Cat Sitting

SMOPB – Step 1: before you start – research

I started my own pet sitting business (SMOPB) 5 years ago, I have been asked again and again how did I do it.

In fact, I have been approached by numerous individuals for the past few years asking for advices and tips to start their own pet sitting business.

I am one for information sharing and karma. Every time, I would answer all their questions as best I can. As far as I know, there are 2 other pet sitting business in Dublin has been set up after talking to me. I would like to think they find my information is somehow useful.

Today, I am starting a new series here to share my experience on how I started my own pet sitting business.

5 years ago when I first started Maow Care, the ‘pet situation’ in Ireland was quite different. There were, at that time, only 2 other pet sitting companies in Dublin. It was and it still is confusing to get insurance to cover such business. General public didn’t understand the concept of pet sitting service very well neither did the vets.

But fast forward to 2014, the business starts to ‘get’ pet sitting. I got referral from vets, charities, word of mouth and of course Social Media. I feel very hopeful to the pet sitting industry in Ireland and I think there are potential for many more companies in this country. I am hoping this series could inspire some of you start your own pet sitting business. I am looking forward to see such satisfying profession as pet sitting flourishes in the coming years in Ireland.

If you have any questions or feedback after reading this series, please feel free to contact me.


Step 1: Research

Before starting any business, doing a thorough research is very important.

You might start yawning now…

No, but I am serious.

It is very important to know where you are standing before you even start the project, even you waste time, energy and money on a project that might not be suitable to you.

As I am intended to write a straight-forward A-Z guide, I will give you a list of ‘assignments’ to do for this step.

1. Check if there are other pet sitting companies in your community

Do a quick google search to find out what’s the market situation in your community.

  • Are there existing pet sitting companies?
  • How many?
  • How much do they charge?
  • Do they work alone or do they have contractors?
  • Which area do they cover?

2. Try to talk to them

Contact the existing pet sitting companies and try to talk to them. You might go ‘what? Why would they talk to me?’

Well, if they are anyone like myself, they wouldn’t mind talking to you. I am not making huge amount of money from my business but I love my business and making a healthy living from it. Why would I mind sharing my experience and information?

You might go, ‘why would you want more competitors?’

Answer is simple: I would love to have more pet sitters in Dublin! Sometimes, I can barely cope with the amount of booking to be honest! Plus, from a point of view of establishing a professional image of the whole industry, having more professional pet sitters is only going to help us as a whole by raising public awareness of the industry and to improve animal welfare in the country in general.

The bottom line is this – a pet sitting business who have enough customers to keep them going WOULD NOT MIND having more competition. A pet sitting business who don’t have enough business might not want more competition. But then why would you want to take advice from people whose business is not successful?

If you can’t find any sitters in your community who would help you. Try this trick: contact a sitter in another country. Since you won’t be a competitor, I find people are 99% of the time being extremely helpful and tell you every trick of the trade.

3. Get training

Join Pet Sitter International. Pet Sitter International is the biggest pet sitting educational body in the world. After joining them you will have access to their member’s only area online. There is such huge amount of information on pet sitting. The members forum is also a gold mine. You can get to chat with pet sitters around the world, some of them have over 30 years experience under the belt! You might also want to get certified by following their education programme.

logo

4. Find out a realistic picture of what being pet sitter is about

Read my post here. Serious.

Depending on your location, maybe you can try to ask for an opportunity to job shadow an existing pet sitter? I can’t speak for everyone, but I personally wouldn’t mind to show someone the trade to be honest.

5. Talk to friends and family about your plan

As I said on this post, having support from friends and family are so crucial for any SME. Talk to them and make sure they are being supportive. But then if they are not, don’t let them get you down either. My parents still don’t understand why I quitted my job as a civil servant over 10 years ago. They understand even less why I would prefer to be covered with cat hair at work than to dress up nicely to work in a bank. Being determined (read stubborn) is usually what it takes to start your own business.

6. Volunteer at the local shelter

There is nothing like getting yourself dirty covered with cat hair/poop/vomit to get a feeling how it is to be a cat sitter. This is the ultimate test to see if you will really enjoy the lifestyle.

7. Legality

Once you are sure you want to be a pet sitter, you need to find out how to start. If you are in Ireland, then worry not, because I will be telling you everything in this series (FOLLOW this blog!) If you are not outside Ireland, you will need to check the followings:

  • how to register a business? (you might not necessarily need to register as a company, you can potentially register a business as a sole trader)
  • insurance requirement?
  • how to open a business account with the bank? Is that mandatory to have business account?
  • do you need a special license to work with animal? (I know it is the case in France)
  • do you need to clear with the police? (I know it is the case in France)
  • do you need to trademark your logo?

8. Miscellaneous stuff

Find out all the other stuff you need to get your business up and running, including the following (the list is not exclusive):

  • how much is it to get your logo design done?
  • how much is it to get a website professional design? (You don’t need to, I will tell you how to do a cheap one until you have the money to invest a better one)
  • how much is it to get marketing material printed? (e.g. business card, flyers, etc)

Honestly, find out as much about pet sitting as you can. And if you have any questions, please feel free to be in touch!

Next SMOPB post – corporate image: business name, logo, etc.

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