You've stumbled upon the idea to build a dog treat business and now you're ready to take the next steps.
There's a lot to think about when building a business, so we put together a guide on how to get started, launch, grow and run your dog treat business.
We also provide you with real-life case studies and examples of founders running successful dog treat business (and how much💰 they're making today).
💡 Introduction To Starting A Dog Treat Business
Brick & Mortar vs eCommerce Business Model
When deciding whether or not to start a dog treat business, it's important to first decide what type of business model you want (brick and mortar, eCommerce, or both)!
Here are a few things to keep in mind when considering a Brick & Mortar store:
Brick & Mortar Model
If you do plan to open a physical store, it's important that you find a spot in a high-traffic area. This is a great way to gain exposure for your business and also get new customers.
It's also important to consider the higher costs associated with operating a physical store (ie - employees, rent, utilities, etc) and the long days/hours associated with running a store.
The main benefit, however, is that customers love being able to see products in person. It's important to recognize that although some people enjoy shopping online, there will always be the shopper persona that likes to touch, feel, and see the product they're buying.
One of the main benefits of operating online is that you are exposed to the entire world, versus just one local area. Rather than depending on foot traffic, you have all the tools at your disposal to create exposure for your store online.
Additionally, there are much lower costs to operate an online store - fewer employees, you can operate from your home, and you get to create your own schedules (yes, holidays included!)
Although you are operating online and have the ability to connect with people all over the world, it's important to consider that you will need to invest marketing money upfront in order to promote your store to the right audience.
So, which business model should you go with?
Each model has their benefits, however, the consumer trends for dog treat business are shifting towards e-commerce businesses.
How To Name Your Dog Treat Business
It's important to find a catchy name for your dog treat business so that you can stand out in your space.
Here are some general tips to consider when naming your dog treat business
- Avoid hard to spell names: you want something easy to remember and easy to spell for your customers
- Conduct a search to see if others in the space have the same name
- Try not to pick a name that limits growth opportunities for your business (ie. if you decide to expand into other product lines)
- As soon as you have an idea (or ideas) of a few names that you love, register the domain name(s) as soon as possible!
Why is naming your dog treat business so important?
The name of your business will forever play a role in:
- Your customers first impression
- Your businesses identity
- The power behind the type of customer your brand attracts
- If you're memorable or not
It's important to verify that the domain name is available for your dog treat business.
You can search domain availability here:
Find a domain starting at $0.88
powered by Namecheap
Although .com names are the most common and easiest to remember, there are other options if your .com domain name is not available. Depending on your audience, it may not matter as much as you think.
It's also important to thoroughly check if social media handles are available.
As soon as you resonate with a name (or names), secure the domain and SM handles as soon as possible to ensure they don't get taken.
Here's some inspiration for naming your dog treat business:
- Dogworks check availability
- Dogs And More check availability
- K-9 Clippers check availability
- The Hairy Leash check availability
- The Good Puppy Dog check availability
- Bark In Style check availability
- The Doggie Chalet check availability
- Pawfect Tail check availability
- One Puppy check availability
- FirstJoy Business check availability
- Dogwind check availability
- Doggolix Treat check availability
- MysticBite Dog check availability
- Furry Pawsible check availability
- Blue Boss Bones check availability
- A Dog’S Life check availability
- Doggie Daycare check availability
- The Barking Lot check availability
- Brown Dog Bakery check availability
- Puppy Trail check availability
- In The Dog House check availability
- Treat your Dawg check availability
- Off Leash check availability
- Woody Gang check availability
- Pups Shop check availability
- CookieCrew check availability
- Canine Treat check availability
- More For Max check availability
- Fur Mutt Pet Store check availability
- Canine Candy check availability
- Paws Up! check availability
- Downward Dogs check availability
- Biesty Pups check availability
- Wet Noses check availability
- A Dog’S World check availability
- The Family Dog check availability
- Wag Around check availability
- Premium Business check availability
- All Dogs All The Time check availability
- Bark In The Dark check availability
- And Drool check availability
- Bark Sticks check availability
- Top To Tail check availability
- HappyPets check availability
- Pup Hub check availability
- Rescued Dog Bakery check availability
- Meyer Farms Dog Treats check availability
- PawHub check availability
- VIbeCookie check availability
- Riley’s Organic Dog Treats check availability
- CoreFood Business check availability
- Direct Dog check availability
- Commando DogFood check availability
- The Pet Bistro check availability
- Doggy Designs check availability
- Puppy Smiles check availability
- Puppy Breath check availability
- Aspect Treat check availability
- Dogify Food check availability
- Plato’s Pets check availability
- Land Rover check availability
- Pet Sitters of Mt. Prospect check availability
- Planet Canine check availability
- Dogvio check availability
- PropelFood Dog check availability
- InsightPet Dog check availability
- A To Dog check availability
- Woof Gang Groomers check availability
- Fetching Friends check availability
- Pawple Dog Pals check availability
- Finest Dog Treat check availability
- Shake A Leg check availability
- WiseMist Dog check availability
- GreatMade Bakery check availability
- Red Rover Dog Walking check availability
- First-Choice Dog check availability
- Dogly check availability
- Happy Barker check availability
- Dog’S Life check availability
- FinestPet Treat check availability
- AFillJoy Dog check availability
- Doggie Heaven check availability
- Golden Pup check availability
- Treat Your Pup check availability
- Dolgado check availability
- The Fury Effect check availability
- Dogzoid check availability
- Dartenn Dog check availability
- All Breed Dog Co. check availability
- Products For Pups check availability
- Treatio check availability
- Penny’s Choice Dog Supplies check availability
- GoodBite Business check availability
- The Canine Crew check availability
- Top Of The Woof. Scruffy Turf check availability
- Dogsy check availability
- Abcdogs check availability
- Furry Friends check availability
- Wiggly Wag check availability
- The Bone Guys check availability
- Pet Pawer check availability
- The Dog Corner check availability
- Personalized Pooch check availability
- Super Pups Pet Store check availability
- The Canine Collective check availability
- Dentley’s check availability
- Double Dog check availability
- Treatify check availability
- Dog People check availability
- All-Fresh Treat check availability
- Green Pet check availability
- Loving Pups Pet Care check availability
- BoldFoot Dog check availability
- black leash check availability
- Supereva Treat check availability
- Petro Town check availability
- Better Bark check availability
- Vanity Fur check availability
- Dogs Of The World check availability
- BossBite Business check availability
- Fur Fit Dog Store check availability
- Barx check availability
- Dog Days check availability
- Chase The Tail Pet Store check availability
- Fido And Friends check availability
- Big Bark Dog check availability
- Rover Come Over check availability
- Dog Walker check availability
- Alpha Treat check availability
- Anything’S Pawsible check availability
- Furry Doggie check availability
- Bark Attack check availability
Spyq Sklar, founder of Cat Sushi explains exactly how they came up with their business name:
My name is Spyq and I am a co-creator of Cat Sushi.
Cat Sushi is a flaky, tuna based treat that cats love. It is our flagship product that eventually led to us forming our current company Presidio Natural Pet Company, where we design and manufacture ultra-premium, natural, and healthy food products for pets.
One of our loyal customers actually came up with the name. We still give them free cat food.
- Allivet (85.9K Alexa Ranking)
- EntirelyPets (137K Alexa Ranking)
- Pawstruck (140K Alexa Ranking)
- Pet Food Express Delivery (167K Alexa Ranking)
- Dope Dog (260K Alexa Ranking)
Let's take a look at the search trends for dog treats over the last year:
🎬 How To Start A Dog Treat Business
Determine Which Business Bank Account You Need
There are hundreds of banks out there, and it can be overwhelming to find one that's right for your business.
Here are some factors you may want to consider:
- Location - Is your bank close enough that you can easily make deposits or get cash?
- Low Fees - Make sure to understand any and all fees associated with setting up and maintaining your bank account. Ask for a list - banks usually try to keep this hidden and in the fine print.
- Online Banking Services - Make sure you can easily navigate through your online portal and you have easy access to everything you need.
- Line of Credit - What do your options look like (even if you don't need this now, you may need this down the road).
- Every bank has something that differentiates them from the rest, so make sure whatever that is applied to your needs and values.
Check out this list of the 13 Best Banks for Small Business in 2020 and what makes them so unique.
Setting Up Your Dog Treat Business (Formation and Legal)
When it comes to setting up your business, you may find yourself in a place where you have to make some financial and legal decisions.
The first thing you'll want to decide on is whether you want to be an LLC, S-Corp, or C-Corp.
These three options are found to be the most common when starting a small business, and all serve to protect your personal assets and also provide you with certain tax benefits.
- LLC: All income and expenses from the business are reported on the LLC personal income tax return.
- S corp: Owners pay themselves salaries + receive dividends from profits.
- C Corp: C Corps are separately taxable entities that file a corporate tax return (Form 1120). No income tax is paid at the corporate level and any tax due is paid at the owners individual expense.
Depending on where you're conducting business, you'll also want to consider securing the proper permits, licenses and liability insurance.
Need to start an LLC? Create an LLC in minutes with ZenBusiness.
Write a Business Plan
Writing a business plan from the start is critical for the success of your dog treat business.
Because this allows you to roadmap exactly what you do, what your overall structure will look like, and where you want to be in the future.
For many entrepreneurs, writing out the business plan helps validate their idea and decide whether or not they should move forward with starting the business.
You may want to consider expanding upon these sections in your business plan:
- Executive Summary: Brief outline of your product, the market, and growth opportunities
- Overviews and Objectives: Overview of your business, target customers, and what you need to run your business
- Products and Services: Specifics on the products and services your business will provide
- Market Opportunities: Analysis of customer demographics, buyer habits and if your product is in demand
- Marketing: Outline of your marketing plan and how you plan to differentiate yourself from other customers
- Competitive analysis: Analysis of your competition and the strengths and weaknesses therein
- Operations: Hierarchal structure of the company and what it will take to run the business on the day-to-day
- Leadership Team: Detailing roles and responsibilities of each manager based on their specific skill-set
- Financial Analysis Understanding of all expenses, operating budgets, and projections for the future.
Learn more about how to write a business plan here
How Much Does It Cost To Start A Dog Treat Business
If you are planning to start a dog treat business, the costs are relatively low. This, of course, depends on if you decide to start the business with lean expenses or bringing in a large team and spending more money.
We’ve outlined two common scenarios for “pre-opening” costs of starting a dog treat business and outline the costs you should expect for each:
- The estimated minimum starting cost = $1,052
- The estimated maximum starting cost = $28,819
|Startup Expenses: Average expenses incurred when starting a dog treat business.||Min Startup Costs: You plan to execute on your own. You’re able to work from home with minimal costs.||Max Startup Costs: You have started with 1+ other team members.|
|Office Space Expenses|
|Rent: This refers to the office space you rent out for your business. To minimize costs, you may want to consider starting your business from home or renting an office in a coworking space.||$0||$2,000|
|Utility Costs (office space): This refers to the first month's utility bill for your office space. If you are not responsible for this bill, this would not apply to starting your dog treat business.||$0||$150|
|Office Supplies: Although these may seem like minor costs, things like your desks, chairs, pens, paper, filing cabinets do add up. To avoid these adding up too much, try to be as lean as possible and go paperless!||$25||$1,000|
|WiFi: Whether you work from home or in an office space, WiFi is an expense that's tough to avoid. Although the cost is minimal in most cases, it should be appropriately budgeted for each month!||$10||$100|
|Total Office Space Expenses||$35 (min)||$3,250 (max)|
|Equipment & Supply Expenses|
|Technology Office Equipment: This includes (but is not limited to) physical items such as: laptops, cameras, monitors, microphones, speakers, headsets. Technology needs grow as your company evolves, so to minimize costs, try and only purchase what is needed for you to run your business at the time.||$500||$5,000|
|Total Equipment & Supply Expenses||$500 (min)||$5,000 (max)|
|Upfront Costs For Inventory: This includes all upfront inventory you will need in order to launch. Be sure to compare prices of wholesalers to ensure you're getting the best deal and margins remain high.||$300||$5,000|
|Inventory Storage: If you decide to have a physical space for your dog treat business, whether it be used for inventory or as a showroom, you may have monthly rent payment or a large down payment associated with renting/buying the space.||$0||$5,000|
|Package Design: Packaging refers to wrapping and protecting products during distribution, shipping, and sales.Your package design is your customer's first impression of your brand, so it's important you spend some time and energy to get this right from the start.Many businesses design their own packages using design software and tools. There is always the option to outsource this to a design expert, but that route tends to be much more expensive.||$50||$3,000|
|Shrinkage: Shrinkage refers to the loss of inventory at any point between the purchase from your supplier and the purchase by your customer. Although you will try to avoid this at all costs, this does happen sometimes (especially in the learning stages of your business), and it's important to plan ahead financially in case this happens. Fortune states that retail shrinkage costs U.S. retailers approximately 1.4 percent of their total sales.||$0||$1,000|
|Distribution costs: Depending on what distribution plan you choose, expenses such as renting vans, hiring delivery drivers and gas costs can add up. If you are looking to save money upfront, you may want to consider conducting distribution on your own.||$0||$750|
|Total Inventory Expenses||$350 (min)||$14,750 (max)|
|Design Programs & Software: These programs might include the Adobe family of design tools: Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign and others. This is typically a monthly subscription ranging from $10-$50/mo.||$0||$50|
|Email marketing tool: If you plan to grow your email list and email marketing efforts, you may want to consider investing in an email marketing platform (ie. Klaviyo, MailChimp). We put together a detailed guide on all of the email marketing tools out there + the pricing models for each one here||$0||$100|
|IT Support: IT support installs and configures hardware and software and solves any technical issues that may arise.IT support can be used internally or for your customers experiencing issues with your product/service.There are a variety of tools and software you can use to help with any technical issues you or your customers are experiencing. This is a great option for businesses that do not have the means to hire a team of professionals.||$150||$2,000|
|Accounting & Invoicing Software: It's important to have an accounting system and process in place to manage financials, reporting, planning and tax preparation. Here are the 30 best accounting tools for small businesses.||$0||$50|
|Project Management Software: You may want to consider using a project management and collaboration tool to organize your day-to-day. This can also be very beneficial if you have a larger team and want to keep track of everyones tasks and productivity. For a full list of project management tools, check out this full list here.||$0||$25|
|Internal Communication Tool: If you plan to have multiple members on your team, you may want to consider an instant message tool such as Slack or Telegram. The cost is usually billed per month (approx $5/user/month) or there are freemium versions available on many platforms.||$0||$20|
|Social Media Management Tools: If you plan to do social media marketing for your dog treat business, you should consider investing in a social media automation or publishing tool. This will save you time and allow you to track performance and engagement for your posts. Here is a list of 28 best social media tools for your small business.||$0||$50|
|Payroll Software: The main purpose of payroll software is to help you pay your team and track each of those payments (so that you don't have to do it manually). If you do not have any employees or have a very small team, payroll software may not be necessary at this stage. Here are the 11 best payroll tools for small businesses!||$0||$200|
|Online data storage: It's important to make sure the information for your dog treat business is stored and protected should something happen to your computer or hard drive. The cost for this is affordable and depends on how much data you need to store. To learn more about the different options and pricing on the market, check out this article.||$0||$299|
|Total Software Expenses||$150 (min)||$2,794 (max)|
|A Domain Name: Your domain name is the URL and name of your website - this is how internet users find you and your website.Domain names are extremely important and should match your company name and brand. This makes it easier for customers to remember you and return to your website.||$12||$200|
|Email hosting: Email is a critical piece for running your business. Once you have your domain name, you will want to set up email accounts for each user on your team. The most common email hosts are GSuite (typically starting at $6+ per user, per month) or Microsoft Office (typically starting at $5+ per user, per month). The number of email accounts you set up will determine the monthly cost breakdown.||$5||$75|
|Total Website Costs||$17 (min)||$275 (max)|
|Advertising & Marketing Costs|
|Customer Research & Surveys: Many dog treat business's conduct industry and consumer research prior to starting their business. Often times, you need to pay for this data or hire a market research firm to help you in this process.||$0||$300|
|Affiliate Marketing Commission & Fees: If you want to increase revenue for your dog treat business, affiliate marketing is a great way to promote your product to a new audience. When determining affiliate commission rates you will offer, you will want to take into account the price and margin for your product to ensure affiliate marketing is worth it for your business. According to Monitor Backlinks, the average affiliate commission rate should be somewhere between 5% to 30%. To learn more about how to set commission rates, check out this article..||$0||$250|
|Influencer Marketing: Partnering with like-minded influencers is one of the most effective ways to grow your social media presence. Many small businesses simply gift a free item in exchange for an influencer post, or pay the influencer directly.||$0||$750|
|Press: If your business and story is unique enough, press and media attention may come to you, but odds are, you may need to do your own outreach and budget for this. We put together a guide here that discusses different press opportunities (both free and paid).||$0||$500|
|Google Ads: With Google Ads you have the ability to control how much you spend by simply setting a monthly budget cap. Additionally, with these ads you only pay for results, such as clicks to your website or phone calls! It's okay to start with a small budget at first and make changes accordingly if you see valuable returns.||$0||$300|
|Facebook & Instagram Ads: With Facebook and Instagram ads, you set your budget and pay for the actions you want (whether that be impressions, conversions, etc).You can learn more about pricing based on your impressions here.||$0||$350|
|Total Advertising & Marketing Costs||$0 (min)||$2,450 (max)|
|Credit Card Processing Fees: If you process credit cards then you will need to deal with interchange fees - which is usually around 3% of total charges. These fees are often forgotten about and can hurt cash flow if not taken into account.||$0||$300|
|Total Other Expenses||$0 (min)||$300 (max)|
|Total Starting Costs||$1,052 (min)||$28,819 (max)|
We've interviewed several different founders in the dog treat business and asked them how much $ they're making today.
- $192K/year in revenue
- Sells cbd dog products
- 2 founders
- 2 employees
- $12M/year in revenue
- Sells natural dog treats.
- Solo founder
- 17 employees
- $180K/year in revenue
- Sells dog treats
- 2 founders
- 0 employees
Identify Target Customer
A very critical piece in building dog treat business is to identify your ideal target customer.
- Develop a niche and create a consistent brand that reflects your target customer.
- The colors, logo, content, and overall website should resonate with your target customer and should draw them in by helping them solve their specific "need".
Spyq Sklar, founder of Cat Sushi knew who his target customer was, which led him to turn down a big opportunity
We were recently approached by some large retailers to sell Cat Sushi. We never would have thought that in a year and a half that we would be asked to sell into a national retailer.
Revenue is vanity - it comes and goes, but a brand with value has staying power.
If we sold into these retailers, we could do 10x the business. But our policy as of now is to turn that down. We have to protect our brand. We don't want to lose our identity.
Our target customer is someone who shops in an independent, local pet store, not someone who gets their pet food from the supermarket.
Selling into mass retailers is tempting, but we need to grow our company thoughtfully. We could skyrocket our revenue in two years, but it would be shortsighted. We don't want to fall into that trap.
Revenue is vanity - it comes and goes, but a brand with value has staying power.
How To Find A Supplier For Your Dog Treat Business
Here are the steps to consider when finding a supplier:
Know your product
One very critical step to finding the right supplier is having an initial idea of what your product will look (and taste) like.
Sketching is one of the most simple ways to get started in the design phase.
What's great about sketching is that you can practically do this anytime, anywhere - even on the back of a napkin.
You can also experiment and test out your own recipes just to gauge an idea of what you want your product to look/taste like.
Decide your supplier type
You'll want to identify the type of supplier you are looking for.
Here are some questions you may want to ask yourself prior to searching for a supplier
- Are you looking for a manufacturer to produce your product idea?
- Do you want to find a supplier that can simply purchase existing products for you?
- Do you want a drop-shipper to supply and fulfill orders?
- Do you want a domestic supplier or an overseas supplier? Read more about the pros and cons of each here
A great place to start is by simply searching in google for dog treats suppliers.
Manufacturing Your Product In House
It's also very common to manufacture your dog treats on your own - either from your home or in a commercial space.
In order to get the product right, you may want to consider experimenting with different designs and recipes until you find the perfect one.
Some founders choose to manufacture their product in-house so that they can control quality, manage costs, and easily handle production/logistics.
Down the road, you can always choose to outsource your dog treats.
Lucas Walker, founder of TreatsHappen discusses their process of designing/manufacturing their dog treats in-house
For us we started by reverse-engineering the few products we found in stores.
What we found was many of the treats were made as thick as possible. We aimed to make our treats as thin as possible so one ounce of our treats was much more economical than what was on the market.
We also tested the time it would take to make our products. We had to dehydrate long enough to remove moisture for shelf stability, but too long and we’re wasting time and electricity. It would start with a dehydrator then taking samples out every 12 hours (twice a day) and see how they looked.
We weren’t satisfied with the options in stores and through experimentation, we figured out a way to make the treats better.
For us, the differentiation was about what made us better. A lot of this came from reading negative reviews of other products out there. Using chemical preservatives. High carb, even the size of the treats. If you’re using treats for training, you want them to last as long as possible.
As we grew and outsourced production, we work with our manufacturers and kitchens to create new products and enhance current ones.
The regulations in the pet industry are interesting as there aren’t currently many auditing bodies, but when you go across you’re following the same specifications as anything that’s human grade.
This is one of the reasons we choose to find a manufacturer instead of building a plant ourselves. We want to partner with someone who has done it before rather than trying to learn how to be a manufacturer as well as learn how to be a consumer brand.
Our first manufacturer found us after a feature in the Globe and Mail, and we even went through some acquisition talks (I can’t go into more details due to NDA). Our current one was introduced to us by a mutual friend.
Our costs were quite low because we were making the products ourself.
How To Price Your Dog Treats
One of the most challenging aspects to starting a dog treat business is determining how much to charge for your dog treats.
When businesses under-price their product, this can be extremely detrimental to their bottom line and reputation.
Often times, businesses under-price their products to drive demand and volume, but that last thing you want is for customers to view your product/service as "cheap." Additionally, this can have a big impact on the type of customer you attract, which can be difficult to recover from.
On the other hand, when businesses over-price, this tends to be just as damaging to the business.
When customers buy, it's likely that they will explore the internet and look at other competitors to ensure they're getting the best value + deal. This is why it's so important that you research your competition and understand where you land in the marketplace.
Here are some factors to consider when pricing your product:
Understand your customer
It's important that out of the gates, you identify the type of customer you want to attract and how much they're willing to pay for your service. One great way to do this is by surveying your customers. Here are some important items you'll want to takeaway:
- Customer demographic: Age, gender, location, etc.
- Buying habits of your customer: What they buy + when they buy
- Level of price sensitivity with your customer
All of these segments will help you identify the type of customer you're attracting and how to price your product accordingly.
Understand your costs
When pricing your dog treats, it's critical that you first identify all of your costs and consequently mark up your dog treats so you can factor in a profit.
The actual cost of your dog treats may include things like:
- The actual cost to make the product (ie. raw materials, supplies, manufacturer).
- Shipping + overhead fees
- Operating costs to run your business
You may want to consider creating a spreadsheet with every single expense involved in operating/owning your business. This will give you an idea as to what you need to generate in order to at the very least, break-even and will help you price your products to factor in a profit.
Create revenue goals
When determining the price of your dog treats, you'll want to create goals for revenue + how much profit you want your dog treat business to make.
This process is simpler than you may think:
- Think about your breakeven cost (by completing the above step).
- Create a revenue goal based on your break-even cost
- Evaluate the # of items you plan to sell in a given period (make sure this is a realistic number)
- Divide your revenue goal by the number of items you plan to sell
This figure will help determine your estimated price per product in order to meet your revenue goals.
Evaluate your competition
The last piece in determining how to price your dog treats is by simply looking at your competition.
The best way to do this is by finding like-minded businesses that offer product(s) with similar perceived value. Then, you can compare prices of the different businesses and determine where your dog treats fits best in the marketplace.
All of these factors play an equal part in pricing your dog treats, so it's important you evaluate each one individually to come up with an accurate price that will help optimize your business from the start.
Lauren Costanza, founder of Bluminary provides us with a detailed spreadsheet of all of her costs associated with running her business:
I knew this would be a self-funded adventure, and I set aside $3,000. During the first three months, I had a detailed spreadsheet where I tracked where the money was going and what was going toward products versus researching and developing new products.
The spreadsheets involved columns and rows of numbers to craft a budget and gain an understanding of how much would need to be invested at each stage of the process - from gathering supplies to building a website, and shipping materials.
🚀 How To Launch Your Dog Treat Business
Make Sure You Get The Package Design Right
The way you package your dog treat business is often the first impression your customer has - so it's important to get it right.
You may want to ask yourself these questions:
If my product is on a shelf next to hundreds of other similar products:
- Will my dog treat business stand out?
- Will the branding/packaging create a connection with my customer, and hence, lead them to buy?
There are hundreds of tools you can use to help with packaging and design:
- Canva - Allows non-designers to create beautiful Instagram/Pinterest posts, flyers, business cards, etc.
- Stickermule - High quality custom stickers you can include on or in your packaging.
- Noissue - Custom tissue paper and compostable mailers
- Rollo Label Printer - A great tool to print all shipping labels at home
Spyq Sklar, founder of Cat Sushi talks the importance of packaging and design
We already had a product, so we needed to figure out how to brand it. We thought a lot about what we were really making. It's fish, it's gourmet, it's healthy, and it's special. We also wanted it to feel boutique and hip.
Packaging is what sells, so coming up with beautiful packaging was our #1 goal.
We came up with the idea to package it in a metal tin. We went online and bought empty tins and started playing around with what the product might look like.
We designed a sticker to go on the tin, that would have our design on it. One of our customers was a designer, and she helped design the logo for a really generous rate.
We wanted the design to be beautiful, and we went through at least a dozen revisions. We got a lot of feedback on it from other pet stores, family, and friends.
We strove for perfection and looked to our own retail expertise - would we be excited to sell this in our store? Would we showcase this product and put it on our prime shelf space?
When we locked the final design, we felt it was one of the best looking packages that we had seen in the industry. It was striking. We had something that we thought was special - it set itself apart from other cat treats.
Once we finalized the design, we started making it immediately.
Build A Website
Building a website is imperative when launching your business, and with the right tools in place, this can be a simple task to check off the list (without having to hire someone).
- Pick a domain name that's easy to remember and easy to type
- Choose a Web Hosting Plan (ie. Shopify, Squarespace)
- Make sure you choose the right theme and design
- Implement the proper page structure (ie. about page, contact page, pricing etc)
To learn more about how to build a stellar website with little stress, we give you all the details on this step-by-step guide.
Shopify is one of the #1 leading platforms for e-commerce businesses.
Here are some of the main reasons most e-commerce businesses are using Shopify:
- Geared towards supporting store owners. Provides a simple way to launch and manage your online store
- Customer support is off the charts (live chat)
- Easy to use - You don't have to worry about the technical side
- The design is clean and mobile-friendly. There are also hundreds of templates you can use.
- Easy integrations and additional channels (ie. Amazon, email marketing integrations, Facebook, etc).
- Basic Shopify: $29/month
- Shopify: $79/month
- Advanced Shopify: $299/month
Founder, Marc Debnam on recommending Shopify
The best move we did was to switch to the Shopify platform in 2016. Everything became simple.
Shopify is an easy to use software with great add-on apps so you can build your ecommerce business exactly how you like it.
And it intergrates with our accounting and logistics platforms. Xero, Auspost, DHL. As well as most sales and marketing channels.
It freed up so much time working in the business, allowing us time to focus on growth and brand awareness.
With my basic technical skills, I built a great site. The one we still have. I experiment with apps that just plug in and if they add that’s great if they don’t we move on.
Traditional Launch Strategies For Your Dog Treat Business:
There are various different ways you can launch your dog treat business successfully.
Here are a few different strategies to get customers excited about your dog treat business:
- Set up a Facebook page for your business. This is a great way to establish an online presence
- Host an event in a fun location with drinks & food. This is a great way to get exposure in the local community.
- Get Press! Pitch your story to the media and you may just land in an amazing publication
- Live sales to get customers excited
- Send a hand-written letter in the mail with a discount on your services to the local community/neighborhoods.
Lisa Aumiller, founder of HousePaws launched her business with zero marketing dollars. Here's how:
Our company was founded on personal connection and we make sure that everyone we hire knows that personal connection with our clients and their pets is where it’s at.
Initially, we had no marketing budget, so the rule was we could only invest in our community.
I visited places where people congregate: gyms, hairdressers, cafes, delis, etc. I told everyone about what I was doing. I attended any community event I could go to and set up an “Ask the Vet” table.
To this day we still only engage in community marketing. We go to events, parades, host educational lectures, and we do fun things like doggy swim parties. We love our customers and want to connect with them on that personal level.
🌱 How To Grow Your Dog Treat Business
Build A Blog
One of the most effective ways to build brand awareness and grow your business is through consistently blogging.
We've outlined some useful tips for you to consider when creating content:
Consistency and Quantity
Quality is important, but it should be the standard for any content you publish.
What’s more important is consistency and quantity.
Consistency is as simple as committing to publishing and sharing a certain number of posts per week. For me, that’s three per week right now.
This kind of commitment is key, because one day, a random post will blow up, and you will have never expected it.
The easiest mind trap is to think "I’m posting too much", and “I need to give my readers/audience/this platform a break”.
This is nonsense.
There is no such thing as oversaturation. Well, there is, but it is just someone else’s opinion.
For every person that tells you you are posting too much, there is another person that wants even more of your content.
You should ignore people’s opinions on how much you post.
Patience & Persistence
Keep posting, keep trying, and keep putting out good content on the regular. Your time will come, and when it does, it will change everything.
The only thing you have control over is your content.
You can’t control how people will react to it. You can’t control pageviews, likes, or shares.
So the only metric you should focus on is how much content you can put out in a week, month, etc.
Where to share your blog content
I know it sounds obvious, but the best places to share your content is on your mailing list. It is guaranteed traffic and it is a great way to get rapid feedback from your most loyal readers.
Send newsletters often. I have done once a week since starting, and I’m moving to twice a week soon.
Work on increasing your mailing list as well. Look into ways to increase your conversion rate to your mailing list. I added a flyout popup thing to my site and now I’m collecting ~30 emails per day.
An email newsletter is one of the most powerful assets you can have and it is worth its weight in gold.
Reddit is one of my favorite places to promote content.
It is a very scary place because you will often get banned or heckled, but it can really pay off.
Create social media accounts for your blog, the main ones I use:
Twitter Facebook Instagram LinkedIn
Set up Buffer and share all of your blog posts to all of your accounts. All of these little shares really do add up.
Automate this as much as possible. I automated all of my social media for Starter Story.
When I started out, I put together a spreadsheet of relevant Facebook groups for my niche, and I would post to these groups whenever I had a big story I wanted to share.
Grow Your Email List
The more engaged list of emails, the more engaged customers, which ultimately leads to more sales.
One of the best ways to start growing your list is by providing your customer with something free (or discounted) in return.
This could also be anything from:
- Fascinating case study
- Video series
- Free week of the product
- Discount on the product
Learn more about how to grow your email list and improve email marketing ➜ here.
Add an exit-intent popup to your online store
A great way to double, or even triple, your email opt-in rate and to grow your list is to add an exit-intent popup to your site, and offering a discount or content upgrade for subscribers.
Here's an example of what that might look like:
One thing that I spent years NOT doing, that I now kick myself about, is adding an "exit intent pop-up" to our site, which lets people enter a sweepstakes to win a Xero Shoes gift certificate.
That one idea has added over 100,000 subscribers to our email list, which is one of our most effective marketing channels.
Improve Your Email Marketing
Different types of emails
Here are the most common types of email campaigns you can send to your customers and their benefits:
- Welcome emails - the perfect way to provide information from the start with a clear CTA. Make sure to tell your customer everything they need to know about your product or service.
- Newsletters - a great way to give customers updates or send out your latest content
- Product launch emails - the quickest (and easiest) way to increase sales is by selling to current customers. Make sure they're the first on the list to know about your new product
- Promotional emails - promote discounts, deals coupons etc. Try and make this feel exclusive and for a limited time only
- Abandoned cart emails - give your customers a reason to complete their purchase!
Here's a great resource for finding curated email designs, for all types of email campaigns!
Email Marketing Tips
Sending a weekly newsletter or roundup to your email list is a great way to stay front of mind for your customers.
Dog owners take pride in staying up to date with the latest trends in the dog world - here are some great ideas for writing content in the space:
- Training Tips
- How to make your dog comfortable at home while you’re at work
- Write a collection of short stories about life as a vet
- Types of dog food to use
Wag does a great job at personalization with their email marketing.
In the subject line, they always mention the name of your dog with an enticing reason to open the email.
For example, one of the last emails I received from them was a subject line that said:
Build A Facebook Community
Building a community is a great way to grow your network and your business.
There are several different ways of building a community, one of the most effective (and simplest) ways is to build a Facebook group
Setting up the group page takes less than 10 minutes, and we've outlined ways the top 5 ways to create an engaging and successful group:
- Make the group exclusive. This may sound counter-intuitive, however, this ensures privacy and that the group will feel comfortable posting and engaging with members.
- Try to be warm and welcoming. A great way to do this is by having a "Member Monday" where you welcome new members and ask them to introduce themselves in the group
- Use polls/surveys. This is a great way to know your audience and see what people want more of in the group (more business tips, networking opportunities, etc).
- Include influential people & conduct AMA's (ask me anything). This is a great way to get members engaged
- Host an in-person (or virtual) event with members in the group. This will create stronger relationships and build a strong community.
Mike Doehla, founder of Stronger U, an online nutrition company noticed that his customers needed a little motivation and sense of community:
Most diets are lonely so we wanted to give support and a community.
I think many people fail diets because there is no one to talk to and no accountability.
You can by a book, or google a meal plan but who’s going to keep you on track? We will. The entire SU community.
We give our members access for life to our Facebook community filled with people around the world who are looking out for everyone’s success.
Most diets make up arbitrary rules and we thought they just didn’t make sense. Meal timing, Cutting carbs, butter in coffee, sugar being the devil? Ehh no need to overthink that stuff.
We’ll give you the science behind of what we do and show you what actually matters based on real research.
Luckily we have a PhD at our disposal to educate our staff and members so everyone is getting the most up to date information out there.
Consider Working With Instagram Influencers
Partnering with like-minded influencers (within your industry) is one of the most effective ways to grow your social media organically.
Industry influencers already have an established and loyal following. With one post, your product immediately establishes a connection with a brand new audience. It's that powerful.
When finding influencers to promote your product, do your research and make sure that their following will actually be interested in your product.
It's easy to be blinded by any influencer with a huge following, but if those followers don't resonate with your product, there may not be any value there... so make sure you do your research!
Evan Marshall, founder of Plain Jane discusses how "micro-influencers" have impacted his business:
Influencer marketing has been huge for us. Our approach is pretty simple. We give out samples of our products and ask people to post about us on social media aka a micro-influencer strategy.
We really like this approach because we get authentic stories and content. We cannot really control the messaging so the product has to speak for itself. We don’t really take product photos at all. Our customers take the photos and we ask to reuse them.
With any influencer strategy, you have to be very sure you’re targeting the right people and engaging with them. You can make sure you’re targeting the right influencers by looking through their posts and then looking through the profiles of their engaged followers.
It takes more time per influencer but the payoff is certainly worth it. Make sure their followers look like your existing customers.
It takes a ton of time and work to grow a social media following this way but it’s worth it. Other accounts have tried to grow themselves through botting or other manipulations. As a CBD company, we didn’t want to give Instagram any reason to shutdown our account so we’ve done everything through content and real engagement. It’s not magic to make this happen. You just have to post consistently and then reply or like every single comment you get. It takes months but it works
Consider Selling On Amazon
In addition to selling your products directly on your site, you may want to consider selling on Amazon to reach a wider audience and attract new customers.
Here are some pros and cons of selling on amazon:
- Easy and seamless process to get your product listed on Amazon
- There are roughly 100 million thoroughly committed prime customers, so you're bound to tap into new business
- Can help grow your business exponentially and reach new audiences
- You may encounter some "copycats" and counterfeit products
- Amazon owns the relationship with the customer (you lose control over product reviews + customer service)
- If you already have a low-markup, amazon may not wrth your while and you could end up losing money
- Commissions and listing fees are high - it's easy to lose control of your offering
Follow these instructions to get your product listed on Amazon or check out the video below on how to get started:
Selling On Amazon: Sheath Example
Amazon has also been a great platform for us to gain new customers as well as offering options to our existing customers who take advantage of Amazon prime.
The annual growth in Amazon sales is less noticeable, however, as we have much less control over it compared to our other sales channels.
In fact, our Amazon growth has been relatively stagnant the past few years, but we are actively developing new methods to rectify that.
We hope to one day have amazon rivaling sheathunderwear.com in sales, the current goal being $1 million sales monthly on each platform.
🏃🏼♀️ How To Run Your Dog Treat Business
As a brand, you want to deliver an experience that authentic, honest and transparent.
Don't make the mistake of giving your audience less credit than they deserve.
If you go around chasing every trend and only focused on yourself and money, you’re going to lose very quickly.
There have been many times where we have been tempted to do this but stayed true.
Sure we sacrificed sales, but we kept our integrity, played the long game and people saw and appreciated that, and really began emotionally investing in the brand.
Word of Mouth
The most tried and true way to grow a dog treat business is through word of mouth - some entrepreneurs would say it's more important than all social media.
Why you should focus on word of mouth:
- Consumers trust word of mouth above all other forms of marketing
- 92% of consumers believe recommendations from friends and family over all forms of advertising
- 64% of marketing executives indicated that they believe it is the most effective form of marketing
Learn more about word of mouth in our guide: 30 Ways Founders Grow Their Business ➜
We really only have 2 tools to attract and retain customers. The first is word of mouth. TANYA HEATH Paris has never spent a cent in press or in marketing so we rely on happy customers talking about us. They find us by walking past one of out boutiques or they have been following the brand after hearing about us via some kind of press.
Our best retention tool is customer service. Some of my best customers started off as customer services disasters. But by taking their concerns seriously, and by problem solving and by working with them we are able to reassure them and solve their problems. In fact if you look at the comments on our Facebook pages clients often talk about our customer services. This makes me very proud!
I am in the Paris boutique all the time and I’m always interacting with clients so I know what they like and what they think we could be doing better. This insight goes into each new collection that I design. I also know that I don’t know everything, so if I’m in doubt about something, I ask my clients.
Provide Great Customer Service
Providing exceptional care and creating relationships with clients is a great way to build your reputation and retain customers.
Whether you are an online business or a physical business, it's highly important to communicate with customers and make them feel like they are the priority.
Just remember: customer service represents your brand, values, vision and YOU as a person.
Customer Service is Key
Providing exceptional care and creating relationships with clients is a great way to build your reputation and retain customers.
It’s really all about building relationships, providing the best possible care, and checking in with clients regularly to be sure their needs and their pets' needs are being met.
Our clients are not just clients…
They are extended family members and friends. Their pets, we treat as we would our own pets. We built our company on relationships. Entrusting someone with your fur kids is HUGE!
Build a Referral Program
Word of mouth is one of the best ways to get the word out about your business and acquire new customers. Especially when you are starting out, it’s important to build a solid referral program to encourage existing customers to help you find new ones.
A great way to do that is by offering a reward (ie. credit on your service or cash) to customers that refer you to their friends and family.
A fantastic referral program will help with clout, credibility, and establishing yourself in the space.
Melodi, founder of Furry Fellas gives advice on competition, referrals and how this translated to $50,000 in sales:
I learned to work with my competitors rather than against them. When you think of business, we often look at other providers offering the same services as only competitors but if you network with those businesses, you can help each other out and refer business back and forth.
In this industry, there is enough business to go around! In 2019, we brought in almost $50,000 due to referrals from competing pet sitting and dog walking businesses.
We put together the best resources on the internet to help you start your dog treat business.
- Platform tools such as Shopify, Amazon, eBay, Google Shopping, Bing Shopping or Cratejoy
- Email tools such as Klaviyo or Planoly
- Social media tools such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest or LinkedIn
- Advertising tools such as Facebook Ads, Instagram Ads, Google Adwords or Bing Ads
- Reviews tools such as YotPo, Product Reviews or Smile.io
- Design tools such as Canva or Adobe Suite
- Analytics tools such as Google Analytics
- Productivity tools such as Google Suite, Slack, Asana, Buffer, Evernote, Notion or Airtable
- Payments tools such as Paypal, Shopify Payments or Stripe
- Customer service tools such as Zendesk or TawkTo
- Blog tools such as WordPress
- Accounting tools such as Quickbooks or Google Sheets
- Fulfillment tools such as ShipBob or Amazon FBA
- Freelance tools such as Fiverr
- Affiliate tools such as Refersion
- Referral tools such as ReferralCandy
- Sales tools such as Shoelace, Bold Cashier, Bold Upsell or ClickFunnels
- Crm tools such as PipeDrive
- Inventory tools such as TradeGecko
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