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Starting a Pet Business? Industry Experts Say to Stick to What You Do Well

By Amy Castro//January 1, 2024//

Starting a Pet Business? Industry Experts Say to Stick to What You Do Well

By: Amy Castro//January 1, 2024//

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Starting a new business can be both exciting and challenging. You have a great idea, a passion for your product or service, and a vision for your future. However, you also face many uncertainties, risks and obstacles along the way. Like I always say, you don’t know what you don’t know.

Sometimes that’s a blessing, but sometimes it can hold you back and slow your business success. Wouldn’t it be great if you could learn from others’ experiences and mistakes to help you achieve your goals more quickly? Well, we’ve got you covered with advice from successful business owners and managers who’ve been in your shoes and learned from their own experiences.


Find Your Niche

One key to success in any business is to find a niche market with a specific problem or need you can solve or satisfy better than anyone else. Think about your favorite restaurant. It probably does not offer a mix of Mexican, Italian, Chinese with a BBQ flair; in fact, most people would stay away from that establishment because it’s hard to believe a single restaurant could do all those things well. Successful restaurants stick to what they do well.

The same goes for pet businesses. Christine Dawson started Paleo Pet Goods in Webster, Texas in 2006 and has been going strong ever since. “The one piece of advice I would give my newbie self is to specialize and position as a niche, premium business. When I started my company, I was very new to the pet industry and had more broad focus about my concept. It wasn’t until the down economy started in 2008 that I was forced to focus more on being a retailer with a pet nutrition focus.”

Do your research and analysis to identify your target audience, their pain points, preferences and buying behavior. You should also study your competitors and find out what they are doing well and what they are missing. Then you can create a unique value proposition that differentiates your product or service from others and appeals to your niche market. As author and entrepreneur Seth Godin says, “Don’t try to be everything to everyone. Be everything to someone.”


Create a Customer-Focused Culture

As someone who has worked for 30 years helping businesses achieve their goals, the number one success factor that all great companies have in common is a customer-focused culture that is dedicated to satisfying the customer and meeting all their needs. They also create great relationships with their customers and in return, earn a tremendous amount of customer loyalty.

Too many times when I’m called in to help a company that’s struggling, at least one of the reasons is due to it losing its customer focus. When policies are created for the convenience of the company or solely for profit and they negatively impact the customer, the company has lost its customer focus. When an employee doesn’t stop to ask a customer, “How can I help you?” because the employee is busy stocking the shelves, that employee has lost customer focus.

Samantha Dwyer manages the Pet Pantry & Dog Wash North in Colorado Springs. Pet Pantry stores offer a self-service dog wash, curbside, pet pick up for grooming as well as delivery, all focused on meeting the needs of its community.

Her advice? “Keep heart and the community at the forefront of everything you do,” she said. “With that in mind, the rest will come easily.”


Ask for Support

People are often quite willing to support businesses they love and care about. However, your business isn’t always in the forefront of their minds, so sometimes you must ask for what you need. If you’re looking for more reviews of your business, reach out to your best customers and ask them to write one for you. If you want to increase the odds they’ll do it, give them some specifics that you’d like included in the review. The easier you make it for them to do, the more likely they’ll do it. You should also seek support of other business owners in your community. They won’t promote an event at your store or a sale you’re having if you don’t ask.

Finally, don’t forget that your vendors and distributors have a vested interest in your business succeeding, so don’t be afraid to ask for their support. Take, for example, Lauren Ermish, who is the owner of Uptown Pup in Dallas, Texas. Her store was voted “BEST” in the Dallas Fort Worth People’s Choice Awards in 2022 and 2023.

“The one piece of information I was given that helps me run my business every day is to always ask your reps for a discount, promo or deals to run in the store [to get credited back for them],” she said, “The worst that can happen is they say no. You would be surprised how many companies are willing to get their products in your customers’ hands, and you don’t have to dip into your own money to offer in-store deals.”


Amy Castro is a business and leadership expert who speaks, trains and consults with pet businesses that want to build best-in-show teams that deliver a Five-Star Customer Experience. She’s also the host of the Starlight Pet Talk podcast, where she interviews pet industry experts and others to give advice and information for pet parents to help their pets live long, happy lives.