How to launch a pet clinic or store

Mightycall Team
Mightycall Team
21 July 2016 Business Insights

Pretty much any start-up will be a “pet project”, but none more so than a pet store and/or clinic. However, to get your claws into it you’ll need to consider several factors, like accreditation, market positioning, location — and of course a virtual phone service like MightyCall. We’ve put together some ideas to “groom” you towards success in the animal care sector.

Americans are in love with their pets. More than 6 out of 10 U.S. households, or 64.2 million, own at least one pet. In 2015 they spent $34.5 billion on their cats, dogs, birds, fish, horses and other pets, according to the American Pet Products Manufacturers’ Association (APPMA).

Treating the afflicted is always a very noble pursuit, even if the patients are not people, just pets.

If you decide to make caring for pets your business, then you need to consider all the details to not only follow an admirable passion, but to be appropriately remunerated.

Vet clinic: Just some formalities

In order to practice, veterinarians must obtain a degree in veterinary medicine, followed by gaining a license to practice. There is a high level of competition for admission to veterinary schools: there are currently only 28 veterinary schools in the United States which meet all the accreditation standards. Entrance requirements vary among veterinary schools, and various pre-professional degree programs have been developed to assist undergraduates in meeting these requirements.

Following qualification from the doctoral degree, the prospective veterinarian must receive a passing grade on the North America Veterinary Licensing Exam. This exam is completed over the course of eight hours, and consists of 360 multiple-choice questions. The test covers all aspects of veterinary medicine, as well as visual material designed to assess diagnostic skills.

But even if you have no specialized education, you can still be the owner and manager of a veterinary clinic.

Most states in the US allow for malpractice lawsuit in case of death or injury to an animal from professional negligence. Usually the penalty is not greater than the value of the animal. For that reason, malpractice insurance for veterinarians usually is well under $500 a year, compared to an average of over $15,000 a year for a human doctor. Some states allow for punitive penalty, loss of companionship, and suffering into the award, likely increasing the cost of veterinary malpractice insurance and the cost of veterinary care.

Doing everything on your own is often very difficult, so surely it makes sense to join the association of veterinarians.

The American Veterinary Medical Association, established in 1863, is a not-for-profit association representing more than ​88,000 veterinarians working in private and corporate practice, government, industry, academia and uniformed services.

The AVMA provides a number of tangible benefits to its members, including information resources, continuing education opportunities, quality publications, and discounts on personal and professional products, programs and services.

Practical aspects

Starting a veterinary practice is never easy and there many things you’ll need to think about. If you’re set on the idea, make sure you think things through thoroughly in order to start a practice that will go from strength to strength, whether it’s at home or in a leased building.

For example, The Southwest Veterinary Clinic will be located in southwest Richmond. The clinic will offer its customers the full range of medical services to the area’s pet owners.

Southwest Veterinary Clinic’s start-up costs consist of medical, surgical and lab equipment. In addition, there will a $30,000 interior remodeling cost for the clinic.

It is worth finding an appropriate location convenient to major highways and accessible from main roads. Make sure there’s plenty of parking to accommodate clients even on your busiest days. Also make sure there’s a small pet-relief area to encourage anxious patients to attend to nature before entering your hospital.

You’ll need to equip your practice with standard clinic equipment such as examining tables, cages and kennels, as well as general surgical and treatment equipment. Depending on your practice’s capabilities, you can add specialty equipment such as cardiac or orthopedic equipment and supplies.

To provide consistently good client service, you’ll need to staff your practice to have at least one qualified veterinarian besides yourself. This professional can help you with patient overflow during busy periods and allow you to take periodic breaks or accomplish other tasks. In addition, you’ll need a qualified office manager with veterinary technician experience. He/she can serve as a backup veterinary technician.

Depending on the scope of your practice, you’ll need other certified veterinary technicians as well. In many cases, these technicians have extensive knowledge of specific diseases and procedures and are an excellent resource for your practice. Veterinary assistants can help with routine animal-related and office tasks.

To attract the number of clients that you’ve estimated above, you’ll need to market your new practice. And there are lots of ways to let the community know you’re there. For example, you could advertise in telephone directories, on the radio, and in local flyers or papers; develop a website; send out an e-newsletter; host an open house and invite neighboring businesses or residents; and more.

Plus to this you can suggest some unusual services. For example, Brady’s Run Veterinary Hospital in New Brighton offers a special memorial page which is honored to pay respect to beloved animal friends who have passed.

To start your clinic, you will without any doubt need a separate business phone number. MightyCall can offer either one virtual number for all mobile devices of the company, and several phone numbers — the incoming call will be directed to one phone. Another extremely useful feature is call forwarding. Call forwarding lets you take charge of everything from how calls are managed to setting your office hours.

Pet store: Great possibility

According to statistics, in USA there are 15,890 pet and supply establishments with sole proprietorships numbering 7,945.

A pet store can be a great moneymaker. According to the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association, the average weekly sales per employee in a retail pet-products business are $2,600, or $135,200 per year.

Many pet owners today are willing to spend top dollar to buy the best of everything for their “furry children”, including food and treats. Your challenge, then, is to find a sphere, such as all-natural food products, and offer a wide assortment so you can position yourself as a leading provider of these items.

And you’ll have plenty of products to choose from. There are all-natural (that is, human-grade) foods, specialty foods for diabetic pets or pets with kidney problems, and raw-food diets, as well as food for pet birds, livestock and exotic animals like snakes. There are even bakeries that specialize in making dog biscuits and other tasty treats. In addition, some pet-food stores choose to stock other pet-related products, like collars, leashes and chew or scratch toys.

It’s possible to sell products to the public entirely through a website. But you could also sell exclusively to retail outlets like pet boutiques or pet stores. Or you can open your own retail location.

If you establish a store and your product mix is truly exclusive and expensive, you’ll probably be more successful if you open in a resort area, in or near an upscale neighborhood.

If you’re buying product to resell, you probably will need $15,000 to $30,000 in inventory to get started, although if you’re homebased, you could start for less. If you’re going the manufacturing route, your startup inventory costs could be at least $30,000-or considerably more, depending on what you’re producing.

You can start a franchise pet store. For example, the initial franchise fee of Pet Supplies Plus (PSP) is $49,900 for a single unit. The royalty fee is 2.0 percent (2%) of monthly sales for the first 12 months, and 3.0 percent (3%) of monthly sales thereafter for the life of the franchise agreement. Pet Supplies Plus franchises are typically located in strip centers with a large anchor store near a residential neighborhood. The first store of Pet Supplies Plus opened in Redford, MI, in 1988, and PSP has grown to over 315 franchised and corporate Pet Centers located in 25 Midwest and Eastern states.

Marketing — way to success

Take some time to evaluate your competition’s capabilities. Identify any missing niches you can fill. For example, some local shops may not have evening hours or don’t work on holidays. If many residents in the area work during the day, you can accommodate clients’ needs by scheduling evening hours.

To let potential clients know about your store, you’ll need to develop a plan to reach them. Ads in local newspapers are certainly an option, as well as introductory mail pieces within your target market. You can also hold an open house that showcases your facility and staff and features introductory specials on commonly-used products.

Another great way to promote your services is by networking with other providers of at-home animal services such as dog groomers and pet sitters Reciprocal referrals can be a great way to grow business for all parties concerned, as clients who already use such services are very likely to consider additional options.

Plus to this you may want to display your products at pet trade shows to generate interest, build name recognition and hopefully make a buck. This can take up several days and thousands of dollars, but in the long run you may find it’s time and money well-spent.

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