pets biz idea;pet sitting business
small business ideas, pet sitting business ideas
Bill Coleman, his wife Kathy Coleman and daughter run a very successful pet sitting business. Here is an interview I had with Mr. Bill on their business and other businesses they have earlier ventured into. I did learn from him and am sure you will too.
Hello Mr. Bill, welcome to million small business ideas. Tell us what you do.
My wife and I operate a pet sitting business from our home in McCalla, Alabama. Our daughter also operates a branch of the business from home in Fort Collins, Colorado.
In just a few sentences, what problem does your business solve?
We take care of pets when their owners can't. That might be for a number of reasons - vacations, family emergencies, energetic dogs that need med-day exercise while their owners are at work are just a few reasons an owner might need help.
How did you come up with the idea to start this business?
I like pets, but my wife is absolutely crazy about them. This gives her an opportunity to make a living doing something that she likes. I mostly answer the phone at home and handle the promoting, primarily through our pet website.
Had you toyed with the idea for long before you decided to act upon it?
My wife Kathy actually owned a pet sitting business several years ago before we relocated to our present home. She didn't own it long enough to benefit from what she had put into it, but she did gain some experience and references.
What are the most important or unique features of your business?
I think its most important feature is the website - www.petshopandmore.com . It is more than just a billboard like most business sites. It is still in its early stages, but it is more than just a pet sitting site. It has general information on pet care for everything from hermit crabs to dogs and cats. My goal is to make the site a profitable enterprise, separate from the pet sitting business. I promote it as an "online pet portal." Whereas the pet sitting is local, the website has a worldwide reach.
Who does your business target?
Anybody who loves pets.
What is your competitive edge?
Again, I think that it has to be the website.
How do you generate income?
Right now, pet sitting fees. Later on with the website, I will charge for advertising and have affiliate links.
Have you faced any challenges and how did you overcome them to get your business off the ground?
Here in Alabama pet sitting is not common so our potential customers have to be educated. In Colorado, my daughter doesn't have that problem because pet sitting as a business enterprise has already been through the "acceptance curve." When she tells people that she is a pet sitter, they don't follow up with the question "what is that?"
How many hours were you putting into your business when you started? Do you work less hours now?
That's hard to say because the pet website is just one of six that I own. I have put more time into the pet site lately because it needs more work than the others, since it is the newest. I have about 200 pages on it now and that is about where I want it to be. I am at the point now where I will add the occasional page and do some periodic updating. so the website work will decrease going forward. The actual pet sitting hours should increase as we get more known though the website.
What is the best advice you never got?
Hard to say. I'm generally an unconventional businessman. Outside of my five years in the U.S. Army and summer employment while going to college, I have worked for only a few months for someone else, and I'm 60 now. I have owned and operated businesses for the last 30 years, and can't recall any advice that turned around my thinking. I just pay attention to what others are doing and copy the best and disregard the rest. I also read a lot, paying special attention to new trends. That last thing is what got me into the video rental business in the mid-80s.
What is the one thing that you did right?
It's probably not right or wrong, but any business success that I have had is probably attributable to the fear of working for someone else. I don't like to be on someone else's schedule.
How big do you plan to grow your business?
I hope the website eventually reaches 100,000 page views a month. If we accomplish that I think the money will follow. The pet sitting part, I hope
it makes a profit for the next five years and then we will become strictly an Internet business. That way, we can make our money anywhere, and not have to work when we don't want to.
How does it feel to own a successful online business?
I love it. It's like an obsession. I'm not tech oriented and don't enjoy that part of it. I enjoy the challenge of increasing traffic, watching the income grow, and the networking.
Where do you spend your time when not running your business?
Since my wife and I both like the outdoors, we spend a lot of time together fishing and hiking. We both enjoy searching for Indian artifacts and we have built a large collection of personally found artifacts. I enjoy researching local history. Earlier this year I set aside time to write a local history book, The History of Rock Mountain in Jefferson County, Alabama.
In your opinion, can your type of business be applied in other parts of the world other than your locality?
The websites, certainly. Pet sitting, no - that depends on local customs and affluence. You don't have to be rich to hire a pet sitter, but you do need some disposable income.
Was it very costly to start your business?
No, both websites and pet sitting were very cheap to start. Pet sitting from your home can be started for less than $1000. My websites cost $300 per year, each - and that covers just about everything a website would need. I built my first website three years ago, and did everything myself. The main cost in that was my own time. Now I jumpstart websites by outsourcing, so I spend more. That's what I like about both pert sitting and websites - if personal circumstances change, you can just walk away from both of them and not have debt. The risk is very low. Websites can just sit awhile, left alone. Traffic might decrease while they are idle, but the site is still going to be there as long as the $25 per month is paid.
Did you ever forego something very important in order to see your business succeed?
Not with this business. We can block off time for the pet sitting when we want to, as long as we have some notice.
Who or what has been the driving force that keeps you going?
I like challenges, and I get bored easily - so I'm always thinking of something new so I won't be bored.
Have there been other people who contributed to your success?
In other businesses, my parents helped me financially in the early days. They reaped rewards along with me when the video rental business became enormously profitable. It helps to have family support, but it has never been a bed of roses, from my experience and observation. Working with my wife has been easy though. I would have to give her a lot of credit for my success, because she never says "no" when I want to try something else.
Is this your first business or you have ever operated another business before?
As I mentioned earlier, I have been in business since the early 1980s. Some paid the bills and made a little, some lost money, and one was enormously successful. The first business that I owned was a Quick Printing business. With my wife, I have also owned a vending business, a collectibles shop, a ladies fitness center, two dollar stores (everything for a dollar), and the video rental stores. From 1985 to 1994, my wife and I operated 17 video stores across the state of Alabama and into Mississippi. We sold the stores to a public company in 1994 and retired to the beach. While "retired," we opened the fitness center, the dollar stores, and the earlier pet sitting business.I have six websites now that collectively make a profit. I began my fist one www.gulf-shores-travel-guide.com in December 2008.
If you were to start all over again, would you approach your business differently?
Yes, but you can only know those things after you mess up. Forwards, you only deal with the unknown.
What can you tell other potential social entrepreneurs who are deciding to make a difference?Thank you, for affording us your precious time to answer our questions. Your contribution is so much appreciated and will be an inspiration to many aspiring entrepreneurs.
I would say going forward, work for someone else if you have to but do not depend on them to take care of your future. That was possible in the past, but now things change to fast. The company that promises you the world could be out of business in five years. I also think everybody should have a business website of some sort, and also a heavy presence on social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook.