A pet boarding business is a convenient service for owners to drop off their dogs, cats, birds or other pets for a day, overnight or longer – but it requires careful business planning to get up and running. While working with pets all day long sounds like a dream job, it’s important to understand everything that goes into starting and running a pet boarding business.
Pet boarding businesses have been booming, especially as dog ownership grows across the U.S. The American Veterinary Medical Association reported that in 2018, 38 percent of households owned dogs. The pet resort/boarding business grew by 6 percent by 2019, with 123,000 new businesses across the U.S, adding 218,000 new jobs and bringing in $9 billion in revenue. These numbers alone show that the pet boarding business may have strong potential.
That being said, a pet boarding business’ success depends on many factors: location, competition, cost, and services offered. Additionally, you’ll need policies in place, solid training for your staff and appropriate insurance so that your clients trust that their beloved pets will be in good hands. You’ll also have to consider that this industry booms around the holidays and may impact your family’s plans.
Despite that, the pet boarding industry allows a customizable approach to help you stand out. You could also consider adding on grooming services, training camps, extra exercise sessions, or premium/gourmet food options. People love to pamper their pets, so think of how you can use this to your business advantage!
Ready to start your own pet boarding business? We’ve gathered some of the most crucial steps you’ll need to go through first.
As a business owner, you’ll want to do your homework. This can run the gamut from learning the ins and outs of caring for a variety of animal breeds to and what types of license or permits you need. Looking for some resources? Check out your local community college for classes on the pet boarding business and/or certification opportunities. There are also online learning and certification resources such as the International Boarding and Pet Service Association (IBPSA) that may help provide you the knowledge and expertise to run your business with confidence.
Also, nothing beats first-hand experience. If you’ve never worked in the type of business you plan to open, find someone through your network who has a similar business – in another town or city where you won’t be competition – and ask if they’d be willing to take a call to discuss what they’ve learned. You want to know all of it: the good, the bad and the crazy. So go ahead and ask the questions that will paint a clearer picture of what you are signing up for.
How to take a dream and turn it into a reality? With a plan – a business plan. Not only will a lender require you to have one, but the act of writing out your plan will help you consider all the factors and increase your odds for success. Expected start-up costs, operating expenses and your financial history are only a few of the elements that should be included in your business plan.
Your plan should also include market analysis with a marketing plan and branding, including a great business name. Not only should it resonate with the industry, but it should also be unique! If you cater to high-end clients, the word “resort” tends to be much more appealing than “boarding.”
For help writing your business plan, download our pet care business plan guide.
It may seem as simple as browsing available properties in your area, but since some pets can be very noisy (imagine dogs barking while exotic birds are screeching), you’ll have to check the zoning laws of the area to see if pet boarding businesses are allowed. For example, many residential zones will have a noise ordinance.
Additionally, you’ll need to make sure you can provide adequate outdoor space for dogs to run and get some fresh air. The inside area should be well ventilated and offer plenty of space to accommodate several animals at once. The AKC provides some guidance here. You also should consider the distance to the closest veterinarian. You may find working with a real estate professional who understands your business plans and knows the commercial opportunities in your area very helpful.
Depending on your location, there might be certain licensing requirements, which are regulated under the state’s Department of Agriculture. On top of that, each town or city has their own laws, regulations, and inspection requirements. You’ll need a sales tax permit, Employer Identification Number, Occupancy Permit, among others. Do your homework and get some help from your legal advisor on what is relevant and required for your business.
Pet boarders should always have insurance to cover anything that happens while animals are in their care. Make sure your insurance policy covers all breeds, too. Additionally, ensure that your policy covers your facility and staff as well. When comparing quotes, look at variables like coverage limits, premiums, and deductibles. It’s always better to be extra covered and never need it, than not have it at all. Work with your financial and legal advisors to optimize your coverage for your business.
Deciding on your price can be trickier than it seems. Though most of this will be driven by your target clientele and the competition in your area, you’ll need to consider your own costs, like rent, utilities, staff, insurance, and so on. The average cost per night in the industry runs from $30 – $50, going as high as $90 a night for premium services. Do your research on what your competition is charging in the same market and what each provides.
Ready to bring people onboard? You can start small with someone to be in charge of taking care and supervising the pets day-to-day. As you grow, you can bring in an office manager, a groomer, trainer, and may even hire your own onsite vet. Pet boarding businesses often feel like a family for how closely you work together, so consider personality styles that will work well as a team – and more importantly, with the pets and their families (owners).
To get started, you’ll need customers! Think about using a variety of marketing techniques like targeted email, social media, and even print advertising. You can also network with local pet stores, trainers, vets, walkers, and groomers and consider a referral partnership. The important thing is to think like your clients: where will they naturally come across an ad for your business? Find out where they congregate, and get your business in front of them.
Your clients will want to see that the happiness and health of their furry or feathered family member is your number one priority. That dedication will keep them coming back. When you lead with both passion and a plan, your pet boarding business is more likely to be a success.