Starting a dog boarding business can be rewarding, but it can also be incredibly overwhelming. From getting the right business license to paying taxes, there are lots of tasks to complete before you even look at your furry customers! Below are 8 easy steps for you to follow to make the process simple and straightforward.
Many people don't have the option of boarding their dog at home, and finding a pet sitter is a time-consuming and stressful endeavor. With people spending more on pet care services, the dog boarding industry is growing. Now, more than ever, is a great time for you to finally learn how to start a dog boarding business.
How to start a dog boarding business in 8 easy steps.
Step 1: Perform market research.
Market research is a vital first step as you prepare to start your dog boarding business. During the market research phase, your aim is to research and gather data about the demand for dog kennels in your local area.
Market research can help you better understand the industry, your target customers, and the current competition. You can also research your target demographic which will likely include pet owners who travel, work long hours, or need emergency short to long-term care for their pets.
Define your goals: Before you begin gathering data, try to narrow down the most important questions you want to answer during your market research phase.
Some useful questions to ask include:
- How many dog owners are in the area?
- How many pet boarding businesses already exist?
- What are the legal requirements in that area?
- What are the potential costs?
- What is the potential income?
Start conducting market analysis: Now you know what to focus on, it’s time to choose the market research method you’d like to gather the information with. Different techniques to consider include surveys, focus groups, and interviews.
You can also search online for any pet ownership trends in your area. Local government websites which detail pet registration can also be a great resource. By learning about your market, you can determine if there is enough demand for your new kennel business.
Research the competition: Search and find all the known dog boarding businesses you will be competing with in your area. Review the pet boarding services they offer, the pricing, reviews, and location. When doing competitor research, try to think about what your dog boarding service will offer that will set you apart from the rest.
Reach out to local pet stores and veterinarians: Local pet store owners and veterinarians are great resources to ask whether there is a need for another dog boarding facility in your area. They are your boots on the ground and can let you know of any pain points their customers experience in that area. Additionally, by establishing a relationship, you can lean on them to offer referrals to their clients.
Step 2: Create a budget.
Creating a budget for your business before you start investing can give you a better understanding of what to expect for overhead costs. It’s estimated that 20% of businesses fail within the first two years of opening. By having a budget, you can set yourself up for success by avoiding unnecessary expenses that drain your bank account.
Keep personal and business finances separate: Open a business bank account to better track your expenses and income related to your business. By keeping these separate, you can avoid huge headaches during tax season.
Determine costs: The costs of your small business will vary depending on many factors, especially the area in which you decide to open your boarding kennel. Consider both the fixed and variable costs you’ll likely encounter and try to overestimate each. This will help you avoid a huge shock when the bill finally arrives.
Some expenses to consider in your budget include:
- Rent or mortgage
- Furniture and equipment
- Food and supplies
- Staff salaries
- Dog boarding software
- Marketing and advertising
Estimate income potential: With your market research, you should have a good idea of what you might bring in. The income potential should be estimated as accurately as possible. Try to be conservative when estimating income, just in case it's a little slow to start.
Always adjust: Your budget will change as your business grows and scales. Be prepared to make changes to your budget and set a schedule for when you'll be working on the books.
Step 3: Write a business plan.
A clear dog boarding business plan is one of the most important steps to set you up for success on the road to becoming a pet boarding business owner. A business plan is a detailed document that describes your business, services, financial plans, leadership structure, operations, staffing, and more. Having a business plan can help keep you on the right path and prepare you for any roadblocks you might experience along the way.
Your business plan should include:
1. Executive summary: An executive summary is a high-level overview of your business. It's a summary that you can present to potential investors or lenders. It should include a summary of your business concept, goals, service descriptions, target market, marketing strategy, and if you're applying for financial support, the amount, and who's involved.
2. Company overview: A company overview is your business history and how you got to where you are today. For example, you can start boarding dogs at home and detail your plans for the future of your dog kennel business and what type of dog boarding center you plan to operate.
3. Market analysis: Detail how big the potential market is in your area. Include the information you researched in step 1.
4. Competitor analysis: The competitor analysis will detail the current market's competitors in your area and how you will create a competitive edge.
5. Services and products offered: List the services and products you plan to offer your potential clients. Provide key details about the cost and describe any plans for future services you would like to offer, such as dog grooming services.
6. Marketing plan: A strategic marketing strategy will include information on services, prices, location, promotions, and how you will market your business.
7. Management and organization: Create a list of who's involved in your business and the people you plan to manage and help with operations.
8. Financial strategy: The financial aspect will include the costs of starting your business, how you will make money, projected sales and growth, and if you need to borrow money to launch your business.
A business plan can be one of the more challenging aspects of learning how to start a dog kennel. But by putting in the time and energy up-front, you will be sure to pave your way to success.
Step 4: Plan your boarding facility.
Location is everything, and a successful pet boarding facility requires a well-thought-out plan. From choosing a great location to designing an optimized layout, there's a lot to consider. Some facilities and amenities that you would need to consider for a dog kennel business include:
- Secure facilities to prevent escapees(!)
- Space for the kennels
- Outdoor and indoor spaces big enough for multiple dogs to play at once
- An area for preparing meals and providing fresh water
- Room for growth, such as a dog bathing area for grooming services.
Beyond the location and ensuring you have enough space for each dog's stay, there are some other items to consider. Dogs are going to create waste, so you want to ensure you have a sanitary place to dispose of it.
While planning your boarding facility, and once you have a good idea of how many dogs you'll be able to safely board at a time, you'll want to decide how many employees you'll need to manage the operations. The staff will be in charge of providing food and water, remembering and administering medication, monitoring dogs during play, and ensuring the escape artists are unsuccessful in their quests!
Step 5: Address legal requirements for kennels.
Starting a business providing animal care might have some additional legal requirements beyond the standard business licenses, permits, and insurance from state and federal agencies. The costs can vary depending on what you need and the state you live in.
- Choose a business structure: Your business structure determines the taxes your business will pay, as well as offering protection if you're ever sued.
- Register for taxes: Apply for an EIN through the IRS website to register for any state and federal taxes for your business.
- Obtain a business license: This is a permit issued by your local government that allows you to operate a business in your area. You can refer to your local government’s website for more information on what you need to apply. Be sure to check for any state licenses too.
- Obtain liability insurance: General liability insurance protects you in case you are sued for events such as injuries to pets, escaped pets that cause damage to property, or negligence.
- Obtain property insurance: Property insurance can protect your business if the property is damaged due to fires, floods, natural disasters, and more.
- Meet zoning requirements: Your boarding facility may need to comply with zoning regulations in your area. This means that you may need to obtain a permit to operate your business in a certain location.
- Gather contracts and agreements: You'll need contracts, documents, liability waivers, employment contracts, and more for operations. Dog boarding software such as PetExec can help organize owner and pet documents and liability waivers/contracts all in one place.
Step 6: Address health & safety requirements for kennels.
As you prepare your dog boarding facility to care for dogs, you’ll need to review and comply with the health and safety requirements for kennels. You will need to follow these regulations when boarding dogs, and these can vary from state to state. Be sure to check with your local government on what is required and ensure you are always compliant.
How are dogs going to stay healthy during their stay? Invest in training for your staff to ensure they are well equipped to handle different breeds and temperaments. They should be able to handle any situation that could arise when you house multiple dogs together in one location.
Training should include general care for dogs, first aid for the animals and humans, what to do in an emergency, general customer service, and more. When you have a passionate and knowledgeable staff, you not only ensure everyone, including the dogs, remain safe while building a strong relationship with existing clients.
Step 7: Create your kennel business marketing plan.
A business is only as successful as its business marketing plan. Your dog boarding facility could be in a prime location and have incredible pricing, but if people don't know about it, you won't begin to build a client base.
Promoting your business is much easier than it used to be with the rise of social media marketing. Here are some of the ways you can promote your dog boarding business.
- Creating website content
- Using social media posts and marketing
- Reaching out to the local community
- Creating promotions, offering discounts, and rewarding loyalty
- Providing superior customer service that leads to positive reviews
Step 8: Plan kennel operations and hire staff.
Running your dog boarding center efficiently can help ensure your business succeeds. After you open, it will take lots of planning, dedication, and hard work. Follow these tips to help ensure you can manage your operations, hire great staff, and build great relationships with your clients.
Find a great staff.
When you first start, you and your business partners might be the only ones running the boarding facility. As you grow, you'll need to find employees to help prevent burnout and ensure your business runs effectively. Find people who care about dogs as passionately as you do.
As you grow, you'll likely need to hire staff for:
- Administrative services
- Facilities management
- Trainers/dog walkers/dog groomers
- Sales and marketing
Staff turnover in any business can harm operations. Foster a supportive workplace culture, offer competitive wages, and provide opportunities for growth to ensure your staff is happy and wants to stay.
Automate your business.
Today, there are a lot of options that can help simplify business operations. Dog boarding software, such as PetExec, can help with managing the facilities scheduling, inventory, finances, and other business needs. You can stay on top of everything whilst focusing on caring for the dogs.
Regularly review the market.
Staying on top of market research can keep you in the loop on emerging trends and customers’ wants in the industry. Get to know when your slow seasons will be, and study your competitors' pricing to ensure your rates remain competitive.
With market research, you'll better understand your target client's needs and be able to set pricing and offer promotions that will attract new clients and encourage repeat business.
Properly maintain the facilities.
Health and safety in a facility that manages animals needs to be kept to the highest standards. This includes daily cleaning, deep cleaning projects, proper waste disposal, and equipment inspections.
Why choose PetExec for your future dog boarding business?
Now that you have a good understanding of your next steps with starting your pet boarding business, it’s a good idea to consider a dog boarding software tool.
PetExec is a pet business software tool that allows you to look after all of the administrative tasks of your growing business. From client contracts to a QuickBooks export, PetExec can help you and your business hit the ground running!
Pet business software reviews.
PetExec has countless positive reviews online from many satisfied customers.