How to Start a Unique Dog Treat Business in 3 Easy Steps
When they can, dog owners typically love to spoil their favorite four-legged friends with everything from specialty toys to clothes to food. In fact, food products tend to be especially in demand, as not everyone trusts that the big dog food companies are really providing their dogs with a healthy diet.
That is why a dog treat business can be such a lucrative side hustle, at least for the right person. If you like whipping up some homemade treats for your own dog and like to experiment with dog-friendly recipes, then you may want to consider opening up your own dog treat business.
Intrigued? Keep following along for more on how to start a dog treat business.
Step 1: Do Your Research
What Does a Dog Treat Business Do?
A dog treat business usually sells healthy and homemade dog treats to individual pet owners and sometimes also other dog-based small businesses. They may choose to sell an array of treats or specialize in certain niches, such as:
- Dog-friendly cakes for birthdays
- Organic treats
- Gourmet treats
- Custom orders for dogs with food restrictions
- Muffins, donuts, cookies, cupcakes, etc.
The treats may be sold individually or in bulk and may come in a wide variety of dog-friendly flavors and shapes.
Do I Need Any Licenses or Permits to Open a Dog Treat Business?
You will likely require a business license and, in some cases, a sales tax license and certificate of occupancy. Your kitchen and products may also need approval from your local health department, so be sure to get into contact with them directly to find out what is necessary.
You may also require even more permits and licenses depending on where you plan on operating your business. Contact your local county clerk, SBA (Small Business Association), and/or other government officials to find out all of the necessary requirements in your area.
What Are Some Skills and Experiences That Will Help You Build a Successful Dog Treat Business?
Baking experience is certainly helpful, but it is not absolutely necessary. Anyone can learn to bake at home as long as they are willing to put in the time and the effort.
However, when creating recipes, you need to be aware of the unhealthy food types for dogs. There are some kinds of food that humans eat that can actually be poisonous to dogs, so make sure you know what ingredients are acceptable when selling dog treats.
You may have picked up this knowledge and more if you have worked at a pet store or other kind of dog-based business. This kind of experience is also helpful to have, as it means that you may have an idea of what kinds of treats sell the best, and more generally, what dog owners are looking for when they purchase specialty dog treats.
Customer service skills are also a must in the pet treat business. You will likely be selling a lot of products directly to your customers, so you need to have a professional, friendly demeanor and good problem-solving abilities. In addition, customers are often very loyal to the kinds of businesses that will go above and beyond for them, so make sure your service skills are top-notch to keep your customers coming back.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, you should be a dog lover! The customers who will be buying your treats are most often going to be dog lovers themselves, so this will help you connect with them and may even give you more insight into what kinds of products you should have in stock. If you already have a furry friend of your own, even better – someone will need to do taste tests!
Step 2: Figure Out Your Costs
What Are the Startup Costs for a Dog Treat Business?
If you are looking to start your dog treat business out of your house, then your startup costs will potentially be low, as you will likely already have a lot of what you need on hand. But you do need to check and see if you can work out of your house and kitchen, as some health departments may require you to purchase separate baking supplies specifically for your business or work out of another kitchen entirely. Do your research!
If you are allowed to work out of your home and kitchen, you will need to make sure you have all of the necessary baking supplies and ingredients for your dog treats. Then, it is mostly just a matter of purchasing some packaging for your finished products, though you may want to keep this pretty simple when you are first getting started in the business.
Now it is just a matter of selling your treats. If you plan to open up your own storefront, it could certainly be costly, so you may want to consider selling your treats online instead of a brick-and-mortar pet bakery. This means you will need to invest in a website and/or online store and then decide if you will cover any delivery costs for your customers.
If you are only going to be catering to your local community, then you may need a car to drop off deliveries, or if you want to expand your reach, you will need to look into shipping carriers and purchase appropriate packaging material.
What Are the Ongoing Expenses for a Dog Treat Business?
No matter how you plan on running your business, you will certainly need to pay for any website fees, ingredients, and packaging as needed. But, after that, most of your other expenses depend on the exact nature of your business. For example, if you decide to run things out of a storefront or make your treats in a commercial kitchen, you will need to keep up with your rent and utilities.
If you will be delivering treats in your car, you will need to pay for gas and any maintenance on your vehicle. Likewise, if you will be shipping your treats, you will need to pay for appropriate packaging and shipping costs, though you may choose to pass those fees on to your customers. As you can see, your ongoing expenses, even for a homemade dog treat, can certainly add up, so keep this in mind when deciding how you will run your business.
Step 3: Make a Profit
How Much is the Dog Treat Industry Worth?
The pet food market, including treats, was worth about 86.6 billion USD in 2019.
What is the Growth Potential for the Dog Treat Industry?
The pet food market is expected to grow at a CAGR of about 4.5% from 2019 – 2025, bringing its total worth to about 90.4 billion USD in 2025. There is plenty of opportunity for you to grow your dog bakery business.
How Do You Market a Dog Treat Business?
The first step in marketing your business is determining your target audience. Generally, you will be looking at dog owners with disposable income. Now, where to find them?
Your website will be a great way for people to learn more about your business, and you should consider linking it to your business's social media accounts. An online presence is crucial for businesses these days, so even if you don’t want to sell online, you should at least sign up for free accounts on all popular social media platforms.
You can join dog groups, follow popular dog pages, and engage in discussions with fellow dog lovers. You should also post lots of pictures of your treats and information about new products and promotions on your own page.
While online marketing is important, you should also get out there in the real world and make some connections. For example, you could print off some business cards and bring some samples of your treats to local dog-based businesses and organizations, or set up a table at local farmers’ market, trade show, or fair. The more you can do to get the name of your business out there, the more likely you are to attract customers.
How Much Should I Charge for Dog Treats?
On average, homemade dog treats sell for anywhere between $5 and $25, depending on the size and ingredients. There is typically about a 30-40% profit margin on dog treats, so keep this in mind when pricing the treats for your dog bakery. Your prices should cover production costs, overhead, etc., while still allowing you to make a profit.
Any Other Tips for Jump Starting a Dog Treat Business?
Absolutely! Here are some more tips for setting your dog treat business up for success:
- Consider volunteering or donating to non-profit dog organizations. You could volunteer your time or even just drop off leftover dog treats from your dog bakery. Customers often like to see businesses that give back to their community, plus you will be able to get rid of treats that may otherwise go to waste.
- Look for housing communities that allow dogs. You could place samples in the front office or see if you could include your treats in any kind of welcome package for new residents.
- You can also try selling dog treats at your local farmers market or doggie daycare. It is a great way to get to know the other dog lovers in your community and spread awareness for your brand.
- Be sure to check out our other posts for more ways to start your side hustle!