So, what opportunities are out there? How do you go about transforming your dream of a pet business into reality? That’s what we’re here to find out.
Finding your place in the pet industry
Especially when it comes to providing specialist services, the pet industry happens to be a very small and business-friendly environment. After all, you wouldn’t put your pet in the hands of someone you didn’t know and trust. What’s more, most animal owners prefer these services to be available on their doorstep. This is all good news: it means you can focus on growing your own clientele in your local area, without having to worry too much about being undercut by bigger businesses from elsewhere.
So, focusing on the service side, areas to consider might include pet grooming, dog training, and pet behaviour counselling. At the same time, don’t overlook the logistical services that many pet owners rely on to look after their animals, such as dog walking, kennel and cattery boarding, and horse transportation.
With these types of roles, there doesn’t tend to be the requirement to work 9 to 5, Monday to Friday. For newcomers, there’s often the potential to start small with a handful of clients, perhaps alongside other commitments. This means your business can grow organically and you can choose to devote more time to it gradually.
Especially for services such as dog walking, low overheads can work in your favour, too. For behavioural or grooming services, many clients are likely to actually prefer it if you come to them, for example. Once your business starts to expand you can start to think about opening your own premises — with the potential to perhaps offer other services as well.
Is it actually viable?
It’s important to get the full lowdown on what’s involved in running your business of choice before you jump in. Especially in areas such as kennelling services and specialist transportation, there may also be specific rules you’ll need to be aware of in relation to hygiene and welfare, for instance.
Whatever your niche within the pet sector, there is likely to be an industry association that can provide you with useful information on all of this. For dog training and similar roles, there’s The Kennel Club, along with the British Dog Groomers’ Association and Association of Professional Dog Walkers. For animal boarding, see the Licensed Kennel & Cattery Association. As well as giving advice and information on matters such as best practice and pricing, these associations very often have a searchable database for members of the public looking for service providers. So joining up could help you publicise your business, too.
Next, you need to find out if there’s a market out there for your service, and if so, how much those potential customers are going to be willing to pay. The starting point might be as simple as chatting to other animal owners, or maybe even your vet. If you’re passionate about pets, the chances are that others in your wider social circle feel the same way, so it’s worth making enquiries via social media, too. For taking your investigations to the next level, our guide to market research has further useful ideas.
Boosting your credentials as a pet expert
The pet sector is as much about people as animals and, especially when you are still building up your reputation, there are ways to prove to potential customers that you’re a safe pair of hands.
For instance, one of the beauties of a dog walking business is that, theoretically, you don’t need any special qualifications for it. However Kennel Club Accreditation for Instructors (KCAI) recognition could prove to be very useful as a way of demonstrating that you take dog handling seriously — and you have what it takes to stay in control. In other niches, specialist City & Guilds courses are worth exploring, while a DBS certificate (formerly known as the Criminal Records Bureau check) can help provide reassurance of your good character.
Whatever your niche, there’s almost certainly specialist insurance available for it. From a customer’s perspective, if you have insurance, it shows that you take your business seriously. For you, it’s extremely reassuring to know that if an animal is lost or injured due to a mistake on your part, you’re covered against what can often be a very expensive legal claim.
Handling the legal formalities
Setting up your pet business requires you to register as self-employed. You might even want to consider setting up your own company; something that’s quick, easy and inexpensive to do. What’s more, if you’ve thought up a catchy new name for your business, registering a company can be an effective way of stopping anyone else taking it.
What do petrol, grooming brushes and subscriptions to animal care magazines all have in common? The answer is that they might all be considered business expenses. For advice on staying on the right side of the taxman – while ensuring that you’re not overcharged for tax, our finance and accounting guides are there to keep you on track.
Growing your business
Promoting your business doesn’t have to involve expensive ad campaigns. Likewise, if buying a new van is out of the question for the moment, have you considered leasing as an option? From how to use your social network for marketing, through to drafting a business plan to maximise the chances of getting a business loan, our help centre has just the advice you need to help get your pet business off the ground.