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    29 Replies Latest reply on Feb 5, 2009 1:51 PM by css1985

    Starting a new business, based on my current gig

    tigerente Wayfarer
      I run a some what successful dog walking and pet sitting business. I have been doing it for just over two years. I work at most 5 hours a day and my gross income is about $2000/ month. I would love to make more than that, but I can only walk so many dogs a day and I am at about full capacity. I have been thinking about opening a business based off of what I do now. I do dog park trips, and especially during the winter, it sucks! The park is muddy, the dogs get filthy and I am cold! During the summer the dogs are hot and lazy and the park is dusty and I get dust in my teeth, in my nose and in my hair. I would love to have an indoor place to take my dogs. It is something I have heard from a lot of people. Why not start an indoor dog park? There are loads of overpriced doggy day cares that are always full, and no where for people to take their dogs themselves during the day or after work. I know all the local dog walkers in the area, and they would love something like this to take their dogs when they are feeling tired or lazy and the same with all the local dog owners. It gets dark at 4 pm now, so many people don't even take their dogs out to play when they get home from work in the winter.
      My mom is a small business accountant, so she helped me set up my current business, and she could help me with this one as well. I am kind of aware of all the millions of steps that I need to do before starting my business, but in what order? I know I need to draft a business plan, find funding, research grants (my aunt has written grant stuff before for public schools, so I may ask her for help). I will need to find a large warehouse that would allow dogs inside that has ample parking, get it rennovated with rubber floors and all the trimmings. I am just not sure what the first step should be, or the 50 steps after that.
      Is it worth it, or not worth it to look into finding a business partner (maybe another dog walker I know) or to find private investors? I am not sure how much money I will need to have for operating costs, or how long it will take to start turning a profit. Do I need 6 months of operating costs set aside/ A years worth?
      In this location, I will also operate a dog training facility with agility and Rally-O. I will have a few self serve dog wash tubs and also sell a few basic pet supplies. I would love to be able to rent the space out for dog parties, events and pet seminars as well. I am looking to find a space around 10,000 square feet.
      I would love feedback and help figuring out what I need to do first. Thanks!
        • Re: Starting a new business, based on my current gig
          DomainDiva Ranger
          Oh what a wonderful idea!!!!! Air conditioning too for the summer?

          Steps to take:

          1. Executive Summary
          2. Business Plan **(note write the exec summary after you write the biz plan)
          3. Decide how much square footage (+/- 10000)
          4. decide on design and fixtures, and get some labor costs as well
          5. Figure all square footage costs do not forget utilities and communication costs....yes you will need internet
          6. How to make money?
          Charge admission?
          have doggie day care and grooming as well and take a piece of the action?
          have doggie activities like shows and picnics?
          7. Marketing plan
          8. Money
          9. Building/space lease negotiations
          10. ordering fixtures and setting up contractors....get contracts in order and be prepared to hold them to it and have oversight on the project from someone you trust and who knows the building/remodel business (this wil be the biggest headache of the whole project).
          11. More marketing and more and more marketing blanket the town with fliers, cards, whatever.
          12. keep US here at the forum posted.
            • Re: Starting a new business, based on my current gig
              tigerente Wayfarer
              I have made up my mind on a lot of that stuff, I need to just take a few evenings, weekends and get it all written down and formalized. I am not the best writer, but I can always ask friends, family others to critique what I have written. I am looking at getting this up and running in a years time, does that sound unrealistic? Also, since I do not know much about renting commercial/ industrial spaces, is it too soon to call up commercial realestate people and asking for showings and getting info off of them. I would love to see what I might be able to rent and what kinds of necessary adjustments that I would be allowed to do on a commercial space. I am looking for about 10,000 square feet, and I have been looking at rental stuff on line and they say things like gross leases, something about NNN, and a bunch of stuff that I know absolutely nothing about. Apparently the leases around here run for about $10-$20/ square foot per year. $8,000-$16,000 a month! Plus utilities and operation costs, it all seems so daunting! And hiring employees, when would I do that? What about insurance (my current insurance company doesn't do businesses like this, just dog walkers and pet sitters)? I would make all who enter sign a waiver, use at your own risk, releasing me from liability. My mom knows some stuff about business law, but should I consult with a lawyer?
              Sorry if I seemed paniced, it just seems like I have taken the first step off a cliff and it is a long fall to the bottom!
              • Re: Starting a new business, based on my current gig
                LUCKIEST Guide
                DomainDiva, Great answer. Want to become an online SCORE Counselor??
                • Re: Starting a new business, based on my current gig
                  CorpCons08 Ranger
                  I was going to post a response, but you did a great job on this one DomainDiva.

                • Re: Starting a new business, based on my current gig
                  Generation4 Adventurer
                  As a fellow dog owner, I like how you said that you can only walk so many dogs - because I've seen dog walkers around my area - a few of them toting several dogs with different exercise needs grouped together. So, it sounds like you're a caring dog walker/sitter which is what every dog owner looks for. Congratulations on your successful venture thus far.

                  Before you consider opening up your own doggy day care, have you checked out the local competition in your surrounding area? For example, there is a doggy day care in my neighborhood that actually picks up and drops off the dogs. What would differenciate your offering? Are you going to lure existing customers away from other doggy day care centers, or do you plan to generate new business - such as convince existing dog owners that it's easier if they take their pooch to the doggy day care. A lot of these places are based on reputation and referrals - so it's great that you're already in the business and from the sound of it, created a solid reputation already.

                  As you know - starting a business is no easy task - so have you first considered expanding your existing business - - such as hiring other pet walkers, sitters, etc. to work for you to create a larger network before you may need to plunker down a large amount of cash & time to start the indoor day care? Whatever you decide, it sounds like you have a good head on your shoulders. Good luck.
                    • Re: Starting a new business, based on my current gig
                      tigerente Wayfarer
                      It is hard to say about competition. I would be doing limited doggy day care, probably just to my existing clients and a few more. There are no indoor dog parks in the area where owners can bring their own dogs, well that is not true. There is one doggy day care that opens its doors on saturdays for people to bring their dogs in to play. The outdoor dog parks always have anywhere from 10-200 dogs in them at a time, and there are a lot of them in the area. There are a large population of singles and couples without children, but with dogs. I guess the question is, would people be willing to pay to use a facility like this, since there are no others in the area. Think of it as a doggy gym. When human gyms first came out, I bet people thought they were silly. Why would someone want to go and run indoors when they could just go outside? I know a lot of people that would want to use this, but probably not enough to support my business goals. I guess I could just start asking people, but I don't want people to steal my idea or something.
                      I have thought about expanding my business, but it would be really hard. I would have to suddenly over night have way more clients or something. Because it costs so much to hire employees, I don't know what I would do. Contract employees maybe? I would have to find work for them and pay them a percentage of what they earned. I just don't know enough about it to say if it would be cost effective. There are already a lot of large scale dog walking companies around here. I know a few people that work for them. I just don't know if there is a big enough market to have one more large scale pet services business. I want to try to corner a market that doesn't exist here yet.
                        • Re: Starting a new business, based on my current gig
                          Generation4 Adventurer
                          Here is my two cents: Have you tried asking your existing customers if they would like would use such a facility and if so, what would they like to see in it? I think that's your best bet - ask around.
                          • Re: Starting a new business, based on my current gig
                            Lighthouse24 Ranger

                            Gen4 suggested to do some research by asking around, although you had indicated a hesitancy to do that previously because someone might "steal" your idea. I really wouldn't worry about that -- you can already see how much work this is going to be, and nobody except a person with your vision, passion, and energy is going to bother with all that work. Talk to those dog owners and community members -- both to help you get the information to move forward, to confirm that you really are onto something, to discover if anyone else in your city has the same vision as you and is also working on it. Best of luck!
                            1 of 1 people found this helpful
                        • Re: Starting a new business, based on my current gig
                          LUCKIEST Guide
                          Anybody starting a business (even if your mom is a small business accountant) should develop a Business
                          and Marketing Plan. I am a SCORE Counselor. SCORE helps people in business FREE.
                          SCORE will help you figure out what you need to succeed. You can visit SCORE online or in person.
                          Good Luck, LUCKIEST.
                          • Re: Starting a new business, based on my current gig
                            LUCKIEST Guide
                            Writing a BUSINESS PLAN. SCORE at '" has 26 FREE online courses
                            including "Developing a Business Plan" and "Targeting Your Market"
                            Hope this helps. LUCKIEST
                            • Re: Starting a new business, based on my current gig
                              sueellen Newbie
                              Hi there,
                              Where are you based? I've been thinking about an indoor dog park for a while and/or getting into another type of animal care business but I'm looking for a business partner as this is not my background. I'm in Boston and would be interested in talking to you.
                                • Re: Starting a new business, based on my current gig
                                  tigerente Wayfarer
                                  Not sure why, but I posted this a bit ago and it never showed up. I was able to find my text though by back clicking on the browser. So if it shows up twice, not my fault! Maybe...:P

                                  I am in seattle. Boston is a little far for me to move to run a place .
                                  Feel free to ask me any qs about running a pet business. I have vet experience as well as retail pet experience too.

                                  I have had a new idea on how to raise funds for my indoor dog park. I could sell my current business when it is time. As in, I have found a space that will work and have concrete plans to advertising and marketing and I have already found potential members. Now the big question is, how much could I sell my dog walking business for realistically? It would come with an exhisiting client base, a doggy transporting subaru station wagon and training of how I run things. And maybe my website if I am in a giving mood.
                                  I gross about $2000 a month and my monthly expenses are $200 for gas, $35 for business insurance, about $20 for supplies (poop bags and tennis balls, etc.) My hours are 11 am to 4pm most days. The hours and schedules are flexible my client base is great (mostly, I might lose one or two people if I sell it off, the rest would understand and be helpfull even).
                                  I could sell it to another dog walker, but they would not need the vehicle probably which I would want to get rid of (the smell will never be the same).

                                  I am so ready for this to happen. It is the height of my third winter doing this and I am getting sick of hosing and toweling 10 wet and muddy dogs every day. I NEED an indoor dog park!
                                    • Re: Starting a new business, based on my current gig
                                      LUCKIEST Guide
                                      tiger, naybe this will help. LUCKIEST
                                      h3. 6 Steps to Small Business Success

                                      1. Start Smart
                                      2. Plan Ahead
                                      3. Set up Systems
                                      4. Seek out Sales
                                      5. Aim for Growth
                                      6. Leverage Opportunities



                                      1. Start Smart.
                                      Identify a niche. Don't compete to be the lowest cost provider. Look
                                      for what makes your product or service unique and adds a special value
                                      for the client and charge for that value. Every business has many
                                      facets. Start with what you know and like; start a business that has
                                      meaning to you. Keep in mind that we don't know what the future holds,
                                      many of the jobs and businesses of tomorrow don't exist today. You can
                                      create your own success.


                                      Now is the time to dream. To start smart, you should like the idea of
                                      the business. The way to earn a good income and build wealth is by
                                      serving clients well, making their life better in some way-it's more
                                      than filling a need in the marketplace. To succeed you want to test the
                                      idea to make sure your potential clients like the idea too. Test your

                                      2. Plan Ahead.
                                      People often ask me why bother with a business plan? Look at the
                                      lottery as an example. You may get lucky and get the winning ticket,
                                      but the odds are against you when you rely on random chance. I'm a risk
                                      taker...but not that much, minimize the risk of going into business and
                                      maximize your potential for success. Take the time to write a plan of
                                      how you get from point A to point B. A plan gives you a clear future
                                      focus and increases your chances of success.


                                      The first rule of a start-up is put some of your own money in the
                                      business. As the owner you must be willing to capitalize the business.
                                      The second rule is put as little of your own money as possible in the
                                      business. Prepare your plan and look for funding for your business from
                                      multiple sources, which can include a business loan or business line of


                                      Don't go it alone. Plan ahead now to build your team. Your team may
                                      include a CPA and an attorney that you work with as needed. Add a
                                      mentor from your industry and get a SCORE mentor to help you plan for
                                      success. No one has all the answers. You get more ideas and information
                                      by building a success, support team that can help you plan ahead.

                                      3. Set up Systems.
                                      The most basic system every business should have is a good financial
                                      system. Ask yourself how am I going to generate enough income to
                                      support myself and my family. Begin here. Put together a personal
                                      budget, so you know what it costs you to live. Now, you can move on to
                                      the business budget and sales planning, so you can see how many sales
                                      you need to break even and make a profit. The start-up expense plan,
                                      operating budget and your accounting software are vital to your



                                      4. Seek out Sales.
                                      The daunting question is how do you go about seeking out your first
                                      sale. Recognize that since you don't have a big ad budget to be seen by
                                      everyone, you need to target a niche and get connected in your market
                                      community, be it local, regional or national. You need other people
                                      selling for you-not employees-goodwill referrals. Get out and talk to
                                      as many people as you can. Join organizations that would have clients
                                      for your product or service. Become a visible part of your market, and
                                      then ask for the sale. You begin the sales process with people that you
                                      know. Yes, it's okay to start with friends and family as your first
                                      customers, and then broaden from there.



                                      5. Aim for Growth.
                                      The basic tenant of creating a company is that you own the company. You
                                      are not just creating a job for yourself. It's less risk and less
                                      investment to get a job. Building a business is creating a company that
                                      is more than the job itself. Think about the future. How large do you
                                      want the company to be in terms of sales, net profit and employees?
                                      Your answer to each of these questions will influence how you grow.
                                      There are varying costs and profits associated with growth. It's
                                      important to make a deliberate choice early about how you want to grow
                                      your company.


                                      6. Leverage Opportunities.
                                      Good luck. Good fortune. Good timing. All play a part in business. As a
                                      business owner, be very clear about your core focus for the business
                                      and how it serves clients. Your core business is what pays the bills.
                                      Then, as an entrepreneur you are about opportunity. When you see a
                                      potential opportunity or stroke of luck measure it against your core
                                      business focus. Good fortune is great, when it matches your vision for
                                      the business. Always consider if a good opportunity is the right fit
                                      for your business. If something looks great, but it's not in sync with
                                      your long-term plan and budget, think carefully before committing your
                                      company's resources.
                                  • Re: Starting a new business, based on my current gig
                                    slavaret Adventurer
                                    As a former dog owner, I like the idea.

                                    From a practical standpoint: dogs need to be walked to relieve themselves. They also like to mark their territory and "check each other out". How would you maintain/clean the indoor facility and how would you convince the landlord that dog excrement inside the building will not be a problem or health hazard?

                                    What city/county/state regulations will apply? What will the neighbors say about the noise and traffic? Paperwork/vaccination requirements...

                                    Just seems to me that a lot depends on your ability to find the right location - something abandoned that nobody else wants that you can turn around to everybody's benefit.
                                      • Re: Starting a new business, based on my current gig
                                        tigerente Wayfarer

                                        I have been to quite a few doggy day care places and they all use this special rubberized flooring that is easy to clean and doesn't hold bacteria. It also provides traction for the dogs to run. I would also encourage people to allow their dogs to go potty before entering, and going out for a break if need be. As far as landlords go, I know that anything is allowed for a price ;).
                                        I am planning on opening it in one of the industrial sections near downtown so noise wouldn't be an issue. All owners would be required to show proof of vaccinations and dogs and owners would be on a three strikes your out policy for things like aggression and non compliance of cleaning waste. I would have a person that would supervise and enforce these rules.
                                        I would love to sort of model it after this place if I had a million $$ to get it up and running...

                                        I have been researching permits that I may need, but have been overwhelmed by the ammount of info out there. I am not sure about where to go to find out exactly what I need. I suppose I will have to contact the city somehow and talk with a real live person, rotflmao!
                                          • Re: Starting a new business, based on my current gig
                                            slavaret Adventurer
                                            I like the way you sound. I think you have what it takes to pull it off.

                                            I think you need to write things down to make sure you have everything covered and to prioritize. Nothing formal or fancy. It will turn itself into a business plan once the numbers begin to make sense.

                                            I would focus on the numbers to show profitability and talk to as many dog people as possible to guage their interest and/or commitment. When you and your mom feel comfrotable with the numbers, you can set up an LLC or a corporation. With those 2 things in hand (profits and stock) you can start asking ppl for commitment. Profits get people's interest, stock makes it easy to come onboard. It can be an investor, a partner - you never know what/who you'll be able to get.

                                            But I think the bottom line is - you can sell, once ppl feel you've done your homework and the numbers are solid.
                                              • Re: Starting a new business, based on my current gig
                                                slavaret Adventurer
                                                Forgot to mention: about 15 years ago, there was a company called Discovery Zone that went public. Indoor play grounds for kids - safe, secure, supervised, with sections for different age groups, a food court, etc.

                                                They went bankrupt eventually (took on too much debt) but it goes to show that Wall Street saw enough potential to take them public. That's all you need.
                                                  • Re: Starting a new business, based on my current gig
                                                    tigerente Wayfarer
                                                    Discovery zone sounds like this place in the town where I grew up called Tube Time. It was all indoors, kind of like a Mcdonalds play ground, but a lot bigger and bigger kids (and adults) could play in it. You could rent it out and spend the night there. I guess it closed recently after about 15-20 years.
                                                    But if I could open a somewhat successfull business for that long, I'd be happy!
                                                      • Re: Starting a new business, based on my current gig
                                                        slavaret Adventurer

                                                        It was big and with different sections for different ages. I believe there were several chains. Discovery Zone was the one that managed to go public.
                                                          • Re: Starting a new business, based on my current gig
                                                            tigerente Wayfarer
                                                            Forgive me if I sound young and inexperienced (I am :) ) But what is the best way to gauge the publics interest? I have talked to a lot of the dog walkers and dog owners that I know and they are all interested and seem to think it is a good idea, but how can I find out what people would be willing to pay? I know that interest and actually joining are two totally different things. Since there are no other business like this, I can't compare rates like I did when I started dog walking. Should I just ask people bluntly if they would pay $5 or $10 to use an indoor dog park for an afternoon? I know that I would need to sell admissions in daily amounts, weekly, monthly, etc. I just don't know what people would be willing to pay.
                                                            I personally would pay about $5 per dog not to have to clean them off after their romps! I would offer discounts to the dog walkers so I know that'd bring in a lot of business.
                                                            Should I also ask non-dog owners for their opinions?
                                                            Does anybody have any idea of what I should do to try and sell off my dog walking business when the time comes? Is there another area that would be better to ask in?
                                                              • Re: Starting a new business, based on my current gig
                                                                slavaret Adventurer
                                                                People like to be positive. As long as they don't have to commmit or pay - they will LIKE THE IDEA. Doesn't really mean much. Just being nice.

                                                                I would do a one page "survey" with a few simple questions and go around asking dog owners, walkers, vets, shop owners, etc. Just a few simple questions. Something like:

                                                                I am reasearching the idea of an indoor dog playground / day care.

                                                                1) Do you think it's a good idea? Yes/No. Why/why not?

                                                                IF YES:

                                                                2) Would you use it? Yes/No. Why/Why not?

                                                                IF YES:

                                                                3) How far will you be willing to travel to drop off your dog? <5 / 5-10 / 10 - 20 miles?

                                                                4) What amenities should be provided? list several you are thinging off Anything else?

                                                                5) What would be a reasonable daily price for this kind of service? 5/10/15?

                                                                6) Anything else? suggestions, comments

                                                                Something like that. Simple. Don't confuse people with pricing models. Non dog owners probably won't care. They certainly won't pay. Just keep good records. That will be your market servey for the business plan.
                                                                  • Re: Starting a new business, based on my current gig
                                                                    tigerente Wayfarer
                                                                    Thank you, that survey is excellent! I should send it to all my clients and see what they say. Of course I don't want to scare them into thinking that I am abandoning them to persue something else! But they would be the type of person that would use the facility. They come home too late from work in the evening to want to take their dog to the dog park. It is already dark and they are tired. But now they would have a safe, temperature controlled environment that they could take their dog to. Very few of my clients have children so their dogs are their babies and most of them would do anything for their pups. Same with all the hundreds of other latchkey dogs I know ;).
                                                    • Re: Starting a new business, based on my current gig
                                                      css1985 Wayfarer

                                                      The word is Diversify. We can direct you to a company that shared over $400 million to businesses or individuals who want to add to their own incomes. They don't want you to risk investing your money. They simply want people to get to know them and then using their web sites to direct people to them. They have seen phenomenal growth in the last few months and seen 23 years of continual growth. The economy is actually helping them.


                                                      This is where our company comes in ......see our profile and what we do on this online community site. Or contact John at Community Service Systems Inc .


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