If you’re a dog lover, you understand how a doggy daycare can be such a lifesaver for busy pet owners. You know that a busy work life entails long hours away from home--which also means long hours away from your beloved pet. And it isn’t surprising that you’d want to get into the doggy daycare business, seeing that it really is a viable venture. In New York City alone, about 600,000 out of one million pets are dogs. So if your instincts are pushing you towards this direction, then go for it. But before you do dive right in, have you thought about what needs to be done before opening a doggy daycare business?
You might actually come up with a long list once you sit down and do some brainstorming, but first things first. Let’s talk about the five most important things you need to do before opening your very own doggy daycare business.
Do your research.
Know your options. How would you like to set up your business? Where would you like to set up? Perhaps you would prefer a small-scale operation and set up a home-based doggy daycare. You could also find a commercial space where you might have more room for design. In fact, a warehouse-type space would be ideal if you want it to be more high-end where you can add a spa and grooming services. There isn’t one that’s better than the other. What’s important is you list down your options and weigh the pros and cons. Choose the one that fits your lifestyle and your goals the best. And then choose another one as a ‘Plan B’ in case ‘Plan A’ doesn’t end up as ideal as it looked at first.
After choosing how you’d want to set up your new business, find out which government agencies you need to consult for licenses, permits, and requirements. City and state laws may differ in terms of the licenses and permits required to open a doggy daycare business. Requirements and fees also vary depending on what kind of business you want to operate and where you would like to establish your business. To avoid unnecessary expenses, or even having to do everything all over again from scratch, it’s best to start getting all your facts and details straight from the start.
After having reviewed all the information you’ve gathered, you can now decide if you’re still going for ‘Plan A’ or if ‘Plan B’ now seems to be the better option.
You also need to do some research on your competition. Pet owners will either prefer a place near their home or a place closer to where they work. Obviously, if you live in a place where each house is at least a kilometer away, then home-based daycare may not the best idea. And if you plan on renting a commercial space, find out if there are others in the same business. Find out what services they provide and what the pricing looks like. If there are already two or three doggy daycares near where you’d want to set up, you’d have a better chance of succeeding if you offer a service that isn’t already being offered by the others. Even better if you can find a location where you will be the only doggy daycare within a one-mile radius.
Make a list of the supplies you’ll need to buy.
Now that you’re pretty much settled on where you’d like to set up your business and what services you’d like to offer, it’s time to make a list of all the things you’ll need for your daily operations. Among other things, this list would include dog food, food/water bowls, beds, kennels, cleaning materials, disinfectants, treats, lots of toys, and poop bags--you can never have too many poop bags!
Create a business plan and have it in black and white.
Do yourself a favor and create a business plan. Spend one day, two days, even a week, coming up with your business plan. If you must, spend a whole month on it--just don’t skip this process.
As you go, the information you gather and the decisions you make will all go into your business plan. Some of the basic components would be:
- Your location and niche -- this will help you determine the products and services you will offer.
- The list of requirements to set up your business--licenses, permits, documents required.
- The list of things you’d need to buy for your doggy daycare to be fully operational.
- Hiring plan -- decide on your business hours and then work out how many employees you’ll need.
- Budget -- aside from the anticipated expenses from the rent, permits, and supplies, it will help to make a forecast on how much cash flow you’d need to keep everything afloat while you’re just starting and getting your name out there.
- Pricing -- set your rate so that they are not too high, and definitely not too low for the market. The last thing you’d want to do is start a price war where everyone in the game eventually loses.
- Define your marketing strategy.
- Set goals -- be clear about where you want to be in the next six months, 3 years, or 5 years.
Protect your business with the right insurance plans.
Examples of basic insurances for every business are the Worker’s Compensation Insurance, General Liability Insurance, and Property Insurance.
Worker’s Compensation Insurance is mandatory as soon as the business hires its first employee. This policy protects the business from financial losses due to unexpected expenses arising from injuries or medical bills incurred while the employee is on the job.
General Liability Insurance protects you and your business against third-party claims for bodily injuries or damage to property caused by negligence on your part, your employees, or independent contractors.
Property Insurance would help cover financial losses due to unfortunate events such as theft or fire. This type of policy covers the cost of having damaged equipment repaired or replaced. This also covers the cost of repairs to damaged property.
If you are located somewhere catastrophic events are more common than elsewhere, a Business Interruption Insurance covers lost income due to your employees’ inability to go to work because of unforeseen events such as snowstorms. And since you are putting up a doggy daycare, it would be sensible to get an insurance plan that covers the client’s pet and belongings in your care. Accidents happen and it can be very costly when they do. A Business Liability Insurance protects you from claims in case a dog dies or is injured while in your care.
Some insurance policies are stand-alone, while there are policies that are add-ons to other policies for better coverage. The right insurance coverage will protect you from huge financial losses that may result from lawsuits or property damage. And since getting an insurance policy is as much an expense as it is an ‘investment’, it is best to consult with a qualified insurance agent or provider to ensure you get the best coverage that matches your needs. It also helps to know things like how long the insurance company has been around and what people say about them.
Qualify your customers.
Any business would want to have as many customers as they possibly can. However, being in the doggy daycare business means you’d have to be extra careful who you let into your ‘home’. You are not dealing with objects that can simply be thrown away or sent back to its manufacturer when found to be defective. You are dealing with live, breathing beings who can even be more sensitive and vulnerable to illnesses than humans. As the owner of the doggy daycare, it is your responsibility to ensure the safety and well-being of the pets left in your care. Hence, it is best that you come up with a list of qualifiers or questions you’d want to ask potential customers before you agree to look after their pets.
For instance, are you going to accept dogs with allergies or those known to have a history of anxiety? If so, then you’d need to make sure you have a list of all the details such as allergens and triggers; and perhaps even a waiver that releases your business(and employees) from any liability if any untoward incident occurs due to incorrect or incomplete information provided by the pet owner.
Being clear from the start about what you want and what you need for your business, is a big step towards its success. Of course, aside from these five things that you need to do before opening a doggy daycare business, it goes without saying that you need to make sure you employ the right people and that you take care of them. It is important that they enjoy being around dogs, and it is equally important that they are willing to be trained on how to handle emergency situations and even pet CPR. Nothing compares to having happy and competent employees. They will almost certainly ensure great customer service and great customer service ensures repeat customers.
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