It’s no secret that more 50-somethings are starting new businesses than ever before, but what differentiates a successful business idea from a flop? According to business and life coach Lauren Cope, “Research shows that if you do something you love, you will make money because people will be drawn to you.” So the question is, what do you love?
If you’re like the millions of Americans who are dog lovers, consider the following facts when contemplating ideas for a small business:
- There are over 77 million registered dogs in the United States.
- Pet owners are dishing out billions of dollars on products and services for their furry friends.
You’re already skilled at caring for your own dogs; maybe you have what it takes to jump into this growing industry.
The beauty of many pet-related businesses is that you can keep start-up costs low by operating from your own home or by going on the road and taking your service directly into pet-owning households. If all you need is a little activity and some extra income on the side, feel free to keep your business small, but if you are an entrepreneur at heart, there are good opportunities to grow your business into a successful profit-making operation.
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These three pet-business success stories will inspire you on your journey.
1. The Pooper-Scooper
The simple fact that scooping up dog poop makes people say “ewww” is what makes it such a perfect business opportunity. If even a small portion of the nation’s 45 million dog-owning households will hire someone else to perform this nasty job, there is still money to be made.
Matthew Osborn did the math for himself after learning that there were 100,000 dogs within 15 miles of his home. He started a dog waste removal service, charging his clients to scoop their poopy properties on a weekly basis. In a few years, Osborn’s small business had outgrown his home office, expanded to seven employees, required the purchase of six pick-up trucks, and served 700 customers before Osborn eventually sold it.
His start-up costs? “I spent a total of about $150 for tools, flyers, cards, and a couple of very small classified ads,” Osborne remembers, money that he made back with the profits in his first month of business.
2. The Dog Trainer
Valerie Broadway had been enjoying a 20-year run in the biotech industry while volunteering her spare time to care for dogs—providing foster care, helping with training, and establishing an animal rescue organization. When she was laid off during the economic downturn, she asked herself, “If I were truly doing what would make me happy, what would I do?” The answer was, “Duh—you’re already doing it: training dogs.”
Broadway went to her local college’s small business center and got the help she needed to learn how to own and operate a business, from choosing the best type of business for her goals (a sole proprietorship), to targeting her clientele, to keeping books and paying taxes. The business center also pointed Broadway to community college classes she could take to help her be a successful entrepreneur.
Broadway soon opened her own dog training service from her home and looks forward to a time when she will, “grow [her company] three-fold,” she says. “That’s my goal.”
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3. The Pet Groomer
When a business goes under, the employees are its first casualties. Dog groomers Brooke Childs and Jaime Bunting felt the sting when the large pet spa they worked for closed its doors. The pair joined forces and opened their own grooming service that they felt improved upon the service offered by their former employer.
“We saw this as an opportunity to create a place for ourselves that we enjoy going to every day,” the pair says. “We love what we do for a living and in this industry it can be difficult working for someone else, especially if they are not groomers themselves. We have control over our schedules and are able to talk to customers when they call and answer questions they may have,” they explained.
Childs and Bunting differentiated their grooming business from others by scheduling less clients in a day and giving each one more personalized time and attention, thus building up customer trust and loyalty. They learned from their previous grooming experience that people were fed up with quantity over quality. “More and more families,” they realize, “…are looking for a groomer they can trust.”
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What You Need to Get Started
Plenty more success stories are out there. People are using their passion for pets to inspire their entrepreneurial enterprises, from dog walkers and sitters to pet masseuses and portrait photographers. For any service people enjoy and benefit from, someone is applying it to pets as well, including opening pet bakeries and restaurants!
What all these businesses have in common, besides their four-legged clientele, is the need for the right business know-how to be successful. Small business owners need to have the tools to become successful entrpreneurs. Making a little money with a hobby may not require a business plan, but do you know how to write one if you decide you want to invest in growing your business to the point of supporting you? What is your market, how do you reach clients, and what certifications and licenses do you need to operate your business? Have you thought about liability insurance and taxes? Where can you get funding?
These are all excellent questions to ask yourself before investing your time and money in a new business. Here are some of the places you can get help with the answers.
- Start at your local city or town hall to find out what regulations you must follow to operate a business from your home.
- Visit the government’s Small Business Association website for a host of resources to help you get started, including information on loans and grants as well as links to assistance you can find where you live.
- Check out your local colleges’ business course opportunities and ask about discount programs for alumni or seniors if you qualify.
- Visit LearningAdvisor.com for access to dozens of free and low-cost online courses covering every aspect of starting and operating new businesses, entrepreneurship courses, marketing lessons, and business software training.
Combine your interests with some careful planning and a little extra education, and you will have all the ingredients you need to turn your passion for pets, or anything else, into a viable business opportunity!