It’s a dirty job but someone’s gotta do it. That phrase may sound trite, but it’s true! And, that “dirty job” could be very profitable for you! Pet owners enjoy playing with their pets, walking them, teaching them tricks and more, but no sane person likes cleaning up their messes. That’s what a Pet-Waste Removal Business is for! It could be a part time job to help you finance your future plans, or it could even become a lifelong career. If you are interested in this business, here are some steps and ideas to get you started:
1. Decide If You Are Fit For the Job
The first step is to determine if this occupation is truly for you. Here are some questions to consider:
Do you get grossed out easily? (If the answer is “yes” I think you know the answer to it!)
Are you very motivated?(You need to be motivated in starting any business.)
Do you have some extra money to invest? (It varies, but you need some money to get you started. It will pay for supplies, advertising, and more.)
Do you enjoy being around animals? (This one’s obvious.)
Do you have reliable transportation?(You will need an excellent vehicle to get you to your client’s homes.)
Can you work outside in hot or cold temperatures?(The pets don’t stop their business in bad weather.)
Can you truly imagine yourself picking up pet feces all day long?(It’s very repetitive, can you handle doing basically the same thing over and over?)
Is there a demand for this business in your area? (If you live in an area with families that are middle class or above, the business will probably do fine.)
If you still enjoy working with pets, but aren’t cut out for the pet waste removal business, you might consider becoming a pet-sitter for families on vacation. Read “How to Start a Pet-Sitting Business” for more information.
2. Visit with Other Pet Waste Removal Business Owners
To obtain an idea of what this job is really like, the next step is to get in contact with people already in the business. You might get a feel of the challenges, and benefits of this job. One excellent resource is the message boards at http://pooper-scooper.com. The forum has many active users who will be happy to answer your questions. You can also read their advice on everything from tools, to get customers to pay on time, advertising and more. The site is run by Matthew Osburn, founder of the very successful business “Pet Butler.” Be sure to read his story. There is even a chat room on the site. Another resource to try is the forum at http://www.pooperoni.com.
3. Get Help from the SBA
If you’re launching any business, the Small Business Administration (SBA) is an excellent resource. They can help answer your questions regarding licensing, taxes, start-up loans, and much more. A counselor can meet you with you in person to assist you. You can also attend workshops and classes. Tolocate your local office, click on http://www.sba.gov/. Another site to try is http://www.asbdc-us.org/.
4. Contact Your City’s Waste Management Services
The next task is to call your city’s solid waste department to check up on waste removal regulations. It most cases you will be able to bag or double-bag the waste and dispose of it in your customer’s nearest dumpster. Or, you might have to possibly transport the bagged waste yourself to an appropriate location. Look online or in the phone book for the number to Waste Management Services or call your city’s information hot line.
5. Decide on a Business Name
Sometimes the name of a business can make all the difference. The cuter and catchier it is, the more customers might be interested in it. Try to come up with a fun, possibly humorous name for your business. Or, you could even just name it after your town, such as “Parkland’s Perky Pet Waste Removal.” If you are stuck for ideas, ask your friends and family for suggestions.
6. Get Necessary Licenses
Depending on the rules in your city, you might need to get a DBA (“Doing Business As”) License. You might also have to fill out other necessary paperwork. Check with the SBA for more details.
7. Purchase Tools and Supplies
Your next job is to have the tools and supplies ready. Truthfully, what you get is up to you. It could simply be a shovel, disposal bags, and disposable gloves. You might obtain a rake as well. You can also search online for handy tools such as these. You will also need to purchase supplies to disinfect the tools. For more ideas and suggestions, visit the Pooper Scooper Forums.
8. Consider Hiring an Accountant
If you feel you are very knowledgeable in taxes for small businesses, you can skip this one. But, if you’re an average joe when it comes to handling money, consider hiring an accountant. He/she will (hopefully) make sure you the IRS doesn’t coming banging on your door next year.
9. Join Your Local Chamber of Commerce
There are numerous advantages to becoming a member of the Chamber of Commerce. It will provide many networking opportunities, offer business support, and have educational seminars and workshops. The fee to join is well worth it! You might get some advertising out of it on their web-site as well. It also demonstrates how you support your community and are investing in yourself. To find your local Chamber of Commerce, just google your city/town’s name and “Chamber of Commerce.” Or, look in the phone book.
10. Apply for Liability Insurance
This is a must. One resource to try is Pet Sitters Associates, LLC. They offer liability insurance for pooper-scoopers. Visit http://www.petsitllc.com/ for more information.
11. Join aPaws
The next task to complete is to join aPaws – the Association of Professional Animal Waste Specialists. It offers multiple resources on helping your business grow, and can even provide discounts on supplies and tools. Your business will also be listed in an international directory. The dues are $85 per year, plus $25 for each additional state that you serve. You will have access to a helpful message board, learn the latest information on legal issues, and attend an annual convention if you’d like. For an application, visit http://www.apaws.org.
12. Set Your Rates
Now it’s time for the fun part, decide how much money you want to earn! You want to keep it reasonable, but at the same time you need to make a good profit. Consider the cost of gas, supplies, and advertising. You might set up weekly, twice weekly, twice monthly, or one-time rates. If there is already a pet waste removal business in your area, set your rates below theirs, at least for now. You can always raise your rates later on. You might give discounts for multiple pets, or for paying in advance. It depends on the cost of living in your area, but it could be about $10 to $40 a week, depending on how often you visit. You might look at the web-sites of other pet waste removal businesses (just google it) and check out their rates.
13. Set Up a Web-Site
This is not essential, but it could mean much more income for your business and determine how successful it will be. Even a very simple site could be profitable. You might try building one on your own through sites like www.yahoo.com, www.homestead.com, and www.aplus.net. It is really not that hard to create a site. Alternately, you can hire someone to create and maintain it for you.
14. Create Business Cards
You need business cards to promote your services! If you want to save some money at first, you could simply create them at home with your computer and printer using a kit. There are also sellers on eBay who would be thrilled to make cards for you. You might also find someone locally who will print them.
15. Begin Advertising Your Business
Now it’s time to gain customers so you can profit from your hard work! Your next step is to market your business. You might start off very slowly, to be careful not to overwhelm yourself. Here are some ideas for advertising:
Create and Post Fliers Around Town: This is one of the least expensive, but still very effective, methods of advertising. Create several posters and hang them on any community bulletin board you see – it might be at grocery stores, coffee shops, gas stations and more. You might also look into leaving them in places such as veterinary offices, dog grooming businesses, and boarding kennels. It never hurts to ask!
Craigslist: This one is FREE! It could bring you some business, you never know! Just visit www.craiglist.org, choose your area and place a free ad.
Local Paper Advertisement: If you live in a larger city, you might not be able to afford this one at first. If you are in a small town, even a tight budget could allow for a local paper ad. Most newspapers have a “Yellow Pages” ad section, where you pay a fee to have your business listed every day for at least a month. That is the best way to go, since a one-time only ad might be missed by potential customers. Call your local paper’s advertising department and they’ll be happy to meet with you.
Telephone Book Listing: The phone book is sometimes the only advertising that very successful businesses use. Obviously, it comes out just once a year, so you should contact them as soon as possible to be included in the next printing. You might even consider including a coupon, say 10% off a month of services, that will help boost the business.
Booth at a Community Fair / Expo Show Most larger towns and cities host a “Home and Garden Show” every year. Businesses can rent booths where they can meet potential customers in person. Most county fairs will rent booths for businesses as well. Some craft shows would be more than happy to rent you a space too. This provides a chance to meet pet owners face-to-face, and you can give them your business card and other information. It’s also a great time to hand out promotional items – preferable something for the pet. It could be a pet toy with your business name on it. A simple pencil or magnet would be fine as well. There are several online sites to order from, or try Absorbent Printing, where you can order pet bowls, leashes and more that advertise your business.
Ad in Free Community Papers / Magazines: An advertisement in a free community publication can be effective but less expensive than your local paper. Most larger communities have a newspaper or magazine for elderly residents. (See if you can find a copy at your local library.) You will reach many retirees who have pets, but have no desire to clean up after them! American Classifieds is also a great paper to advertise in. Most towns and cities have at least one free publication for families, which is another excellent advertising avenue. Some cities, such as Altanta and Oklahoma City have a pet service directory, which (of course) is the ultimate place to advertise.
Mail Outs: You’d be surprised at how effective this would be. You can purchase a mailing list from companies such as InfoUSA or AllMedia, where you can narrow a list down by income and if they own pets or not. You could mail these potential customers fliers or postcards. Or, if you want to get really creative, you could mail them a promotional products such as a pen or magnet. Try to avoid telemarketing though, ou would just annoy a lot of people.
Magnetic Car Sign: This advertisement is relatively inexpensive. It’s like a mini-traveling billboard. It might not be as effective, but it is still a great way to publicize your business. A local sign printing company could probably make it for you, or check out http://www.magneticsignsontime.com/.
Billboard: Billboard advertising is costly, but can produce great results. Truthfully you probably won’t need it, but this is another option to have.
Sponsor a Children’s Sports Team: In some area, children’s sports teams, such as soccer and softball, need sponsors to pay for uniforms, etc. In exchange the team is named after the business and their uniforms are basically walking ads. The little players will never forget being sponsored by a Pet-Waste removal service! Alternately, you can also purchase a sign on a sport’s field. It demonstrates that you are helping the community, and can get the word about your business out.
In reality, the best advertising can be word-of-mouth. Once you have your first customers and start providing excellent services, your good reputation will be out!
16. Accept Your First Customer
It could be immediately, or it could take some time. But when you get your first customer, be friendly, professional, and provide excellent service. You will need to meet with them beforehand, so they can show you the yard, etc. Be sure to always, always double check that you have locked the gate when you leave. Treat all customers as if they were your first.
17. Keep Up the Good Work
As time goes by, you will establish more customers. To help you in improving the business, you might consider attending an aPaws convention. It will assist with networking, and teach you techniques to keep the business flourishing. It is also wise to stay active in the message boards, where you can learn from other’s mistakes and challenges. It is also great to keep your membership in the Chamber of Commerce and attend their meetings and workshops. You might reach a point where you will need to hire additional help. Good luck on your new business adventure!