Starting your own business takes a lot of time and effort, and one of your first assignments will be to write a business plan. This is true for any business, from the most simple and small entrepreneurial ventures with dogs to the most elaborate, complex pet empires you dream of building. In this column we look specifically at how to write a dog daycare business plan and all the information that should be included in it.
If this is your first visit, take a quick look at our last week's column on how to start a dog daycare business, where we talked more extensively about actually planning and launching this venture. Today's article will be focused specifically on how to write a dog daycare business plan and I'll try to be more specific.
There are many families that are not around during the day to take care of their dog's needs including feeding, playing, walking and relieving themselves. This is a void that can definitely be filled by an ambitious person who loves dogs and is interested in starting a doggy daycare.
Don't get too excited about your dog business plans just yet. There is a lot more that goes into a pet business than simple love of dogs and a desire in becoming an entrepreneur (petpreneur?) As a business owner you will wear many hats. Some of the duties that you'll be responsible for include:
- Communicating with customers
- Administrative work
- Financial documentation and taxes
- Advertising and marketing
- Website maintenance
…and many more. Especially in the beginning, business owners tend to do mostly everything by themselves to save on expenses. You may be working long hours, nights, and weekends. You'll have a lot on your plate as a business owner, but eventually you'll get a handle on everything and it will start to get easier.
If you’re just beginning to think about launching a dog daycare business and you’d like more information, you can also check out our older general post on How to Start a Pet Business with Dogs. You’ll find lots of generic information about what to expect when starting your own venture and what you can do to ensure it is a success.
Like all businesses, if you want to undertake something like this then you should start with a well thought out business plan. A proper plan establishes the initial and long term goals of the operation and helps you focus on the core aspects of the canine daycare during the planning phase. The more you put into planning, the less surprises you'll have along the way. So let's talk about how to write a dog daycare business plan, and how to do this properly.
How to Write a Dog Daycare Business Plan
Your business plan is a crucial piece of securing the financing that you'll need to start your own dog daycare. It is the first thing that investors and banks look at. They want to see your plan on how you're going to get their money back with profit. They want to be able to understand what you're business will be like, how you'll get it started, what you're going to accomplish and how you will make it successful.
Even if you're able to fund your own dog daycare business yourself and do not plan on looking for investors, you should still write a dog daycare business plan. Why? Because:
- It will help you set goals for yourself and your business
- It will help you to stay on the right track and remind you where you're going
- It will help to calculate all the costs that you'll endure throughout this journey
- It will paint a better picture of when and how you're going to start making profit
A business plan is certainly never set in stone and you can alter it as you go if necessary (most likely, you will) but it will outline the things that you want achieve and how you plan to do that.
Assess the need for a NEW dog daycare business
Before any new doggy daycare can be started, you must first make sure there is a need for that business in the area you want to establish it in. You need to have enough prospective customers to help feed the business. This can be done very easily.
Are there plenty of dogs in your area? Is there already an established dog daycare? Think about the owners. Do you live in a suburban area where there are many stay-at-home parents who are home for large parts of the day, or do you live in a place where most folks leave for work in the morning and don't return until dinner time?
Dog daycare may be a service that people are willing to travel a small way for, but it probably wouldn't be worth it for someone to drive more than 15 or 20 minutes to get to your business. Focus on your local area. Be sure that there are plenty of dogs in your town, or neighboring towns that would require your services.
You could chat with friends and family in the area, but you may also want to survey dog owners at your local park, pet store, or grooming facility. Chatting with dog owners is the best way to find out if your services are needed and if pet parents would pay you for it.
Start with using your own logic first and the most simple opportunities for quick research. Write down all your thoughts and the results from whatever research you do by yourself. This will get you started before you devote more time to hard data, statistics and proper market research, which is going to be a crucial part of knowing how to write a dog daycare business plan properly.
State your initial and long term dog daycare business boals
The first and most important part of any business plan is stating the initial and long term goals of the business; it’s no different when establishing a doggy daycare. As I stated before, a carefully done plan will let you focus on the specifics of the undertaking startup and also help you plan for the future.
Here is an example as it relates to a doggy daycare business: I will start a doggy daycare that is initially done out of my home which has the capability to take care of 4 – 6 dogs comfortably during the day. Eventually when the business grows, it will be relocated to some rental space at my brother’s property to expand it to accommodate up to 20 – 25 dogs. Once you grow out of that space, you'll be able to afford something bigger and fancier. All of this should already be pre-planned; never go into this business war unprepared and thinking that “whatever happens, happens.”
Somewhere around this section you also need to include whether or not you will have a business partner(s) and what type of entity your business will be. Will it be a sole proprietorship, a single member LLC, or an S-Corp?
RELATED: How to Start a Dog Grooming Business
Most of the time, small businesses start out as a sole proprietorship for the first year or two. Then once you have all the paperwork, bills, and tax requirements under control you can start looking into filing for an LLC to separate your personal assets from your business.
If you have decided to start your pet business with a partner, you need to decide now if you will run it as a limited liability company (LLC), a corporation, or a partnership. You need to discuss all of this with your business partner and be sure to make all major business decisions together. This information has to be included within your doggy daycare business plan so your investors or the bank (and even yourself) will know how you and your partner plan to work together.
Make this section short and to the point. It's just a general overview of where you see your business in the first year and where you see it going in the future. Anyone reading your pet business plan is simply looking for the basics in this first section. The details will come later.
Who is your target clientele?
No dog related business will survive without customers and it is wise to market your business to your target clientele.
Your customers will likely be dog owners who are not home during the day to tend to their pet's needs. But what about seniors who have a hard time keeping up with energetic dogs? They may be interested in putting their pet in daycare a few days a week for some socialization and play time.
Think outside the box. There are many people that would like to use a dog daycare service, and you want to make sure your business appeals to all of them. This part of the plan should look something like this for the small doggie care mentioned above: The canine daycare will initially start to focus on potential customers that are in housing developments and apartment complexes which are within ½ mile of my home.
Scope of your dog daycare business
Planning for the scope of your business is one of the most essential things to keep in mind when learning how to write a dog daycare business plan. The first step is to decide where your place will be located. Will you run it out of your home or rent a commercial space?
Once you figure out how much space you'll need and/or have, you can decide how many dogs you're willing to take at one time. Maybe you only have the space for 4-6 dogs, or maybe you're renting a large commercial space with the ability to take 20 or more dogs each day. Just remember that the more dogs you watch, the more employees you'll need to care for them.
RELATED: How to Prepare Your Dog for Summer
This is also the place where you'll list the services that you're going to offer. Many dog daycare businesses offer bordering services, training programs, or grooming services to their customers as well. Is this something you're interested in? Will you provide these services yourself or partner with a professional trainer or dog groomer?
It's important to offer multiple services to broaden your customer base, but you don't want to offer too many. Make sure that you excel at the services that you provide, and if that means that you can only offer daycare and boarding in the beginning, that's fine. If you offer too many pet services, you may spread yourself too thin.
Keep in mind that the larger the scope of your dog business is, the more money it will cost to run it. Employee salaries and additional supplies add up quickly, and most commercial building's rent rates are based on the size of the space. Make sure to weight the additional costs against the extra money that a larger business will bring in.
How to finance your doggy daycare business
By the time you get to this part of the plan you will have a good idea what type of finances it will take to get your doggy daycare started. A general rule to follow here is to make sure you have enough financing in place to run the business without any revenue for 6 months. It may not take you that long to turn a profit, but in this case it is better to be safe than sorry. In terms of your own salary, this number varies greatly. A lot of future big business owners count for 3 years of no salary for themselves during the planning phase.
A majority of small businesses fail because they are underfunded during the startup phase. Surely you don't want to fall under this statistic.
None of your financial figures need to be set in stone, but you will need to have a good idea about what all your expenses will be. Remember, the more you plan for, the less surprises you'll have. You'll need to plan for large expenses like rent, utilities, equipment that you'll need to care for the dogs, and fencing. Once you have the final number, add an additional 20% on top of it for unexpected expenses.
Don't forget the expenses that aren't quite so obvious, like:
- Office equipment
- Furniture for you and your customers
- Any renovation costs you may incur
- Advertising and marketing expenses (including website design)
When figuring out how to write a dog daycare business plan, it is best to over-estimate your plan for potential expenses. You don’t want to underestimate and then have your business fail quickly because it was underfunded, or start desperately looking for extra funding. Do your research and be as accurate as possible, but make sure to leave yourself a little bit of wiggle room in terms of money. There are bound to be expenses that you didn’t plan for when starting your dog daycare business.
Advertising and marketing your doggy daycare business
Once you've selected the services that you'll offer and you have an estimate on the dog supplies, office supplies, utilities and other things that you'll be paying for, it's time to set your prices and begin advertising and marketing your new venture. You need to take this part very seriously, because better marketing and more ads mean more customers.
First things first, set the right pricing. You'll need to stay competitive with other dog daycare centers in your area. Call around to some other facilities and find out their rates. Your rates should be slightly less than theirs because you have no experience. Once you begin to build a reputation you can increase your prices.
Now onto advertising. It isn't just about television commercials, radio announcements and billboards. All those things are fine, if you can afford them. However, since most small businesses are working with a small budget, there are lots of ways to advertise that are cheaper than all of that.
Today's new advertising is marketing. Internet is the perfect platform for that: you can reach a huge customer base with very little investment (but a lot of time and hard work).
Getting creative can save you a lot of money when it comes to advertising and marketing. Once you've tried everything you could online – social media, your own website, reaching out to other sites, email marketing and so on – you can move onto the old-school methods which still work very effectively. My advice for the cheapest approach would be to print some fun doggy daycare related flyers and eye catching business cards and place them around your local area strategically. You can hang flyers in senior centers, coffee shops, grooming facilities, veterinarian offices and other places that dog owners who may need dog daycare will frequent.
You could also hand out flyers or business cards at your local dog park. If you are willing to put in some extra time you won't need to spend as much money. Thinking about your target market and the places that they will be mostly likely to see your advertisements will get you a lot farther than a generic television ad that will be viewed by hundreds of people that don't even own a dog.
Still, never forget the importance of a well made website and social media when advertising. In today's world most people look for services, whether for themselves or for their dogs, online. Establishing a website and advertising it through social media is a very inexpensive way to reach a large audience. Yet I still see so many dog businesses avoiding the online world, either with no websites and social media presence, or being very passive with their voice and having terrible and/or broken websites.
Internet is a holygrail of cheap marketing opportunities, so use it!
Legal responsibilities and management
Small doggy daycare business owners usually will run all the aspects of the business themselves. Larger pet daycares will most likely have employees and some type of management structure. Once you get to this part of the business plan you must state how many managers, employees, office personnel will be part of the day to day operations of the business. If you start with just yourself, that's fine too, but try to think a few steads ahead. Scaling should always be on your mind.
To go along with this you'll also need to include how you will care for all the legal responsibilities that a dog daycare owner has. This is the most important section of your business plan. Improper planning could result in major legal consequences for you, your employees and your clients.
Your legal responsibilities will vary depending on the region where you live in. Different states and cities have their own regulations that you'll need to follow.
Be sure that your doggy daycare business plan addresses the following points:
- Your licensing and certification responsibilities
- Liability waivers for your clients
- Pet business insurance
- Any specific laws in your region
- Client contracts
- Employee contracts
I cannot stress enough how important it is to properly plan for your dog business. Learning how to write a dog daycare business plan is only the first step. Now you need to do your research and create the most inclusive plan possible. Again, the better you plan now, the less surprises you'll have when actually launching your fresh pet venture.
References and further reading:
- Permitting for pet and animal-related businesses
- Guide to researching the doggie day care market
- Plan Example #1 (PDF)
- Plan Example #2 (PDF)
- Plan Example #3 (PDF)
- Woof Over Head Doggie Daycare and boarding
- What Is the Cost to Start a Dog Daycare Business?
- High-end doggy day care: No downsizing for Fido
- Become a Dog Daycare Owner