting your inventory, and marketing. Granted, you can hire someone else to do these things for you, but while you're starting out, it's more cost-effective to be a jack-of-all-trades – at least, for the time being.
Where Do I Start?
When combining pets and business, chances are the first thing that comes to mind is pet shop. Luckily, that's not your only option.
If you enjoy bathing animals, you can start a pet grooming business. If showing off your dog whispering skills is more in your wheelhouse, consider a dog training business instead. If you enjoy knitting cute clothes for cute dogs, you can open up an online shop and sell your goods from there.
Take stock of your current skills and interests. Figure out how you can translate them into a sustainable career. Once you get that down, it's a matter of learning business skills along the way.
How Do I Grow My Pet Business?
Start small. Do good work for your family and friends for a fair price, and let them spread the word. You can never go wrong with word-of-mouth.
Observe the people using your services. Can you see a pattern in their profile? Are they mostly men, or women? Are they energetic twentysomethings, or doddering senior citizens? The answers to these questions will help you determine your target market, and figure out how to expand it.
Create a website advertising your products and services. Let people know about your website through Facebook, Twitter and other sites your target customers frequent. Be sure to regularly create and share content related to your business as well, in order to keep your marketing engine running.
How Do I Run My Pet Business?
That depends on what type of business you have. If you run a service like pet washing or dog training, most of your expenses will consist of overhead and labor. If you run a shop selling products like pet treats or clothes, you'll spend more on raw materials or inventory.
Figure out how you can scale your business with the resources you have. For example, if you're a dog trainer, you can either schedule each training session yourself, or hire other trainers to help you. If you're a shop owner, consider whether your brick-and-mortar store is enough, or if you want to reach more people outside your state by selling through a website.
Don't forget your day-to-day activities. See if you can juggle tasks like accounting, production and customer service on your own, or if you need extra hands. The bigger your business, the more help you'll need.
What Else Do I Need to Know?
Do your homework on the specific pet business you want to start. Keep yourself informed of the latest developments in your industry. Take a look at your competitors, and note what works and doesn't work for them. And, most important of all, have fun. No matter how crazy your business gets, don't forget why you started it: To share your love of pets with others.