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9 Pet Businesses to Start Today

Got a love for pooches? A hankering for kitties? Then these pet businesses will be right up your alley.

The array of product and service businesses for pet owners is only limited by your imagination. Many people treat their pets like their children and, following that logic, most products that people want for themselves, they'll want for their pets. Just look at recent trends in the industry--organic foods, homeopathic products, luxury accessories--and you'll easily find they mirror counterparts for human folk.

But there are still traditional services and products for pets and their owners that will never go out of style. Here, we present 10 evergreen pet businesses, excerpted from James Stephenson's books 202 Things You Can Make and Sell for Big Profits , 202 Services You Can Sell for Big Profits , and Entrepreneur's Ultimate Start-Up Directory . With ideas like these, you'll be catering to your furry, finned and feathered friends in no time.

Pooper-Scooper Service
Believe it or not, you can make a very comfortable living by starting and operating a dog pooper-scooper service in your community. This is an easy business to start; it requires little investment, no special skills, and minimal equipment to operate. Basically, if you can handle a shovel and plastic bags, and can put up with less than aromatic smells, you're qualified to run a pooper-scooper service. If not, you can still cash in on this booming growth business by marketing and managing the service while hiring others to do the dirty work. Spread the word about your pooper-scooper service by advertising in local newspapers, pinning fliers to bulletin boards, and through dog-related businesses and clubs in the community. Most services charge a flat monthly rate of between $30 and $60 to stop by customers' homes or businesses weekly to clean up their yards, which takes no more than 10 minutes per visit. You'll need reliable transportation, a cell phone, garbage buckets, plastic bags, shovels, gloves and a good pair of rubber boots.

Pet Photography
As an animal lover, I can't imagine a business that would be more fun and rewarding than operating a pet photography service. Unfortunately, I'm not a very good photographer, but if you are and you love pets, then what are you waiting for? Start a pet photography service! Owners of dogs, cats, reptiles, horses, champion livestock, birds, and even fish can all be potential customers. Full time or part time, operate the service on a mobile basis, from a homebased studio, or from pet shops, or combine all to cover all the bases. Making the experience fun for pets and their owners will go a long way toward securing repeat business and a ton of referrals, so liven things up with pet costumes, themed backdrops, and by offering pet videotaping services, complete with music, titles and special effects. Likewise, to boost profit potential also offer a wide assortment of products that customers can have their pets' photographic images transferred onto--key tags, greeting cards, calendars, mugs, hats, T-shirts, sports bags and bumper stickers.

Dog Clothing and Accessories
Americans spend more than $30 billion annually on their pets, and big bucks can be earned by designing, making and selling designer duds for dogs. Sweaters and rain jackets are sure bets to become top sellers, but dog lovers around the globe are also buying designer doggie hats, goggles, shirts, booties, scarves and even Halloween costumes for their beloved furry friends. The criteria for getting started are minimal--design skills, sewing skills and equipment, patterns, and a bit of gumption to get out and pitch your fabulous designer fashions for mutts and pedigrees alike to pet shop retailers, especially if your ambitions are to establish wholesale accounts with chain and independent pet shop retailers. If not, there are still many ways to sell direct to dog owners. These include exhibiting and selling at pet fairs, online sales via dog-related websites, mail order sales supported by newspaper, catalog, online and magazine advertising, and establishing a doggie clothing boutique at home or in a retail storefront location. As dog owners know, word travels fast amongst dog owners, and when a great product for a pet is found, he or she is quick to spread the word to other dog owners.

Pet Sitting
Lots of people have pets that can't be boarded or left with friends and family when the need arises--pets with chronic health conditions or exotic pets that are difficult to take care of. Likewise, many people prefer to have their dogs, cats and other pets in the safety and familiar surroundings of home, rather than an unfamiliar boarding environment. When these pet owners want or need to be away from their home, there is only one solution available: hire a pet-sitting service to come to their homes and take care of their beloved pets while they're away.

If you want to work on a small scale, you can be the pet sitter. But if your intention is to operate full time with an eye on growth, you'll need to hire or contract additional pet sitters. Good candidates for the job include pet-loving retirees and students. Market your pet-sitting services through pet-related businesses in your community such as veterinarians, pet supply retailers, dog trainers, dog walkers and pet-grooming services. Remember, many people also hire pet sitters for short periods of times--a weekend away, a night out, or time off for family events. Therefore, you'll need to develop fee schedules for long- and short-term jobs.

Dog Day Care
Day-care facilities for dogs are becoming increasingly popular, especially as more and more caring dog owners are realizing the benefits of leaving their beloved dogs at day care with other dogs instead of at home alone while they are at work. Dogs, like people, are social creatures and need contact with people and other dogs to become well-behaved and confident. However, a dog day care should not be confused with a kennel, which boards animals for short- and long-term time spans. A doggie day care is strictly a drop off in the morning and pick up in the evening or anytime during the day type of operation. If space allows and your neighbors don't mind the barking, you can open at home. A better alternative is to rent commercial warehouse space and covert it into a dog day care spa, complete with water features, fenced outdoor space, and indoor couches to ensure your clients have all the creature comforts they're used to at home. One innovative day care center in my community recently installed web cams throughout their facility so people at work could log onto their website and see live footage of their dogs playing with other dogs. Current rates are in the range of $15 to $25 per day, with discounts for weekly service.

Dog Obedience Training
Dog obedience training is a multimillion-dollar industry, and continues to grow by double digits as more and more dog owners realize the benefits of professional obedience training. Training classes can be held at your home in a one-on-one or group format, or if your home isn't suitable you can travel to your customers' homes and train one-on-one. Likewise, you can also strike deals with schools and community center to hold dog obedience classes on weekends and nights. Many trainers are currently not certified by a recognized association, although that trend is changing. If you're serious about making dog obedience training your career, I strongly suggest you receive professional training to become an instructor and obtain the required certifications. Not only can certification be used as a powerful marketing tool when persuading people that you're the right trainer for their dog, but having the proper credentials will also mean that you can charge a premium for your services. Current rates for in-home training are in the range of $30 to $50 per hour and many trainers create dog-training packages for their customers, which include a set amount of training classes and course materials in print and video formats.

Dog Walking Service
A dog walking service is perfectly suited fro the person who has the time, patience and a love for dogs. Best of all, this business can be started for less than $100. There are various styles of multi-lead dog walking collars and leashes available that will allow three or more dogs to be walked at the same time without becoming tangled in the leash. Acquiring this equipment will be important to your new business, as it will reduce frustration and enable you to walk multiple dogs at the same time, thus increasing revenues and profits. To secure clients for the service, simply design a promotional flier that explains your dog walking service and qualifications. Distribute the fliers to businesses that are frequented by dog owners, such as groomers, kennels, pet stores, community animal shelters, and veterinarians. Once word is out about your dog walking service, it shouldn't take long to establish a base of 20 or 30 regular clients.

Tropical Fish and Aquarium Rentals
Gigantic profits can be earned by starting a tropical fish and aquarium rental business, and best of all, this very unique enterprise can be set in motion for less than $5,000 and managed right from your home office. At this point, I'm sure you're wondering exactly who would rent tropical fish and an aquarium? The list is very long, and if you think about waiting rooms, the list of potential clients can include doctors, lawyers, restaurants and business offices. Once a regular client base has been established for this business, the annual profits could well exceed $50,000 or more.

Pet Toys
Designing, manufacturing and wholesaling pet toys could put you on the path to financial freedom, and this opportunity can be started part time from home on a minimal initial investment. There are literally thousands of different pet toys on the market and this is definitely a situation where it's not important that you build it first, only better. The toys can be sold on a wholesale basis to pet retailers, or even directly to consumers via the internet and mail order. The key to success in this type of business is to have a high-quality toy and the ability to get the pet toy in front of as many potential customers as possible. Remember, pets are like children to most people and generally people will spare no expense when it comes to the happiness of their pets.

Gourmet Pet Treats
The fastest growing segment of the pet foods industry is gourmet dog treats. There's a lot of money to be made in this business because the profit margin is very high and people are willing to pay for the best dog treats money can buy. As people become more health conscious of their own diets, they begin to scrutinize their pet's diets as well, and many are turning to naturally made food and biscuits for their dogs, even though all-natural handmade biscuits cost as much as ten times more than commercially produced biscuits.

Making dog biscuits at home is easy; all you need to get started are dog biscuit recipes, healthy ingredients, biscuit molds (those shaped like bones and cats are favorites), a catchy name, and packaging materials. Baking and selling specialty dog treats is a fantastic opportunity for pet-loving entrepreneurs who want to work from home and have lot of fun. Selling options are plentiful. Sell to independent and chain pet retailers on a wholesale basis or to consumers via online pet products marketplaces, at pet fairs, and from your home supported by word-of-mouth advertising. The advertising is very easy to get, providing dogs love your treats.

James Stephenson invests his fifteen years of small business, marketing and sales experience into his books. He has started and operated numerous successful homebased businesses, and is author of the highly acclaimed booksUltimate Start-Up DirectoryandUltimate Small Business Marketing Guideas well as the202 Series. James operates Stephenson & Stephenson, a consulting firm providing small business owners with creative, results-based marketing solutions.

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