Your Business

How to start a dog walking business

By Robyn Parets

Hannalore Tice knows all about how to start a business. Tice launched her dog walking business, Boston for the Dogs, four years ago. Now she manages a team of four walkers. To start a business is not an easy walk in the park. We met with her to learn all about the challenges to start a business, to operate a business, and ultimately to grow her dog walking business.

Business name search.

Before she started her business, Tice had some ideas for her company name. She was aiming for a playful, catchy name. Tice was determined to create a top-quality dog care business that would serve a fun community of dog lovers. She was looking for a name of business that reflects these qualities. If she could successfully hit on these two goals, Tice felt everyone would know her name. It worked.

Small business structure.

After choosing a name, Tice had to decide on the best structure for her company. She started with a google search: sole proprietorship vs LLC which didn’t take her too far. Eventually, she talked to an accountant who helped her come up with the right structure. Choosing the right small business structure can determine how easy or hard it is to grow a small business. You can read more about these two types of small business structures.  But really, it’s always a good idea to talk to an accountant.

Understanding your market.

Before launching her business, Tice researched potential customers, neighborhoods, and competitors. Tice started by doing an Internet search for local dog walking companies. She used Rover.com, the nation’s largest network of dog walkers and talked to pet groomers and employees at local pet stores. “They gave me the best pulse on local dog walking companies and the need for dog walkers in my area”.

Another piece of advice from Tice: tap into local networking groups. For example, Tice is involved with dog rescue groups. She talked to these groups about Boston for the Dogs in its early stages and those very same rescues hired her to walk their dogs. Word about Tice quickly spread and Boston for the Dogs grew from there.

to start a business

Pricing your services.

To do this effectively, you’ll first have to find out what your competitors charge and offer. This way you can make sure your services are priced right.

If you plan to offer services that your competitors don’t have, you’ll have to come up with fair pricing that your customers can afford. In Tice’s case, she hit the jackpot with her $35 pack hikes – her most popular service.

“Sometimes dogs need more than just a neighborhood walk. The hikes engage them physically and mentally. Plus, we get to enjoy wild spaces right here in Boston.”

Promote yourself.

In order to succeed, you’ve got to attract customers to your business. For starters, create a website to toot your own horn and post your business on online directories. “Besides online sites, a little grassroots advertising can go a long way”, Tice says. Try creating pull-tab flyers with your company information. You can then post these at your local library, coffee shops and pet stores. Here’s another tip: invest in a magnetic car sign emblazoned with your company name and logo. You can put these giant magnets on both sides of your car and you’ll become a moving advertisement.

Promote your business

Get social.

For starters, set up social media pages on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.  Tice posts pictures of her doggie clients all day long and this helps engage her community plus attract new human clients. This strategy has been so successful that more than 70% of new clients at Boston for the Dogs are a result of social media views, shares and tags generated by its 6,400 followers.

Small business insurance.

Dog walking isn’t all fun and games. Accidents happen and dogs will occasionally damage property or even injure themselves or others. For these reasons, it’s important that you insure yourself and your business. You may also want to consider disability and life insurance.

Prepare to get paid.

Sending invoices to clients is never fun, yet it’s necessary if you want to get paid. Tice recommends setting aside one day a week to do office work, including sending invoices.

Thanks

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