Most dog owners consider their pet to be another member of the family. But dogs leave a lot of waste behind, which does more than just destroy yards. According to the EPA, dog waste can also pollute water bodies when it’s not disposed of properly. Because many families hate picking up poop, there’s a high demand for pet waste removal services in communities across the country.
Fortunately, you don’t need special training to start a dog waste removal business or to invest a lot of cash to get things up and running. As with other ideas on our small business ideas list, you can run a pet waste removal service on your own schedule. There may even be opportunities to grow your business and hire employees down the line. Here’s how to get started.
Will a pooper scooper business work in your area?
In order to start a successful pet waste removal service, you’ll need to identify your target market and set yourself apart from your competitors. As the first step in learning how to start a business, you’ll need to answer these questions:
- Do people want or need pet waste removal services in your area?
- How many potential customers would want or need this service?
- What are other people earning and what is the employment rate for pet waste removal professionals?
- Where do your potential customers live, and can you service those areas?
- How many other pet waste removal businesses are in the area?
Once you have a sense of the market, run a competitive analysis of other businesses in the area. For each competitor, identify what percentage of the market they serve (if possible) and what their strengths and weaknesses are. That can help you find your competitive edge.
For instance, if you can’t offer a lower price than other pet waste removal services, you might offer environmentally friendly services and biodegradable bags to attract customers. There should be a reason for customers to choose your business over others in the area.
How much can you make picking up dog poop?
How much you can make with a pet removal business depends where you live and what other services in the area are charging. As an example, you can offer weekly, bi-weekly, and monthly prices for small, medium, and large yards and charge more if there is more than one dog using the yard. Let’s look at a breakdown of how much you could potentially make.
Let’s say you average cleaning four to five yards per hour. Over an eight-hour workday that’s 32 to 40 yards. A reasonable rate would be $10 for a small yard and $15 for a large yard, so let’s average it out at $12 per yard.
If you clean 32 to 40 yards per day, you’ll make an average of $400 for an eight-hour day. Working five days a week at $400 per day will earn you $2,000 per week. Multiply that by 50 weeks (because you probably won’t be working every day) and you’ll gross $100,000 per year.
Next, let’s assume your business expenses are around $1,000 per month between vehicle maintenance, insurance, marketing, etc. Multiply that by 12 months and your overhead is $12,000 per year for a total annual earning of $88,000 ($100,000 - $12,000). Finally, we’ll take out 20% for taxes ($17,600), which leaves you with a net income of $70,400 ($88,000 - $17,600).
It may be good to offer a variety of packages to customers. For example, you can set weekly, bi-weekly, and monthly prices for small, medium, and large yards. You can also charge extra if there are more than two dogs using the yard.
How much does it cost to start a poop-scooping company?
You’ll need a vehicle to get to and from customers, and that vehicle will need a commercial car insurance policy. You might want to invest in a trailer hitch receiver rack so you can transport the waste without smelling up your car. Unless you choose a sole proprietorship, you may need to file business paperwork depending on the business model you choose.
In addition, you’ll need the following equipment:
- Pooper scoopers
- Trash bags
- Rubber gloves
- Disinfectant spray
- A website advertising your services
- A business license
Most of these items are inexpensive, and it’s possible to start your new business with $500 or less.
Depending on the scale of your operation, you may need to dump the waste at a local landfill or waste disposal facility. You’ll incur a cost every time you dump, so research local fees. In addition, you’ll need to budget for repairs and replacement of your waste removal equipment as it breaks down, and you’ll need rubber gloves and trash bags on an ongoing basis. You’ll also need high-speed internet and phone service to run your business, which you may already have.
The most expensive ongoing costs will be commercial auto insurance for your vehicle and general liability insurance for your business. The premiums for commercial auto insurance will vary based on your driving history, location, and other factors, but you can expect to pay $600 to $2,400 per year. General liability insurance isn’t required but is highly recommended. A typical policy can cost around $50 per month.
You may have ongoing advertising costs as well, which will depend on whether you rely mostly on word of mouth, distribute paper ads, or pay for Facebook ads. You’ll also need a way to take payments, including those with a credit card. There are many options out there, but if you have a large volume of transactions, you’ll typically be charged more.
Marketing and finding your first customer
Word of mouth is a great way to grow your business, but finding your first customer can be tough. Start by asking your friends and family to spread the word. When you launch your website, you should also launch profiles on social media platforms like Facebook.
You can advertise on Craigslist or use an online platform like Thumbtack to get leads. Check out our Thumbtack review for more information.
Or you can list your services on a pet professional site and let customers find you. Maintaining a listing on Pooper-Scooper.com costs as little as $7 per month and can help you reach more customers. An $85 membership with aPaws, a trade association of professional animal waste specialists, also comes with a variety of benefits, including listings in its directory.
Flyers can go a long way as well. Post in neighborhoods with a lot of pet owners as well as dog parks. Search for their USPS routes and set up Every Door Direct Mail. You’ll need an eye-catching brochure or postcard with pricing info and your website listed. Local pet stores, groomers, and kennels may also let you display your flyer or even a few of your business cards.
If you’re still not getting anyone to sign up, offer an opening special such as a discounted rate or a free second week of cleanup. Once you complete your first job, collect a Google or Facebook review from your first customer and ask for a testimonial for your website. It may take a few of these for potential customers to trust your business.
How to expand your business
When you have so many customer requests for poop scooping that you can’t fulfill them yourself, it’s time to hire an employee. That’ll require you to verify their employment eligibility, set up a payroll system to withhold taxes, and set up workers’ compensation insurance. Start by hiring one helper so you can learn the process, and then hire more as your business expands.
Another way to take things to the next level is to add services that might appeal to your existing customers. For example, if you tell families that you also offer dog-walking and pet-sitting services, they may be inclined to choose you to scoop their dog poop.
Is starting a pooper-scooper business worth it?
According to Glassdoor, the average salary for a pooper scooper service in the U.S. is $40,572. What’s more, the startup costs are very low relative to other businesses, which makes it one of the best side hustles. If you’ve done the work and identified your target market, a pet waste removal business could be lucrative.
Do I need to have a license to pick up dog poop?
Research local regulations to make sure you’re following the rules to operate in your state. In most states, you will need to apply for a business license. Although it’s likely you’ll just need a general business license, which is typically inexpensive and easy to get, some states have additional licensing requirements for pet waste removal companies.
Pet waste removal can be a great way to make extra cash and can even grow into a full-time business. The startup costs are low, there’s no training required, and you can make a positive impact in your community and on the environment.
However, picking up dog poop isn’t for everyone. Beyond the unpleasant odor, there’s a risk of contracting infections from improper handling. But if none of that bothers you, it can be a perfectly legit way to make money. Your side hustle may even grow beyond your expectations and set you up as a successful business owner.
More from FinanceBuzz: