Pet Projects

Pet-Sitting

Debbie Laughlin's Housecalls Pet and Home Services in San Ramon, California, specializes in providing the kind of in-home medical care pet owners usually handle themselves but don't want to ask a friend to do while the they're away. That can include giving insulin injections or providing after-care following surgery.

Almost all Laughlin's clients are referred by veterinarians. "Anyone who loves pets can be an expert at caring for them, as long as they have initiative and self-motivation," Laughlin says. Proof positive: Laughlin, who offers Housecalls as a business opportunity, has 11 licensees running their own businesses under the Housecalls name.

Laughlin charges clients about $15 per visit. How to learn the basics? She advises volunteering at an animal hospital and taking first-aid classes for pets. "Meet with the clients and watch how they handle the pets," she suggests. "Do the [procedure] exactly the way the owner does it." If you're not comfortable offering medical services, don't worry; there are plenty of pets who simply need to be fed, looked after and played with while their owners are away.

"People have to understand they'll be giving up their holidays and weekends [to run this business]," Laughlin warns, because pet-sitters work while the rest of the world plays. That also makes it a good business to start part time, but be sure you have a steady source of income while building a clientele. A reliable car will be your biggest expense. It's also a good idea to have backup, so plan on either working with a partner or hiring someone.

Profile
Debbie Laughlin, 44
Housecalls Pet and Home Services
Year Started: 1981
Start-Up Costs: $2,500
1997 Sales: $230,000

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This article was originally published in the May 1998 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Pet Projects.

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