Man’s best friend could be your best business opportunity. From tail wags to sloppy kisses and long days filled with animal admiration, opening or buying a kennel can be rewarding far beyond your potential profits.
But before you let your inner pet lover drive your business-buying decision, be sure to consider everything, including potential costs and challenges, that make up the pet services and boarding industry to determine if buying a kennel is the right career choice.
About the business owner
Before we get into key considerations, it’s important to self-assess your personal aptitude.
Consider not only accommodating to a variety of different breeds and personalities, but also the stresses, skills, and keenness that’s required to run a successful small business.
If you don’t have a lot of experience working with pets, consider volunteering at your local SPCA or other animal-focused organization.
To better prepare, you may also want to consider animal certificate programs to learn the appropriate safety and care protocols and earn some credentials that will help win over future customers.
You should also begin forming relationships with local resources, like veterinarians for emergency services and wholesale pet supplies retailers to ensure you can outsource necessary equipment, materials, and services.
Use a Lean Business Plan as a tool to get started
Any time you’re thinking of starting or acquiring a business, it’s a good idea to put together a Lean Business Plan to help you think through each aspect of your business before you invest your time and resources.
Here’s an example of a full kennel business plan, which you’ll want to consider putting together if you plan to apply for a loan or outside investment. You can write your initial plan in less than an hour using this free template, and you’ll have a better sense of what it will take to get started. This startup checklist can also help you make sure nothing falls through the cracks as you get up and running.
There are a few areas that are particularly important to consider for prospective kennel owners—we’ll go over those next.
Consider your local demographics: Market research
Before making a purchase, do your market research. Consider factors such as the average household income, industry competition (other pet boarding services), future economic projections, median age, the number of families in the area (as families tend to have dogs), etc.
If you’re buying an existing business, thoroughly review the books and reach out to previous customers to understand how you can better the facilities, and ultimately improve the quality of your services to increase your investment returns and cater to your customers.
If you’re starting a brand new business, consider running an MVP version of your service, where you offer limited pet boarding services without investing in all the infrastructure you’d need to run a full fledge kennel business.
Pricing your services
Determine your pricing structure from your competition, and adjust based on additional services and amenities that differentiate your facility and team. For example, offer a standard stay vs. boarding with premium services, like grooming, extra play time, and training.
Consider adding referral or frequent visitor discounts to incentivize and reward your most loyal customers. For additional revenue, consider where you can make extra money, such as selling toys, treats, and pet supplies, or offering monthly packages where customers who need frequent care can pay a flat rate (like a subscription) for stays per month, six months, or over the full year.
Necessary job skills
While you don’t need to be a veterinarian to run a successful kennel business, you do need the skills to manage the gamut of breeds, customers, and employees that come with your new facility. You’ll probably need to hire a kennel manager, kennel attendants, a receptionist, and depending on your business model, special services like a groomer or a trainer.
Most facilities offer 24-hour animal supervision, so ensure you’re in a position to hire for continuous coverage. Look for employees that are consistent, hardworking, fun-loving, and collaborative. If you’re purchasing an existing business, vet the current employees to your new business standards, and don’t be afraid to re-create a team that meets your quality, brand, and business requirements.
Grow through advertising efforts
To acquire clients, consider advertising costs in local publications, social media, newspaper and magazine ads, digital marketing, and mass mailers.
As a business owner, you’ll need to be creative. Stop into local businesses, schools, and community centers to post flyers, and consider forming referral partnerships with key players in your area, like your local chamber of commerce or animal adoption center. Host a launch event, ongoing training, open play, or information sessions to establish your business as more than just a pet boarding center for the community.
Startup and additional costs
Everything from facility upgrades, insurance, equipment, overhead, and marketing costs should be considered as initial and recurring investments through the life of your business. At the beginning of your business, be sure to keep savings aside for emergencies, such as a burst pipe or unexpected disaster. Use the majority of your early profits into reinvestments to better your business.
Review your costs and cash flow, and keep detailed records of business spending and time allocated to tasks, such as meeting with bookkeepers and employee scheduling, to continually re-adjust your business strategy for efficiencies.
Paws Daycare provides a high-level overview of kennel upstart costs:
There’s a lot to consider when it comes to owning a kennel facility. If you’re thorough thoughtful about running your business, and keep the same excitement you feel when you come home to your pet every day, then you’ll be well on your way to running your area’s most successful pet boarding facility.
For more on what it takes to start a successful pet business, check out Joanna’s story of starting Trots Dogs, a dog boarding and walking business.