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How to Start a Pet Bakery Business

The demand for natural and organic pet treats is growing rapidly, and a pet bakery business is a great option for those looking for an affordable animal related business idea.  You can easily start a pet bakery as a part time side hustle from home and scale it to a full time enterprise once you have sufficient demand from your customer base.  Growth in the pet treat industry has been so strong that there are even franchise opportunities in this niche market for those interested in opening a retail storefront.

Consider Startup Costs

A pet bakery can truly be started on a shoestring budget.  You can operate out of your home kitchen, since treats for animal consumption are not regulated like those intended for human consumption (where it is necessary to rent a commercial kitchen that is subject to health inspections).  You may need to obtain a home business permit from your local jurisdiction, but these are usually available at a minimal cost (for example, in my town the fee is $10 and is a one time expense).

If you are planning to open a retail store, you will have many more expenses including a business license ($100 annually in my jurisdiction), remodeling permits (for any structural changes made to your building), monthly rent, signage fees (permit and cost of sign fabrication), insurance fees, employee wages, and legal fees.

Most pet bakery businesses start out as home based businesses—you rarely see someone go to a retail store right out of the gate.  This is probably the best way to go.  There are so many expenses involved with a storefront location, and you can reach many customers at minimal expense via a website.  You can start very easily with a user-friendly site like Etsy and then work on developing your own website with an ordering system if you wish.

Name Your Business

It is surprisingly hard to find a unique name for a pet bakery business since they have become so popular in recent years.  We made our own short list and all of the names that immediately came to mind were taken.  It is important to come up with a name that isn’t already in use, so be prepared to put in some serious brainstorming time on this.  You should also develop a logo with your business name that will appear on all packaging and advertising.

You should also check to be sure that the domain name for the business is still available for purchase (many sites have domain name lookups—try GoDaddy or DreamHost).  Once you have decided on your business name be sure to purchase the matching .com website domain name, even if you have no immediate plans to develop it.  For less than $20 a year you can guarantee that nobody else can swoop in and use your name to develop a competing enterprise that may steal away some of your customers.

Develop Your Products

There are many websites and books that can provide recipes for dog treats and tips on how to decorate them.  You should decide whether you will focus on providing dog treats targeting a specific market—like will your products be organic or all natural?  Will you offer more perishable items like cakes and cupcakes, or will you focus on traditional dog treats?  Will you offer other products like pet clothing, bowls, or accessories?

Spend some time visiting other pet bakeries online and see what they are offering to their customers.  This can help you come up with product ideas for your own business.  Most pet bakery businesses produce seasonal holiday themed treats (Christmas, Halloween, Valentine’s Day, etc).  It is also common to see sports themed designs (baseballs and basketballs) as well as the traditional dog bone shaped items.  If you can come up with cute or catchy names for each product that can really help drive sales.  You will also need high quality photos of each item for advertising purposes.

Be sure to list all of your ingredients on the product label.  You can easily accomplish this by using sticker stock in your printer or using a label maker.  If your product is all natural, 100% organic, or made with organic ingredients be sure to highlight that on the packaging as well.  The fact that pet bakery products are handmade using better quality ingredients is one of their biggest selling points.

Purchase Supplies

You will need an assortment of standard baking tools as well as pet themed cookie cutters and cake pans to get a pet bakery started.  Once you have your recipes you will also know what ingredients you will need to stock up on.  There are several distributors online, and you may be able to get wholesale pricing for business purchases.

Consider how you will be packaging your products—bags, individual shrink wrap, take-out style boxes, or gift baskets—and purchase an adequate amount of inventory.  Be sure you either have your packaging items customized for your business or simply add a sticker that has your name and logo.

Set Your Prices

Your first step in determining prices is to figure out the cost of creating your product.  Your next step is to see what other pet bakeries charge for similar items and quantities.  As long as your products as competitively priced you should be in good shape.

You can also offer discounts for larger purchases, free shipping at a specific dollar amount ($25 might be a good target), or sales on certain products advertised as “specials.”  Items in premium packaging (like themed gift baskets) can usually command slightly higher prices due to their presentation.

Advertise

There are many ways to draw attention to your new pet bakery business.  A website is one of the most effective forms of advertising in today’s marketplace and you can easily use a template on a site like WordPress to develop something that looks professional and polished, even if you have no experience working with websites.  You can also create an e-newsletter that features coupons and special deals.  Don’t forget to create social media pages on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram.

You should also create business cards and flyers to leave in areas that draw a lot of pet owner traffic (such as vet clinics, dog parks, grooming salons, dog training facilities, doggie daycare or boarding facilities, and dog shows).  You may consider leaving some samples with pet service providers, especially if you can reproduce the service provider’s logo or reference their type of business on a treat.  This can lead to orders from the service provider and give you great exposure with their client base.

It can also be a good move to participate in trade shows, local craft fairs, charity events, and farmer’s markets to gain additional exposure.  Be sure to have plenty of free samples on hand.  Try approaching local business owners (especially gift shops) to see if they would be interested in carrying your products on a trial basis.  You can also leave your advertising materials in common areas of high traffic locations like supermarkets and office buildings.  Word of mouth advertising will also develop over time.

Consider Your Order & Delivery Process

If you are using a site like Etsy you will have minimal need to work on an ordering and payment processing system, since the site handles much of the work for you.  If you are opening an independent website for your business you will need to develop an online order form that clearly includes your policy on returns and refunds.  You will also need to determine which payment processing system you will use (such as PayPal).

Be sure you have an adequate supply of boxes and packing materials on hand, since you will need to ship items to your customers quickly.  You can use FedEx, UPS, or USPS Priority mail to send your products (which should clearly be marked “perishable” on the outer packaging).  It is also important to determine whether you will charge for shipping by total dollar amount on the order or at a standard fee.  You might consider offering free shipping once the order meets a certain threshold.

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