This book is a great resource for those looking to earn a second income, potentially in a new field, during retirement or early semi-retirement. Today's post is about how to make money with pet care services, a topic I've written about several times. For more information, see Dog Walking, Pet Sitting, and the Money You Can Make, Earn Extra Money as a Pet Sitter, and Make Six-Figures Walking and Watching Pets.
People love their pets, sometimes as much as or more than they love their own children! According to the National Pet Owners Survey sponsored by the American Pet Products Association, Americans spent over $50 billion on their beloved pets in 2011. Although much of that money was spent on food and healthcare, there is still plenty being spent on pet pampering and pet care services. If you’re a die-hard pet lover, here are some lifestyle-friendly career choices to explore:
- Doggie daycare. At a time when so many people are working long hours, the demand for doggie daycare services is on the rise. As a daycare provider, you will be responsible for feeding, walking, and playing with the dogs while their owners are busy at work. Whether you choose to run a daycare service out of your home, through a franchise, or at a leased business location, you’ll likely find plenty of customers eager to use your services, although you should be aware that the demand for your services is likely to be greatest during the summer months and peak vacation times, so this could put a crimp in your personal travel plans. For more information about careers in doggie daycare, consult Pet Sitters International at www.petsit.com.
- Dog walking. Dog walking is an easy business to start, a great excuse to get exercise, and a surprisingly lucrative enterprise for people who work in major cities (some New York City–based dog walkers earn in excess of six figures annually, although they are admittedly a rarity). Start-up costs are minimal, and it can be relatively easy to build up a steady stream of clients after you establish yourself as a caring, trustworthy, and reliable provider. Believe it or not, you can even get certified in this line of work by attending the Dog Walking Academy, a four-day intensive training workshop designed to equip you to start your own dog walking business. You can learn more about the Academy and other dog-related business opportunities at www.dogtec.org.
- Pet photography. Pets are an integral part of the family, so it’s no surprise that an increasing number of people are willing to pay for professional portraits of their four-legged friends. And it’s not just dogs and cats who are posing for portraits. Equine photography is a growing subset of the pet photography business, with opportunities to find business at horse shows, race tracks, and equestrian centers. To learn more about business opportunities as a photographer, check out Virtual Photography Studio at virtualphotographystudio.com.
- Pet paraphernalia. From Halloween outfits to gourmet biscuits to eco-friendly bath products, pet owners are eager to indulge their furry friends with special toys and treats. You can sell your goodies at craft shows and local pet stores or on the Internet. If you don’t want to create your own products, consider becoming an independent sales rep for one of the direct sales/home party companies that specialize in pet-related products (check the Direct Selling Association at www.dsa.org for listings).
- Grooming services. Nothing spruces up a pet’s appearance quite like a good shower and shave—so to speak. Pet grooming services can be operated in stores, private homes, salons, and in mobile pet grooming vans. If you are leery about creating a pet grooming business of your own, investigate the options for buying into a pet grooming franchise (for listings, check www.entrepreneur.com).
- The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals offers a wealth of information at www.aspca.org/about-us/faq/animal-careers.aspx.
- DogTec.org: This site has a number of excellent articles and training resources for people interested in starting a pet business.
As you can see, the options for turning your passion for animals into profits are many and varied. And if this niche intrigues you, I can think of no better way to demonstrate how you can turn your love of pets into a full-fledged business than to introduce you to Sharon Sakson. I spoke with Sharon right before Thanksgiving 2011 and was delighted to discover that among her many different income streams, she helps coproduce the televised broadcast of the Kennel Club of Philadelphia dog show on Thanksgiving Day, the most viewed dog show of the year. As you’ll soon learn, Sharon has turned her lifelong passion for dogs into a robust and multifaceted income portfolio.
Portrait of a Dog Lover Extraordinaire
“I absolutely love my work. It is the most wonderful thing in the world.” —Sharon Sakson
Many of us love our dogs. But Sharon Sakson doesn’t just love dogs; she has built an impressive career around that passion. As was the case for many of the second-act stories featured in this book, it took a while before Sharon was able to craft a career around her passion. After graduating from college, she settled into the broadcast news world with jobs that included a field production assignment with ABC Nightly News anchor Peter Jennings. Life in the news world was hectic, but even with her packed schedule, Sharon always found a way to spend time with her dogs. In addition to keeping dogs as pets, she worked as a breeder, participated in dog shows, and studied to become an accredited American Kennel Club (AKC) dog show judge.
All went well until the economic downturn of 2008 when Sharon lost her job. At the time, she was just fifty-six years old, and at a point when she was neither financially nor emotionally ready to retire. Fortunately it didn’t take Sharon long to reconfigure her dog-related hobbies into work that generated a full-time income—a multipronged career that takes advantage of her passion in a variety of interesting ways. Although the transition was a difficult one, Sharon says she now finds herself busier and happier then ever.
Today she travels the world as an AKC international dog show judge and has visited numerous countries including Canada, England, France, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Russia, Finland, and Taiwan. She also works as a breeder of champion whippets and Brussels griffons, and although the income she earns as a breeder is relatively low, it helps to offset the considerable costs of caring for and showing her dogs in competitions. While at those competitions, she is able to network with other judges and handlers, and just as with any other profession, the more people she meets, the more opportunities for judging come her way.
In addition to her breeding and judging activities, Sharon writes about dogs. She is a contributing columnist to Dog News magazine and the author of several books about dogs, including: Paws & Effect: The Healing Power of Dogs (Spiegel & Grau, 2009), Paws to Protect: Dogs Saving Lives and Restoring Hope (Alyson Publications, 2008) and Paws & Reflect: The Special Bond Between Man and Dog (Alyson Publications, 2008). Her books feature heartwarming stories about dogs as healers, rescuers, and faithful companions. But unlike so many other books in this genre, hers are more than just feel-good stories; Sharon includes scientific studies and research to substantiate her claims about the human-like qualities of the featured dogs. Sharon also earns income from speaking engagements and offering private consulting services to help dog owners with their dog-related behavioral issues and questions.
In between juggling her many income-generating activities, Sharon always makes time to relax and enjoy her household full of dogs. At the time we spoke, she was caring for eight dogs and a litter of six puppies, a task that some would consider a full-time job all its own. (Not surprisingly, our interview was interrupted several times by the sound of dogs barking in the background!) She is also involved with Xolos for Chronic Pain Relief, a nonprofit organization that matches Xolo puppies, a unique therapeutic dog breed, with patients suffering from chronic pain conditions. And finally, as if that was not enough to keep her busy, Sharon continues to do television production work on a freelance basis whenever time allows.
Sharon’s Top Three Tips to Profit from Your Pet Passions
1. Familiarize yourself with the American Kennel Club’s offerings. The AKC website www.akc.org, is an outstanding resource for breeders and dog lovers.
2. Be prepared to work hard (and long) to train as an AKC judge. Although dog judging may seem simple to the untrained eye, judges have to meet the exceedingly rigorous standards set by the American Kennel Club. These include a minimum of twelve years’ involvement in the diverse field of dog competitions, breeding of at least five litters of champion dogs, and successful completion of a series of examinations. To learn more, consult www.akc.org.
3. Network. Networking is as important in the dog world as it is in the business world. Sharon’s diverse income streams provide her with opportunities to attend different events where she can continually make new acquaintances, and that, in turn, has helped expand her income potential.