The American Pet Products Association (APPA) indicates that total pet industry expenditures in the United States reached $60.59 billion in 2015. Americans spent a total of $23 billion on pet food, $14 billion on supplies and over-the-counter medicine, almost $16 billion on veterinarian care, $2 billion on live animal purchases, and a little over $5 billion on pet services like grooming and boarding. Currently, 56 percent of American households have pets, with that number expected to increase.
With an industry that appears to be recession-proof, there are many opportunities for an enterprising business person to capitalize on the willingness of individuals and families to own and care for animals.
If you are an animal lover yourself and have thought about starting your own pet business, here are some things you will want to consider.
Keep “business” in the pet business. Remember that starting a pet business is like any other business. Becoming an entrepreneur means that you will need to accomplish all the tasks required of any other business, regardless of whether it will be a traditional stone-and-mortar storefront or an ecommerce business conducted solely or primarily online. At a minimum, you will need to:
- Find a Niche. Building a successful business will mean finding a way to set yourself apart from the many competitors out there. Deciding whether you want to provide key pet services like pet boarding and dog walking, or that you wish to sell products like natural dog treats, is critical to catering to a specific demographic and ensuring a loyal following over time. Many unusual pet businesses can be lucrative.
- Develop your brand. An interesting, strong brand is key to making it in any business. Your brand is your promise to your consumers that you provide the best in quality and service. Building that brand over time through the use of an online logo creator and some innovative marketing strategies will inspire consumers to return for repurchase and will help to grow your business.
- Have a plan for managing money. Working through the logistics of deciding what type of business you want to start (e.g., LLC, sole proprietorship, or a corporation), determining how to obtain and manage business credit, and setting up safeguards you will use to ensure your personal and business finances are separate may require the assistance of an attorney like Aaron Kelly.
- Reach your audience. Once you have determined your target market, make sure to create and maintain a positive social media presence. Using Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts promote your business, but linking these to interesting and relevant articles will ensure that your consumers recognize the human face behind the business. Respond quickly and thoughtfully to complaints, comments, and suggestions.
Don’t forget the importance of up-sales and cross-sales. No matter what pet service or pet product you sell, it is inevitable that within a few months or years, your consumers will be looking to upgrade or explore. Upselling allows you to encourage sales of more expensive items. This will only work if the consumer is satisfied with both your product and your service, so make sure to provide the best in both so that you have a greater chance of your loyal following being willing to invest in more expensive items from you in the future.
Cross-selling is when you recognize that your consumers will need other items that go along with the original product. If you are selling personalized dog tags, for example, you can reasonably expect that the customer will also want to purchase a new dog collar and lead. Using your website to improve the convenience of shopping for associated products is one way to capitalize on cross-selling opportunities.
Be a social good company. In addition to the willingness of fur parents to expend time and resources on their furbabies, people have become increasingly conscious of improving and sustaining the health of the planet. Creating a mission and vision for your company that incorporates socially good and environmentally responsible practices is critical to the ongoing success of your pet business. Consumers are looking to support a business that values philanthropic work as part of their business practices, which may include hosting an adoption event or encouraging community involvement. They want to buy from companies that provide them with a sense of purpose, and they want to feel as if their purchases have value for the betterment of their world.
Natural products, therefore, are gaining popularity. Natural cat litter, holistic cat and dog food, natural flea and tick repellents, and toys made with natural fibers are quickly becoming top-selling products. Because cross-sales involves the introduction of related items, you may want to look at natural products related to your services or main product.
Have you considered starting your own pet business? What ideas have you considered? Feel free to share here.