Pet Smart: 4 Startup Ideas for Dog Lovers

kathryn by Kathryn Hawkins on October 24, 2011
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You love your own canine companion, so recently you started thinking about running a dog-related business. It’s a potentially lucrative niche: More than 46 million U.S. households include at least one dog, and people’s spending on their Fido, Fifi, or Fluffy has increased over the past several years. In fact, Americans spent more than $48 million on pet-related sales last year, the American Pet Products Association reports. That’s a big target market. Here are four small-business ideas to consider taking for a walk around the block.

  1. Dog product sales. You can make good money selling leashes, dog toys, specialty food, and other pup-centered products to pampered pets and their human parents through a traditional or e-commerce storefront: Pet Age‘s most recent retail survey [PDF] found that owners of independent pet supply stores averaged more than $2.5 million in revenues for 2009. If you’re opening a retail shop, pay close attention to your local market when deciding what to stock: Beverly Hills socialites might purchase jeweled doggie vests for their Chihuahuas, but you may want to keep your selection more low-key and practical when launching in Detroit or Cleveland.
  2. Dog-walking services. Pet owners who work full-time often want to make sure their dogs get a chance to go outside to exercise and, you know, take care of business. Dog walkers typically get a lot of repeat customers, which makes marketing a cinch. Rates aren’t amazing — $15 to $20 per half-hour walk is typical — but you can turn a profit by finding several customers in the same neighborhood and walking their dogs simultaneously (as long as the pooches can behave themselves).
  3. Doggy day care and boarding facility. Many dog owners realize the importance of socializing their pets — and are happy to spend a few bucks so Spot can play with friends while they’re at work. Offer overnight boarding and you’ll attract customers who can’t take their pups on business trips or vacations. In order to offer day care and boarding, you’ll need a large, fenced-in yard and neighbors who won’t complain about barking or other noise. You’ll also need to check with your local government about any zoning and ordinance restrictions. Getting started can take a lot of time and effort, but the payoff can be worth it: Heidi Ganahl’s Camp Bow Wow, launched with $83,000 in startup capital, now brings in more than $1 million in annual revenue.
  4. Dog grooming. You don’t need a license to work as a dog groomer. If you’ve perfected the craft on your own dog and are willing to pay for the necessary equipment (costs vary: You could pay anywhere from $79 to $1,000+ for a grooming table alone, depending on the specs), you can offer your services to others. Grooming rates average between $35 and $90 per pet, depending on your location and the dog’s size and breed. Depending on your local zoning laws, you may be able to offer grooming services in your own home; if not, ask a nearby boarding facility whether you can run a business on-site for a small rent payment. You could also equip a van with grooming gear and offer your services door-to-door.
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