Do you feel happiest when you’re caring for that hairy-faced, pointy-toothed, wet-nosed companion?
Is talking about dogs more fun than your day job? Maybe you have thought of creating a side business that lets you spend more time with your dog and with other dog lovers, and puts a few pennies in your wallet as well. For instance, Dave Lopshire started marketing “Coonhound Cookies” (https://coonhoundcookies.com/)after realizing that baking cookies for his three rescued coonhounds was more fulfilling than his day job. “We had these three rescue dogs and I found I was happiest when things were about them. I was miserable in my corporate job, and I was baking for the dogs anyway. I thought, ‘Maybe I should sell our dog cookies.’ My wife knew I was miserable, and she said, ‘Do it.’ And we never looked back.” Lopshire is capitalizing on a growing industry. According to the American Pet Products Association (APPA), revenue in the pet industry (including the major chains as well as small businesses) is approaching $70 billion per year. The average annual growth rate per year is 5.4%, and revenue has been growing steadily for well over 20 years.
Part of this growth, experts say, comes from“humanization” of the companion animal market: Pets are an indulged and cossetted part of the family for many households, vs. an old standard of dogs being a largely self-tending, outside animal who perhaps slept in a doghouse and ate lower-cost dog food with varying ingredients. Empty nesters often are happy to give their dogs similar love and attention to what they gave their now-grown children, while millennials and younger generations don’t know pets in any other way. As pets have moved from the basement to sharing the bed with their owners, spending on pets has increased. Also, pet products tend to be a “payment at purchase” business (meaning you don’t have to wait weeks or months for cash flow), which makes entering the market easier and makes a pet-product business manageable for individual owners. And, depending on the product (and tolerance of family members), many emerging pet businesses can be run out of the garage or an unused spare bedroom.
Microbusinesses like Lopshire’s aren’t limited to dog cookies; visit any dog expo or local “Paws in thePark” event and you will find treats, but also leashes, carpet cleaners, shampoos, anxiety therapies, and pet photographers.“I started out doing wedding photography,” says Blue, owner of Beyond the Fence AdventurePhotography (www.adventuredogphotography.com). “I learned a lot about taking good photographs outdoors despite changes in weather and natural lighting, and of course in wedding photography, often you only get one chance to get “the” shot of the bride coming down the aisle or the new couple cutting the cake. With dogs, I can use toys or treats to get the expression or pose that best shows off the dog’spersonality, and quickly get the shot.”
Some vendors start a small business that doesn’t feature dog products, but does allow them to contribute to canine causes in an individual way. Sandy Dowling, bee-keeper and proprietor of Happy Hounds Honey (www.happyhoundshoney.com) and owner of two greyhounds, started selling beeswax-based beauty products and candles as a part of wanting to make a contribution to greyhound rescue. “I am a beekeeper who is trying to make a difference. I fell in love with this hobby right away. It isamazing what those little bees accomplish! They have an incredible work ethic and a tremendous sense of community. We could all learn something from those eager little workers!” says Dowling, who donates a percentage of her profits to dog rescue. It’s worth noting that not all small businesses are profitable or generate a reliable income, and pet-based micro businesses are no exception. Many proprietors rely on a spouse with a more traditional joband health insurance to help bridge cycles in cash flow, or design their pet products as a side business that compliments a job with schedule that allows time for other ventures, such as teaching.
Also, worth considering: nice summer weekends are prime working hours.“On weekends, you go to the craft fairs and the dog expos and the pet events,” says the owner of Salty Dog Barkery (www.saltydogbarkery.com). “This is the fun part, just getting out and meeting otherpeople who love dogs and finding out what kind of products they like. This weekend, in celebration of Cinco de Mayo, 2 new flavors will be introduced. They are: Chicken Taco and Nacho Mama (beef &cheese)!” Perhaps among the best of all in the pet products industry? Creating and selling things specific to kerry blue terriers! See the KBTF website and scroll down to “Resources,” “Shop” for a gallery of itemsguaranteed to celebrate the kerry blue.