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In the $28 billion-per-year pet industry, people are willing to spend seemingly limitless amounts on their animals. With approximately 65 million American households owning two or more pets, the demand for pet stuff should continue indefinitely. "And people will make sacrifices, even in a difficult economy, to care for their pets," says C.C. Risenhoover, publisher of Pet Life magazine.
Two entrepreneurs barking up the right tree are Steven and Kristi Kirsch, the husband-and-wife owners of PetVogue.com. They started the homebased, upscale pet products business in Newport Beach, California, in July of this year, selling such basics as pet heat pads and a Fetchboy Tennis Ball Launcher.
In 1997, Steven, 42, and Kristi, 32, launched a site called CoolPets.com, which also sold unusual pet items; in December 1999, the site merged with Pets.com. Started with $12,000, Pet-Vogue will feature 3-D shopping modules, streaming video and more "over-the-top" pet accessories than the previous business had. Sales are expected to reach $200,000 the first full year.
Canines who oppose going to the dogsitter's haven't been to Wags & Wiggles Dog Day Care, started in July 1999 by Laurie and David Zurborg, 28 and 40 respectively, with about $30,000. "Clients" of this Rancho Santa Margarita, California, center romp on the jungle gym, play with toys, listen to music, lounge on sofas or participate in etiquette lessons. When it's time for a potty break, they toddle over to an indoor grassy area built specifically for that purpose to, well, go with the flow.
The center charges $25 per day and screens its applicants-they can't bite, have to play well with others and must walk on all fours.
The Zurborgs operate one of only 200 doggie day-care centers in the nation, according to ONElist.com. And their annual sales exceed $150,000-which is hardly kibble.
Barbara Allen, 41, of Farmington, Connecticut, used her grandfather's secret recipe to launch a multimillion-dollar business. For reasons not entirely understood, the natural tonic minimizes shedding in cats and dogs. Using $50,000 in start-up funds, Allen left her job as an attorney to market Mrs. Allen's Shed-Stop nationally to pet groomers, veterinarians and pet stores in 1997.
Earlier this year, Allen signed a licensing agreement with Farnam Co., the third largest pet supply company in the United States, which began selling Shed-Stop products internationally in September 2000. The deal is expected to raise annual sales for Allen's company, Stabar Enterprises Inc., from $5 million to $40 million.
Pamela Rohland writes about the joys and tribulations of entrepreneurship for a variety of regional and national business publications.
- Stabar's Enterprises Inc., (412) 486-6600
- Wags & Wiggles Dog Day Care, (949) 635-9655, firstname.lastname@example.org