The pet industry is booming, and busy pet owners need care for their pets when they travel. Starting a pet boarding business can allow you to build a profitable operation while helping pet owners ensure their pets are happy and safe when they aren’t home. If you love working with cats, dogs, and other pets and have experience in pet care and handling, then this business might be a great opportunity for you. But while caring for pets for a living might sound like an ideal business venture, it’s important to understand everything that goes into starting and running a pet boarding business.
Pet boarding businesses provide attentive care for pets while their owners aren’t able to care for them. Pet owners put their pets into boarding while they’re traveling, often for work or while on vacation. In most cases, boarding facilities mainly care for cats and dogs, but some facilities may offer care for other small animals, too. These services may be for doggie daycare while the owner is at work, or extended stays can last for weeks or months. Boarding on weekends and holidays is often in high demand.
A pet boarding business needs to be designed to be a pet’s home away from home. This includes having appropriate kennels for different types of pets and an outdoor space where dogs can exercise. Boarding business owners or staff care for pets multiple times a day and need to be skilled enough to handle pets with different temperaments and training.
Pet owners can get anxious when their pet’s care and safety are involved, and you’ll likely face many unusual requests that go beyond your typical standard of care. Make sure that you have policies in place for these extra requests so that if you do honor them, you can fulfill them.
Good policies will go a long way toward keeping the business running smoothly. Consider your vaccine and health requirements for pets, and outline these in writing when you first open your business. This is also the time to outline the action that will be taken if a pet has a medical emergency, as well as to establish relationships with local vets who are willing to work with your business.
Also, owning a boarding facility often means not taking off for popular holidays, as that is when kennels are typically at full capacity. Thanksgiving, Christmas, spring break for local schools, and summers are the peak times for seasonality.
According to IBIS World, the pet boarding industry underwent significant growth over the last few years, as the industry experienced a 2.8 percent growth, and is expected to bring in $11.8 billion in revenue by the end of 2023. This growth is driven by several factors including rising pet ownership, increasing pet humanization, and the trend of pet owners seeking high-quality care for their pets when they are away. The number of businesses increased to 160,086 and industry employment also grew to 309,136.
Many trends are shaping the pet boarding industry. According to Gingr, more and more pet owners are highly tech-savvy, so boarding businesses need to also embrace technology. Businesses can offer online reservations and even install video cameras that stream footage to a website, so pet owners can see their pets even when they’re across the country. These little details can appeal to tech-savvy pet owners and set businesses apart from their competition.
The pet boarding industry can also take advantage of premium offerings to deliver pets, and their owners truly unique, desirable service. Luxuries like extra-large kennels, furnishings that resemble the comforts you’d find in a house, and indulgences like special toys and gourmet treats all make a pet’s stay more enjoyable. These premium offerings create an upselling opportunity and can increase a business’s profits. When a boarding business offers these unique perks, pet owners may be more likely to use the business again in the future, which builds customer loyalty.
Most pet boarding businesses market toward pet owners who travel, whether for work or a vacation. The business model and any specializations will partially dictate the target market. Some facilities may specialize in dog boarding and market specifically toward dog owners, while others may market to only cat owners.
Checklist To Start A Dog Boarding Business
If you’re thinking about starting a pet boarding business, it’s important to do your research first. Here is a checklist to help you get started.
Step 1: Conduct market research
Starting a new pet boarding business requires a thorough understanding of the market. Here are some steps you can take to research whether there are enough potential customers in your area:
Market Analysis: Perform a detailed analysis of the pet ownership trends in your target area. This can include researching the percentage of households that own pets, the types of pets they own, and how often they might need pet boarding services. Resources such as the American Pet Products Association (APPA), pet industry magazines, or local government data on pet registration can provide this information.
Competitor Analysis: Identify all the pet boarding services in your target area. Look at their capacity, services offered, pricing, and customer reviews. If there are many businesses already, it may be a crowded market, but it also indicates a demand for the service. Consider how you could differentiate your services.
Surveys and Interviews: Conduct surveys or interviews with local pet owners. Ask about their experiences with current pet boarding services, their needs, and what improvements they’d like to see. You can use tools such as Google Forms or SurveyMonkey to conduct online surveys.
Online Research: Use online platforms to see the demand for pet boarding services. Websites like Yelp, Google My Business, or pet-specific sites can show you how many people are looking for pet boarding services. Check the number of searches for pet boarding services in your area on search engines.
Demographic Research: Your target customers are likely to be pet owners who travel frequently or work long hours. Understanding local demographics can be very useful. For example, if your area has a large number of professionals who work long hours, they might be more likely to need pet boarding services.
Local Veterinarians and Pet Stores: Local veterinarians and pet stores can be great resources. They interact with pet owners regularly and may have insights into the demand for pet boarding. They might also become a great referral source for new customers.
Trade Shows and Networking: Attend pet industry trade shows, fairs, and events. Networking with industry professionals can provide insight into market trends and potential opportunities.
Remember, your goal is to identify a gap in the market that your pet boarding business can fill. Perhaps there is a need for more specialized services, like pet boarding for exotic pets, or maybe there is a demand for more luxury pet boarding options. Once you’ve identified a potential niche, you can tailor your business plan to meet that specific need.
Step 2: Develop a business plan
A business plan is crucial for any venture, including a pet boarding business, because it helps you map out your business strategy, identify potential obstacles, and establish clear goals. For a pet boarding business, there are certain aspects that become even more important due to the nature of the industry. There are a few sections that need special attention when seeking funding:
Executive Summary: Although this is a standard section in any business plan, for a pet boarding business, it’s important to emphasize your unique value proposition – what sets you apart from other pet boarding services in the area?
Market Analysis: Thoroughly understanding your market is crucial in the pet boarding industry. This section should include data on pet ownership in your target area, the needs of local pet owners, and trends in the pet care industry.
Services: Detailed description of the services you’ll offer. Will you provide basic boarding services, or do you plan to offer extras like grooming or training? Do you have a niche, such as boarding for exotic pets or luxury services?
Operations Plan: Running a pet boarding business involves managing a facility, maintaining cleanliness, ensuring safety, and managing the well-being of the pets in your care. This section should explain how you will handle these operational details, including your plans for meeting regulatory requirements related to animal care and business operations.
Marketing and Sales Strategy: Given the competitive nature of the pet boarding industry, a clear strategy for attracting and retaining customers is crucial. This could involve partnerships with local veterinarians, an online booking system, or a customer loyalty program.
Financial Projections: This section is critical for any business plan, but for a pet boarding business, it’s important to account for specific costs such as pet care supplies, facility maintenance, insurance, and licensing fees. You should provide clear and detailed projections of your revenue, expenses, and profitability.
Writing a business plan for your pet boarding business helps you solidify your plans and makes your business more appealing to potential investors or lenders. It can also help you anticipate potential challenges and plan for success in a competitive market.
Related: How to write a business plan
Step 3: Find a suitable location
While most pet boarding businesses don’t necessarily require a prime, high-traffic location, it is usually important to be conveniently located close to clusters of neighborhoods. The issue, though, is that some communities have noise ordinances, and opening a boarding facility in those communities can be challenging.
Ideally, your business should be situated in a safe, visible, and accessible area, possibly near airports, residential areas, or commercial zones. The chosen location should have ample indoor and outdoor space, be conducive to the well-being of the pets, and allow for efficient operations, such as feeding, grooming, and waste management. Old warehouses can be a great place for space, as you can typically get them cheap depending on your location. Before signing a lease or purchasing a location, be sure to check out zoning to ensure you can operate legally.
Also, consider the level of competition in the area, as too many dog kennels could make it hard to get customers (unless they are constantly booked), but a complete absence could signal a lack of demand. The decision between leasing and purchasing a property will depend on your financial capability and long-term business goals. Opting for a location with potential for expansion could be beneficial for future growth.
While it may be challenging to find a location that ticks all these boxes, identifying the most important factors for your business and making trade-offs is key. Professional advice from a real estate agent or business advisor can prove invaluable in this process.
Step 4: Source financing
Coming up with a good business idea and having the skills to run it are one thing, but getting the funding to start a pet boarding business is another.
Funding to start a pet boarding business can be difficult, though there are sources such as friends and family, bank loan, Small Business Administration (SBA) loan guarantee, and more.
Due to the high cost of starting a boarding facility, a loan is often needed. In order to get a loan, the borrower(s) will need to have good credit and be able to personally invest 15-25% towards the total start-up costs.
Step 5: Acquire and start setting up the facility
After securing funding it’s time to acquire and start setting up the facility, the next steps involve preparing the site for operation. Here are some guidelines from an experienced perspective:
Site Preparation: Carry out any necessary renovations or construction work to ensure the site is suitable for a pet boarding business. This may involve installing kennels or cages, creating indoor and outdoor play areas, setting up grooming stations, or building an office/reception area.
Health and Safety Measures: Prioritize the health and safety of the pets you’ll be boarding. This could involve installing secure fencing, setting up proper ventilation systems, establishing sanitation and waste disposal procedures, and ensuring all areas are free of potential hazards for pets. It’s also a good idea to set up separate areas for animals that may be sick or need isolation.
Purchase Equipment: Invest in the necessary equipment and supplies such as pet food, bedding, grooming tools, toys, cleaning supplies, and first aid kits. Also investing in live cams for each room and a general area live cam that the pet parents can view can be a great selling point for your business
Software Setup: Consider investing in industry-specific software to help manage your business. This software can help with booking, invoicing, managing pet health records, and more. Examples of such software include PawLoyalty, KennelBooker, and others. Some software also offers layout planning tools that can help you optimize your facility space.
These steps can help ensure you’re well-prepared to open your pet boarding business and provide a safe and enjoyable environment for the pets you’ll be boarding.
Step 6: Register the business
The next step in starting your pet boarding business is to make sure it’s properly registered and legal to operate. It’s important to note, however, that the exact process can vary from state to state, so you’ll need to check the specific requirements for your location. Here’s a general guide to the key registrations:
Form a Business Structure: The first thing you’ll need to decide is what business structure is best for your business. This could be a sole proprietorship, a partnership, a limited liability company (LLC), or a corporation. Each of these structures has different implications for liability, taxes, and administrative complexity. Many small business owners opt for an LLC because it provides personal liability protection and has fewer administrative requirements than a corporation.
Related: Comparison of business structures
Register Your Business Name: After registering the business structure, you may need to register your business name. This process will vary depending on what business structure you pick. Sole proprietors and partnerships will often be required to register a “Doing Business As” (DBA), while corporations and LLCs register with the state during the formation process.
During this time, it’s also a good idea to check if the name you want is available as a web domain, even if you’re not ready to set up a website yet.
Obtain Business Licenses and Permits: Most states have some sort of licensing under the state’s Department of Agriculture for animal care which includes boarding facilities. Also, some counties and cities will have additional specific requirements and inspections in order to legally operate.
Depending on your location, there will likely be a variety of general licenses or permits needed before opening. This could include a business license, seller’s permit, and Employer Identification Number (EIN).
Remember, each state has different requirements for starting a business, so it’s important to do your research and possibly consult with a business advisor or attorney to ensure you’re complying with all the legal requirements. By taking these steps, you can ensure that your pet boarding business is properly registered and legal before you start operating.
Step 7: Set up marketing
There are several ways to market a pet boarding business. To get started, having a good looking website is necessary, as it serves as a digital storefront for your business. It should highlight your services, provide information about your staff, and showcase testimonials from satisfied customers. Online booking functionality can further enhance the user experience and reduce the need for someone to answer as many calls.
Additionally, the power of social media can help boost your facility by regularly posting engaging content about your services and the pets in your care. This could include behind-the-scenes looks at your facility, pet care tips, or adorable pictures of your furry clients. Also, make sure your business is listed in relevant online directories and on Google My Business.
Further, partnerships with local veterinarians, pet shops, pet sitters, animal shelters, and other pet-related businesses can be beneficial. Offering referral discounts to these partners or to customers who recommend your business to their friends can help spread the word.
Last, don’t underestimate the power of traditional marketing methods. Flyers or posters in local pet stores or community centers can catch the attention of potential clients.
Finally, always prioritize excellent customer service, as word-of-mouth referrals are one of the most effective marketing tools for a pet boarding business. Happy customers will be your greatest advocates, often sharing their positive experiences with friends, family, and online communities, thus attracting more clients to your business.
Related: Low cost ways to market a business
Step 8: Hire & train staff
A smaller operation may be run with just the owner, but to provide backup or more services, employees will be needed.
Your staff will not only be the face of your business, interacting directly with your customers, but they will also be responsible for the well-being and care of the pets you board, so look to hire individuals who genuinely love animals and have experience in handling them.
Your employees should have a basic understanding of animal health and be able to spot signs of distress, illness, or injury. Training in pet first aid can be highly valuable, such as the Certified Professional Animal Care Provider (CPACP) or Certified Professional Animal Care Manager (CPACM), and to continue learning about best practices in pet care. This will improve the quality of care and boost the reputation of your business.
Related: Steps to hiring in each state
Step 9: Prepare to launch
The actual steps for each business will vary, but as you are getting close to opening, there may be a few additional steps to check on. A few of these may include:
Business Insurance: Make sure to have the right types of insurance in place. This will likely include general liability insurance (covers property damage and injury lawsuits), professional liability insurance (covers negligence related to professional services), and commercial property insurance (covers your property in case of damage or loss). If you have employees, you’ll also need workers’ compensation insurance. In the pet industry, it’s also important to have animal bailee insurance, which covers pets in your care if they are lost, injured, or die.
Bookkeeping: Set up a robust bookkeeping system from the start. This will help you track income and expenses, manage cash flow, and make tax filing easier. You can use accounting software like Wave Accounting (FREE) or Quickbooks to make this process easier.
Bank Account: Open a business bank account separate from your personal account. This will help keep your finances organized and make tax time less stressful.
Payment Systems: Set up systems for accepting credit card payments. Many customers prefer the convenience of paying with a card, and this will likely be a large part of your business transactions. There are many providers that offer this service, including Square or Stripe.
Remember, every business is different, so these steps might vary depending on your specific situation. However, by addressing these areas, you’ll be well-prepared to start your pet boarding business on a solid foundation. As always, it can be helpful to seek advice from professionals such as lawyers, accountants, or business advisors to make sure you’re setting up your business correctly.
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Common Questions When Starting A Pet Boarding Business
How much does it cost to start a pet boarding business?
Starting a pet boarding business requires a substantial initial investment. The total costs can vary significantly based on numerous factors, including the size and location of your facility, the type of services you offer, and the amount of renovation required for the space.
As a rough estimate, you can expect to spend between $150,000 and $500,000 to get your business up and running. This includes the costs of leasing or purchasing property, renovations, equipment, supplies, insurance, licenses, marketing, and initial staffing.
Here are some of the major costs to consider:
Property Lease or Purchase: The cost of your location can be one of the most significant expenses. Depending on the size and location, leasing a commercial property can cost from $1,000 to $10,000 per month or more. Purchasing a property would involve a higher upfront cost but might save money in the long run.
Renovations: Depending on the condition of the property, you may need to spend a significant amount on renovations to make the space suitable for a pet boarding facility. This could cost anywhere from $50,000 to $200,000 or more.
Equipment and Supplies: You’ll need to invest in kennels or cages, grooming equipment, food, bedding, toys, office equipment, and more. This could cost $10,000 to $30,000 or more, depending on the size of your business.
Licenses and Permits: The cost of insurance, licenses, and permits can vary widely, but you should budget several thousand dollars for these expenses.
Marketing and Advertising: Marketing costs can also vary widely, but you should plan to spend at least a few thousand dollars on initial marketing efforts to attract customers to your new business.
Operating Expenses: Lastly, you’ll need to have enough money to cover your operating expenses for at least three to six months. This includes costs like rent, utilities, employee wages, insurance, marketing, and pet supplies. Depending on the size of your business, this could be between $50,000 and $150,000 or more.
Keep in mind that these are just estimates, and your costs could be higher or lower depending on various factors. It’s always a good idea to work with a financial advisor or accountant to create a detailed business plan and budget for your pet boarding business.
How much can a pet boarding business owner make?
The income of a pet boarding business owner can vary greatly based on numerous factors such as the size of the facility, location, pricing, number of employees, overhead costs, and the number of pets boarded. A simple way to calculate potential income is to estimate the number of pets you can board and multiply it by your rate.
For example, let’s say you have the capacity to board 30 dogs per day, and you charge $30 per day for each dog. If you operate 365 days a year at full capacity, that’s an annual gross revenue of $328,500 (30 dogs * $30/day * 365 days). However, this is gross revenue, not profit.
You’ll need to subtract your expenses to calculate your net income. If your total annual expenses (including costs for rent, utilities, insurance, salaries, food, and other supplies) amount to $200,000, then your net income would be $128,500 ($328,500 revenue – $200,000 expenses).
It’s important to keep in mind that the income of a pet boarding business owner can fluctuate throughout the year due to the seasonal nature of the industry. Demand for pet boarding services often peaks during holiday seasons and school vacation periods when families typically travel, and these can be the most lucrative times for a pet boarding business.
For instance, if you have the capacity to board 30 dogs per day at a rate of $30 per day, this would give you a gross revenue of $900 per day during peak times. However, during slower periods, you may only be at half capacity, leading to a daily revenue of $450. Therefore, it’s crucial for pet boarding business owners to account for these seasonal variations in their revenue projections and financial planning.
While pet boarding on its own can be a profitable business, many boarding facilities offer additional services that can increase profits. Services like nail trims, grooming, training, and more aren’t only convenient for pet owners but can make for valuable upselling opportunities. Additional options can include offering extra playtime sessions, special treats, and organic grooming products – all of which can increase your profits from a single pet’s stay. Some boarding facilities also branch out into dog daycare. While it may be tempting to offer many different services, it’s best to keep things smaller and more manageable as you start. Choose the top few services you feel will most appeal to your audience and then grow from there.
What skills are needed to run a pet boarding business?
A pet boarding business owner doesn’t need a business degree to start the business. But, certain skills and experiences can increase the chances of the business being successful.
Pet care knowledge: A business owner should be knowledgeable about how to care for the types of pets the business will be boarding. Experience handling those pets is valuable and will allow for better, safer care.
Pet first aid experience: Sometimes pets may need illness or injury treatment while in boarding. Formal pet CPR or pet first aid training and certification can help to train boarding business owners in how to handle emergencies and get pets the help they need.
Customer service skills: Great customer service will help a business to stand out. Business owners with customer service experience and talents can build customer loyalty.
Attention to detail: Attention to detail is so important in every element of this business, from giving pets their needed medications to making sure that a pet is acting normally. Business owners should be detail-oriented and involved in every aspect of the business.
Management experience: As a business grows, the owner may need to hire additional staff to help. Experience in hiring, training, and managing employees will be important.
What is the NAICS code for a pet boarding business?
The NAICS code for a pet boarding business is 812910.
The NAICS code (North American Industry Classification System) is a federal system to classify different types of businesses for the collection and reporting of statistical data.
Related: What is a NAICS code?