Wondering how to start a dog daycare and boarding business? In this article we’ll cover everything you need to know to get started quickly.
Choosing a Name
First up you’ll need a name. Don’t spend a huge amount of time on this. Read our quick article on brainstorming a name and checking it for trademarks and availability.
If the USPTO database says there are no trademarks, the URL is available to purchase, and the name is open to register as a business with your State’s Secretary of State office then you are good to go.
Before you register anything though you should consider whether you want to run a pet kennel from home or if you want to lease commercial space.
Working from a Home
If zoning for your home allows it then you may want to consider working from home. Renting commercial space and hiring staff are two of the largest expenses you’ll face.
Of course, if your home isn’t in a convenient location for clients you’ll suffer a bit.
Figuring out your zoning can be a huge pain, even in major cities.
For example, in Denver you’ll first need to search their zoning map for your property and figure out it’s zoning code. Then once you know the code you’ll need to read your area’s limitations and definitions document to see what’s allowed in that code.
The above example is just for Denver. For your own situation just google “[Your County or City] zoning” and try to find the map and the definitions and limitations document.
If that fails then call your local county or state development office. It’s the office where you’d get building permits. They should be able to help you determine if your property can house a dog kennel.
Keep in mind also that some counties and cities, like Denver, require special licenses to run a pet kennel. Read Denver’s webpage on getting a kennel license if you want to see what that process is like. Similarly, google “[Your County or City] kennel license” to see if one is required for your area.
Also, check with your general liability insurance if the even offer insurance when your kennel is home-based. That could be a deal killer.
Leasing Commercial Space
Commercial space doesn’t come cheap. On the low end, expect to pay $10 to $15 per square foot in further out areas or unwanted shopping centers. On the high end, expect to pay $25 and up per square foot.
In addition you’ll need to buy cages, cleaning gear, and a basic front desk area setup. Of course, you’ll need to do that as well for a home-based location. If possible and if zoning, regulations, and client convenience allow start with a home-based setup. You can fill it with all the basic office, kennel cages, and outdoor run areas needed.
Then later when you are in a positive cash flow setup get a commercial lease to expand.
Registering Your Business
Most states will require you to register your business with their Secretary of State office. In addition, some cities, counties, and states require you to obtain a kennel license.
Start with your State’s Secretary of State office and register there. Then check for required kennel licenses.
Forming an LLC for Protection
This step is optional but we highly highly recommend it in addition to liability insurance which we’ll cover next.
You can setup an Limited Liability Corporation also through your State’s Secretary of State office.
In Colorado where we are based it’s a simple $50 fee plus filing the articles of incorporation. That’s little more than a short application.
In addition you’ll also need an Operating Agreement. You can get free templates online.
With LLCs you are getting into legal territory. We aren’t lawyers so seek your own legal counsel on this. You can also use services like legalzoom.com at super reasonable rates to help you set this up.
Don’t make the mistake we did though. We hired an expensive service to do this all for us. Then we never read our operating agreement.
In many ways it’s better to get a template online, change it for your situation, then have your lawyer review it. At least then you’ll fully understand what you’ll be required to do to separate your LLC from your personal assets.
Things like having a separate business bank account, keeping regular LLC meetings and minutes, and updating your operating agreement are all key.
General Liability Insurance
In addition to an LLC we highly recommend you get quotes for and obtain General Liability Insurance. Again, we aren’t lawyers. Seek legal counsel on this but do so and get things setup right so you don’t get sued.
Here’s a few pet business friendly options for General Liability Insurance:
At first we recommend starting with dog daycare and dog boarding. Later you can add grooming, training, and other services as desired.
See our in-depth look at average kennel services and pricing here. Pricing was based on local Kennels in the Denver Metro area.
Almost all of them sold daycare or boarding individually and as packages.
Monday through Friday daycare packages plus 7 to 14 day vacation boarding packages were great.
When and if you decide to expand, adding training services to a daycare or vacation package is a great way to increase the Lifetime Value (LTV) of each customer.
Knowing your LTV is also a key metric you’ll want to measure and track. It’s simply the total average revenue each customer hires you for.
One easy way to measure it is to divide your annual revenue by number of customers. Do that quarterly and check to see if it’s staying flat (OK), going up (great), or going down (bad).
Adding package deals or add-on grooming or training are great ways to get your LTV to increase. Increasing your LTV is a great way to increase revenue without having to increase commercial space or move to a new facility.
Google My Business
Your first stop to begin marketing is to register your business and address with Google My Business. That will allow clients to find you through google maps on their phone.
The service is free. You can get started here.
Quick Steps to Setup Google My Business Right
- Sign up here.
- Read the guidelines and policy from Google here.
- Don’t break Google’s rules!
- Add lots of photos. According to Google business profiles with photos get 35% more clicks to their websites and 42% more requests for directions. (source)
- Add pricing
- Start getting reviews from past and current clients
- Monitor any low star reviews that come in and respond to those reviews.
Don’t offer to pay bad reviewers to change their ratings. Do respond to all negative reviews, apologize as needed, and see what you can do to fix things in the future.
Managing a Google My Business account isn’t hard but it takes management. Bad reviews can ruin things.
On the contrary, lots of great reviews will give you more visibility and more clients flowing in. Plus all of this is free.
As stated above your best source of free marketing in the beginning is to setup a Google My Business profile, add lots of pictures, and ask for reviews.
In addition you should be asking every client for referrals. Create coupons to give to clients so they recommend a friend then both get a discount.
Give out coupons to entice current and past clients to leave you a review on Google My Business.
Setup an instagram account and Facebook business account. Take lots of pictures. Keep adding those pictures to Google My Business, Facebook, and Instagram.
Have your phone number and email available at all three locations.
Keep adding content and clients will come. Never stop adding pictures. Eventually have a staff member maintain these accounts for you. It doesn’t take a lot of time but it can be annoying when you have other issues to solve.
This is another can of worms. Start with the free services above. Once you have a decent amount of positive cash flow ask yourself – do you want to speed up growth or just keep growing organically?
Paid ads can help you speed up things fast. Expect it to cost you either $5,000 to $10,000 in wasted ad spend learning how to do. Conversely you can hire a marketing company to do this for you.
Another version of “paid marketing” that we practice is to build out a blog on your website. Pay others to write the articles for you. You’ll need to do keyword research to find things that people are searching for related to kennels.
Then you’ll write or pay others to write articles on those topics. Post them to your blog and interlink all of them. As with paid marketing there are marketing companies that will do this for you. Of those out there we recommend Matthew Woodward’s marketing company. He’s helped us increase google search traffic to Petloverguy.com.
Matthew helps a ton of ecommerce and local brick and mortar businesses. You can read his tutorials online for free. That’ll give you an idea of what he offers or you can take his advice and implement it yourself which is what we do.
If you hire him expect to pay a few thousand a month for him to review your website and implement strategies to increase your traffic from google search.
We prefer building articles and google search traffic. Why? It persists after you stop. Once you’ve optimized your website and have tons of articles and content you’ll get long lasting traffic from Google.
Once you stop paying for Facebook or Instagram ads the traffic stops immediately.