These days there are a lot of homes where both parents need to generate income to make ends meet, so off their children go to daycare each day. If you are the type of person that likes being around dogs, these very same families may want to have their precious four legged family members looked after while they are at work too. Liking dogs isn't the only thing you'll need though. We'll discuss how to start a dog daycare business and everything you'll need to know before jumping into the pet industry business.
There is a real possibility that the need for a dog daycare facility exists near you, and you can start a profitable enterprise by venturing into this dog business area. However, if you've been following the previous columns in our Business section, you already understand that starting a pet related business isn't as easy as it seems.
We've covered dog training businesses, dog grooming businesses, and many other pet business ideas in between that aspiring petpreneurs can and should look into.
As I mentioned, starting a business, especially a pets related one, isn't as easy as it looks. It takes a lot more than a love of dogs and a few hundred dollars in the bank. You're going to need to come up with a business plan that will attract investors and customers. A lot of time and money go into planning and starting a dog business venture, which you may not have realized.
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Running a dog daycare sounds like fun, but as you get further into the planning phase you'll probably realize that it isn't what you initially expected. You'll be dealing with your furry customers and their owners (who aren't always as much fun as their dogs), and not to mention the fact that you'll be responsible for everything it takes to make your business run successfully: from day to day operations to bookkeeping and advertising.
But don't be discouraged! If you prepare well and read enough on how to start a dog daycare business effectively, there's no reason why your venture cannot be successful.
How to Start a Dog Daycare Business
Before starting any kind of business, it is important to do your research and get a feel for the industry before you just jump in. Doing your homework is what will make or break your business. You need to have a full understanding of what you're getting into. You need to know what other businesses in the dog daycare field provide and what dog owners will be expecting.
RELATED: How to Start a Pet Business with Dogs
Along the same lines, you will need to do some research on your specific area. You need to assess whether there is truly a need for a dog daycare service in your area. In order for a dog daycare business to be successful you must live in a town with lots of dog owners. The owners need to require your services, meaning they are probably working away from home for long periods of time everyday.
Most importantly, can these dog owners afford your services? There are millions of people who feel guilty about leaving their pets home alone everyday. They would love to send them to daycare, but they don't have the means financially to do that. Once you've established that there is a need for a dog daycare business in your area, you can move on to begin planning how you're going to get your business started.
Determine the Size of Your Dog Daycare
You've probably got an idea in your head about what you want your dog daycare business to be like. Now it's time to start bringing that idea to life. What is the scope of your business? Do you want to have a large facility with lots of dogs and multiple daycare providers, or are you planning to start small?
No matter what kind of business that you're starting it is almost always better to start small and build your business up. Taking on too much in the beginning is what causes a lot of businesses to fail. That's not to say that you can't do it, it's just going to take a lot more money, planning, and time.
Determining the scope of your business will influence the rest of your decisions when figuring out how to start a dog daycare business. If you are going to run your dog daycare out of your house, you won't need to plan for a commercial space or renovations, however you do need to be sure that you have adequate space to have multiple dogs running around indoors and out.
Once you figure out the size of your business you need to think about what services you'll offer. Many dog daycare facilities offer overnight and long-term boarding. Is that something you're interested in offering your customers? Maybe you want to pair with a local groomer to add grooming or dog spa services? Other things you may want to consider offering your clients include:
- one-on-one playtime
- medication administration
- pet pick-up and drop-off services
- obedience training
It's great to offer your clients multiple services, but remember that you will need the training required to perform certain tasks. For example, if you want to train dogs while they are in your care you must be a certified trainer and have all the appropriate licenses required to offer training services. The same can be said for grooming services, if you're planning on performing them yourself.
Financing for Your Dog Daycare Business
Now that you've decided how big you want your business to be you can start to figure out your financing. Are you going to be able to finance your business venture on your own, or will you need investors or a bank loan? That needs to be a top priority, because without financing you won't be able to take your business dreams any farther.
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There is a big financial difference between converting a garage and a back yard to accommodate watching a few dogs and undertaking a sizeable doggie daycare operation with a commercial space and 5 employees. Obviously the latter will be much more expensive to start and require a larger facility and much more equipment.
You can have all the ambition in the world to start a big canine daycare, but that means nothing if you don’t have the financing to pull it off. Nothing will sink a growing business faster than a lack of working capital. If you're going to be renting or purchasing a space you should already have a building in mind and know how much it is going to cost you.
You should also be thinking about the costs of:
- employee salaries (if necessary)
If you require financing from an outside source you'll need to create a business plan. We've written columns about creating business plans for other dog related businesses including:
and we'll be adding more in the near future. Be sure to check back with Top Dog Tips for updated pet business information.
Check out the Competition and Set Your Prices
Since you've figured out the scope of your business, the services that you'll be offering, and the financing that you're going to need, you can begin to set your prices. Keep in mind that you'll need to make enough to pay your bills plus turn a small profit. It is wise to keep your prices low when you first begin your business.
If you start low, you can increase your prices when your reputation begins to grow. It's a very fine line when initially setting your prices. You need to pay your bills and be able to afford your day-to-day expenses, but you also don't want to drive away potential clients with high prices.
It's also important to make sure that your prices are competitive with other dog daycare business in your area. It's easy to do this. Simply make some anonymous phone calls or stop into your competition's establishment and get a list of their services and prices. Your prices should be set slightly lower than the average prices in your area. You have no experience and no reputation, so you shouldn't be charging the same prices as a well established dog daycare business.
Take Care of All Legalities for Your Dog Daycare
When discussing how to start a dog daycare business it is imperative to mention the legal aspects of business ownership. First of all, you're going to need to make sure you have the proper licenses, permits, and certifications that are required of a dog daycare business in your state and city. The licensing requirements are different in every state and many cities have their own requirements as well.
The easiest way to find out what licenses you will need is to contact your local and state governments.
However, this information can also be found very quickly online. Federal information can be obtained through the U.S. Small Business Administration. You can also find individual links to each state’s licensing and permitting guidelines on their website as well. Each respective government office will have all the information that you require about what types of permits and licenses you will need, as well as any special zoning or business rules you may need to follow.
Once that's out of the way you need to be sure that you, your employees, and your business are covered in case of any legal issues with clients. You'll also need to be sure you have the proper business insurance. Insurance will cover you in most instances if there is an accident of any kind, but you also need to be sure that all your customers sign a detailed contract.
Contracts not only protect you and your business, but also your clients. The contract should include:
- your responsibilities
- the terms of your compensation
- the nature of your relationship with your client
- an authorization for you to obtain emergency medical care for your client’s dog
- the owner’s responsibility for damage done by their dog
- specific details about any medications or special services that the dog requires
- any other pertinent information to the individual dog(s) you are caring for and their owners requirements
Working up a contract with a small business lawyer is a great idea. They'll help you make sure that everything needed is included. However, that can also get very expensive, and that's why many business owners use templates such as the ones found on websites like Legal Zoom,Rocket Lawyer, and Free Legal Documents.
Adveritising of Your Dog Daycare Business
Now that you've got a plan, you've found a space, you've set prices, and you're legally ready to begin running your company, you need to drum up some business. You have to get the word out about your business, and that can cost a lot of money, but if you get creative it can also be done for the cost of a lot of photocopies and a few hours of your time. Remember that the bigger your business venture, the more customers you're going to have to bring in, meaning you'll need to spend more on advertising.
If you're opening a larger facility and you're hoping to bring in 30-40 customers in a short period of time, you may want to try advertising on local television and radio shows. That will be expensive, but you'll reach a larger audience and it will get your name out to the public faster. Attending networking events with other business people in the pet industry may also be a good idea.
A smaller business can be advertised on a smaller scale. Passing out flyers and business cards at local pet shops, grooming facilities, and dog parks may be all it takes to get you your first few clients. Much of your business could quite possibly be built with word of mouth and a few strategically placed flyers.
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Let's not forget the power of social media and the internet as well. Building a great website and starting pages for your business on social media may attract a lot of customers as well.
Now that you understand the basics of how to start a dog daycare business, the rest is up to you.
Hopefully this column has shown you that there is a lot more to opening a dog daycare business than most people think. Proper planning will get you a long way in any business, and the more prepared you are the better off you will be. I cannot stress enough how important it is to do your research and have a good understanding of the dog daycare business before you begin planning.
Even if you're just planning on a small business venture that you'll run out of your home, there are still licensing regulations and legalities to take care of, supplies to finance and purchase, and advertising that needs to be done. Take it slow and make sure that all your bases are covered before moving on to the next step.