There are few things more important to pet owners than their furry little bundles of joy.
While the pet business may be subject to the same unpredictable ebb and flow of any industry, there’s one certainty you can count on: people will never stop spoiling their pets.
That kind of opportunity is hard to pass up if you’ve got a passion for pets, but building a business from scratch takes more than an opportunity. If you’re currently fending off a barrage of questions about what to sell and where to find customers, know that every successful business owner has started in the exact same place.
Successful business owners aren’t without fear, but what sets them apart is their willingness to confront it. It’s not easy building a pet store from scratch, but with the right tools and an understanding of how to use them—it’s likely a lot easier than you think.
Let’s get started.
Table of Contents
- Sell pet supplies like bowls, toys, and beds
- Sell homemade pet treats
- Offer dog-walking and pet-sitting services
- Pet grooming
- Sell pet apparel
- Marketing: Tips for a profitable pet business
- Marketing: Start local
- Marketing: Use social media consistently
- Marketing: Familiarize yourself with blogging and SEO
- Marketing: Attend pet-industry events, trade shows, and conventions
- Build valuable customer relationships
Pet business ideas: 5 products and services to sell
Pet businesses come in all forms. Some provide services like walking and grooming, while others provide products like bowls and chew toys. Some pet stores target cat and dog owners, while others may specialize in more niche pets like reptiles and arachnids.
In the pet business, the key is to find a niche that’s large enough to provide sustainable patronage, but specific enough that it offers a chance to brand yourself in a distinct way.
With that in mind, let’s go over ideas for pet products and services you can provide.
1. Sell pet supplies like bowls, toys, and beds
Every pet owner needs basic supplies like food bowls, toys, and leashes. Yes, selling the basics puts you in competition with big-box pet stores, but don’t let that trick you into missing the huge opportunity here.
A market overflowing with options is a huge advantage for smaller businesses hoping to stake-out name recognition and build a brand.
Big-box pet stores tend to trigger a phenomenon called “choice paralysis”, where an overabundance of options makes it hard for customers to decide what to purchase, oftentimes resulting in no purchase at all.
A simple, well-branded line of basics is the exact type of collection that thrives in scenarios like this.
Pet owners love expressing their personalities through their pets. A one-of-a-kind brand with a unique selling proposition brings far more expressiveness than any large retailer, putting it in a better position to create customers invested in your success.
- Leaves more room to corner a niche market and differentiate your brand
- Combined with dropshipping, selling pet supplies can free up a lot of time to work on marketing or provide pet-related services
- Selling pet supplies puts additional importance on branding, which could be challenging if it’s not your strongest asset
Example: TEDDYBOB Pet Supplies
TEDDYBOB Pet Supplies is a BC-based retailer that provides all kinds of basic products for dog and cat owners.
While their collections are extensive, TEDDYBOB does a great job of narrowing the focus of their branding and cutting out any opportunities for choice paralysis. Despite selling everything from litter boxes to heating pads, their sleek, modern branding always acts as the unifying force behind their collections.
Aside from the occasional color variant, TEDDYBOB’s everyday supplies tend to have few options. This is smart because it means that if customers end up on the site for the basics, they’ll spend less time deciding which litter scoop to choose and more time browsing everything else.
2. Sell homemade pet treats
For people that love baking, creating foods and treats for pets can be an exciting, new way for you to practice your craft. With audiences becoming increasingly health-conscious, there’s also a lot of opportunities here to offer foods catered to pet owners looking for healthier options for their pets.
You might decide to sell treats for animals with specific dietary restrictions. You may sell functional treats, such as bones used to brush a dog’s teeth. You could sell soft treats, kibble, dried meats, and a whole host of things.
- A great outlet for creative expression with a lot of room to grow into the uniqueness of your brand
- Dogs are notoriously easy-to-please when it comes to food
- Cats are notoriously hard-to-please when it comes to food
- Since these products are being consumed, it’s extremely important that you’ve researched your ingredients and can confidently vouch for the safety of your product
Example: The Dog Bakery
The Dog Bakery is a California-based bakery that makes cookies, biscuits, chewy treats, and even custom cakes—all for dogs.
The Dog Bakery’s branding is simple but incredibly effective. It says “bakery” from top to bottom, but technically it’s a pet store. In addition to cakes and cookies, the Dog Bakery also sells collars, leashes, and chew toys.
It’s a notable twist that sticks in the minds of pet owners looking to spoil their good boys and girls. Combined with the easy-to-remember name, The Dog Bakery brand becomes hard to forget.
3. Offer dog walking and pet sitting services
If you’re considering a pet business, there’s a good chance you love pets. If you’re a dog person, dog walking can be a great way to make new dog friends, get exercise, and of course, make some extra money.
Service-based businesses like dog walking and pet sitting thrive on great customer service. A business such as this depends on trust that can only be achieved by maintaining valuable customer relationships.
- Great for more sociable entrepreneurs skilled at fostering valuable client relationships
- Provides one-on-one time with animals and can be therapeutic for people who find comfort in animal companionship
- As with many service-based businesses, you’re directly trading time for money
- Pet sitting and dog walking can become overwhelming very quickly if you’re not used to looking after multiple pets at the same time
Example: Let the Dog Out
Let the Dog Out (LTDO) is a dog walking service based in Guelph, Ontario. LTDO offers free Meet and Greet sessions meant to allow your dog a chance to meet their staff and become comfortable with their new babysitter.
LTDO puts a lot of emphasis on building personal relationships with its clients. No services are provided until the client’s dog has had a chance to meet the company’s staff and is assessed for compatibility.
For dog walking and pet sitting businesses, trust is extremely important. While they do offer other products, LTDO’s emphasis on easing new dogs into the service shows their dedication to the wellbeing of their client’s pets.
4. Pet grooming
- Customer loyalty tends to be stronger because of the high skill levels required of a professional groomer
- Grooming is a regularly required service so there’s a lot of potential for repeat business
- Grooming is a complex skill that can take quite a bit of time to learn
Example: barking babies™
Vancouver-based company barking babies™ is a boutique, spa, kennel, pet store and puppy-training facility all rolled into one. Services offered by barking babies™ include just about every dog-related service you can think of, putting a huge emphasis on the social aspect of dog health.
What’s unique about barking babies™ is its branding’s emphasis on community and companionship. Much of the barking babies™ website talks about the importance of socialization in dogs.
Combined with the photos of their current clients lovingly playing with each other, it almost plays on a sense of FOMO (fear of missing out), only for dogs.
Dog owners want the best for their pets and, from the outside, barking babies™ looks like the hottest new club. Combined with the wide range of services offered, this emphasis on the importance of the barking babies™ community is especially good for brand loyalty and encouraging repeat customers.
5. Sell pet apparel
If you’ve dabbled in fashion design and are up to the challenge, pet apparel can be an exciting new avenue to explore your creativity.
But even if you haven’t, clothing for pets has become so popular over the last couple of years that many suppliers, like those found through Oberlo, provide tons of shirts, outfits, and accessories designed specifically for dogs and cats.
Pet apparel also lends itself to niching very well. It won’t surprise you to learn that people can be as particular about their dog’s fashion choices as their own. With so many avenues of fashion yet to be explored as it pertains to dogs, there’s a lot of room for innovation.
- Using a dropshipping model, it can be a low-risk business with far less overhead
- Since dog apparel is still a relatively new addition to the fashion world, there’s a lot of room for creative expression
- Pet clothing is seasonal so it can be harder to sell in warmer months
Example: Maple Leash Canada
Based in Water Valley, Alberta—Maple Leash Canada is a family-owned business specializing in dog coats, harnesses, collars, sweaters, boots, carriers, beds, and a ton more specialty dog outfits for pups of all sizes.
Maple Leash Canada is branded first and foremost as an apparel company. If it weren’t for the store’s choice in models, its rustic character would fit right in alongside human apparel companies like Roots and Eddie Bauer.
The novelty of pet apparel can’t last forever, which is why Maple Leash puts so much emphasis on standing out stylistically.
Pet stores usually offer a combination of products and services, but be careful to avoid becoming a “jack-of-all-trades” pet store. Incongruous product collections make online branding very difficult. It also puts you in competition with big, corporate pet stores able to offer the convenience of hundreds of locations. Not to mention the pet food aisle in every grocery store.
One-stop shopping is great for customers who need to pick up some last-minute kitty litter on the way home from work, but online shoppers put more value in specialty than abundance.
With an online pet-store, marketing is crucial.
Tips for a profitable pet business
From the examples above, you can see that pet businesses thrive on cross-promotion. Selling pet products usually involves diversifying your services to increase the number of income sources and help create sustainable revenue.
The key is to brand your products together with a unified goal. For example, if you’re offering pet grooming services, you might also sell pet shampoos, flea collars, and grooming clippers.
If you group your products and services in a way that best serves your customers, you can increase the lifetime value of each customer and build a sustainable business model, even without a massive customer base.
1. Start local
This is especially important if offering services like grooming or dog walking which require in-person clientele. Building good relationships with pet owners is key to the success of your business.
Start by joining Facebook groups and local online communities. Participate in discussions. Offer expertise and services, but remember not to push for sales too hard, especially in early interactions with potential customers. Take it offline, too, with business cards and community boards.
Remember that people are very protective of their pets. Trust is especially important in pet businesses and people will not trust you if they view your interaction as a disingenuous attempt to promote your business.
2. Use social media consistently
If you’ve ever racked your brain trying to come up with Instagram ideas, you know that it’s challenging to consistently post while maintaining high levels of engagement.
The great thing about pet businesses is that cats and dogs are natural sources of entertaining content. Assuming you have one or two pets of your own, good content for pet lovers will be relatively easy to create.
For groomers, walkers, and pet-sitters, every interaction with a new four-legged client can turn into content. Even the most mundane activities become watchable when a dog or cat is involved.
3. Familiarize yourself with blogging and SEO
If you’re familiar with search engine optimization, you know the amount of technical know-how that goes into writing effective SEO copy. For niche pet stores, in particular, you can build a blogging strategy around spotting questions from pet owners that can be answered with your services.
Competitive blog content won’t be as easy to create as social media content, but the potential for large, sustained traffic is much higher. A well-researched article answering a question searched by potential clients that checks off all the boxes on the SEO checklist can be an effective tool for directing traffic for months or even years into the future.
If you’re a pet groomer, you might consider answering common queries about pet hygiene. If you’re selling healthy animal treats, you might be able to answer some questions about animal diets.
There’s an endless list of information you could provide. And if you’re able to provide it to valuable clients, it can be the first step in a long-lasting trusting customer relationship.
4. Attend pet industry events, trade shows, and conventions
Networking and professional development are important in any industry. Industry events such as workshops, conventions, trade shows, and pet industry events can be great for any entrepreneur looking to build new skills or become more connected within the industry.
There’s value for any business in a trade show, but they’re especially great if you’re selling unique or handmade pet products. If you’re selling products you can’t get anywhere else, an effective trade show campaign can help you secure business relationships and get your product in stores.
5. Build valuable customer relationships
Trust is incredibly important when it comes to pet products. People are very protective of their pets. For groomers, dog walkers, and pet sitters—building a successful company means establishing good customer relationships.
Loyal customers make more purchases, spend more money, and vouch for your business in the form of word-of-mouth recommendations. A network of local, reliable clients will not only provide you their recurring patronage but will also help spread the word of your business to other potential customers that run in the same circles.
Start a pet business today 🐶
There’s nothing more fulfilling than starting a successful company in an industry that excites you. For pet lovers bitten by the entrepreneurial bug, a grooming or pet supply business can be a personally rewarding endeavor that provides you with income for years to come.
Don’t be scared by the prospect of starting your own business. With the tools available, creating a sustainable successful pet business is accessible and fulfilling. As long as people love their pets, they’ll value services to help make them safer and happier.
This article originally appeared in the Shopify blog and has been published here with permission.