When it comes to transforming your passion for pooches into starting your own dog walking business it can be hard to know where to begin.
But with the right level of motivation and knowledge, it is possible. Think not? Maybe the below stories will give you paws for thought!
Here, two businesses at different stages give us the low down on what’s really involved and share their personal advice on how to start a dog walking business.
Lachlan's story: The startup business
Lachlan King has always had a passion for animals and always dreamed of working with them. Three months ago, he turned his dream into reality by starting up his very own dog walking business, Officially Canine.
“I love dogs and have always had them,” says Lachlan. “I’ve got two dogs at the moment, a 14-year-old Jack Russell Terrier named Scooby and a four-year-old chocolate Border Collie called Darwin.”
“I enjoy playing, training and just being hands-on in general with them, so working with them seemed like the obvious transition.”
Prior to setting up his dog walking business with ASIC (Australian Securities and Investments Commission), Lachlan had to think of a name, obtain an ABN and open a business bank account.
He also had to learn about his tax and insurance requirements and decide on how best to invoice and market his business.
“I had to do a fair bit of research to try and figure out what is an acceptable price to charge, as well as market share and any competition,” he says.
“I spoke to a lot of people around me about the idea and they were all very encouraging. Both my grandfather and stepfather owned their own businesses, and my mother currently runs a very large one, so they were good resources to tap into for advice.”
Building a customer base
Lachlan has targeted customers through a variety of ways, including letterbox drops and social media marketing. He also constantly has business cards on him and talks to everyone he sees walking their dogs in the local area.
“I have repeat customers and the owners of the dogs I look after are always happy when I get back in touch,” he says.
Advice to aspiring dog walking entrepreneurs
When it comes to starting your own dog walking business, Lachlan says you just need to keep going to follow your dream.
“You will hit times where you don’t know what you’re doing,” he says. “But the only way to get things done or resolved is to put your head down and figure it out.”
“With a healthy amount of encouragement from people around you, you can do it and should never be afraid to ask for help.”
Kylie's story: An established business
“I saw a lot of our veterinary clinic clients complaining about the dog kennel facilities at the time and having no one to trust to look after their fur babies,” she says.
“I suggested that I would be happy to look after them, and from there Love Laugh Play was born.”
Having grown up with animals, Kylie’s always had a connection to them and always wanted to work with them. Her animal care career started with a traineeship as a veterinary nurse.
“I’ve completed a Certification IV in Veterinary Nursing and completed puppy preschool and obedience class training, as well as running these for a number of years,” she says.
Starting a business
During the early stages of setting up her dog walking and pet minding business, Kylie researched what other similar services were offered in the area, what their prices were and how she could highlight her point of difference.
“From there I made sure I was insured, police checked, and those that worked with me as an ‘Aunty’ were also veterinary nurses,” she says.
“This provided the edge over other pet minders because we knew how to provide medical care and give medication correctly.”
Marketing a dog walking business
When Kylie initially set up her business, her marketing was primarily word of mouth. As the business took off, she advertised her services by flyers within veterinary clinics and pet shops, direct marketing in mailboxes, social media and at pet and wedding expos.
“We’ve also been lucky enough to feature in an array of media outlets from radio stations, TV and newspapers,” she adds.
Growing the business
Since being established, the business has grown so much that Kylie now has a team of 15 staff working across multiple locations within Australia.
“I started as just me. And then, when I was double booked, I’d get one of the nurses I worked with to cover the other booking,” she says.
“As the business is growing I am very hands-on, taking bookings, answering client questions, doing marketing, administration and finance, and recruiting new ‘Aunties’ (as we call them!)”
The growth of the business has also led to other services being added.
“I had a friend ask me to assist her in surprising her husband at their wedding by walking their three dogs down the aisle before she arrived,” says Kylie.
“Then another friend asked and another, so now we’re bringing extra joy to a lot of brides and grooms on their very special day with our pet wedding chauffeur service!”
The perks of the job
Kylie says that the best benefit of her job is that she’s doing what she loves.
“You can't go wrong if you’re spending time with animals and getting paid,” she says.
“I love that I can control my own workload (to a point) and have the flexibility of hours. I also love that I’m providing customers with peace of mind that their fur baby is being loved and cared for and is happy.”
The bottom line
“Make sure you’re providing a quality service, a service that clients will love, value and rave about,” advises Kylie. “Do it for the love and not the money.”
She notes that you need to be prepared to research, lose sleep and make mistakes. Similarly, you need to be committed to always having your phone on you, and be prepared for not always being able to go to that party or attend an event on time.
“This is particularly relevant at the beginning of your business,” Kylie says. “If you really want it to succeed, you will need to make sacrifices and you will need to work hard.
But, is it worth it? “Absolutely,” says Kylie.
“Nothing beats a big sloppy kiss from a happy fur baby or the praise of a client who has finally been able to take that holiday or work longer hours knowing that their fur baby is in good hands.”
For some people, a love of animals has led them to a career working with them, and it's something you could do too. Intrigued? Find out what qualifications could transform your passion into a career.
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