With the US job market being what it is in 2020, many people are looking to start their own businesses. Pet transportation is no exception — more and more drivers are interested in starting a small business from scratch. With that in mind, we’re offering a few tips on how to start a pet taxi service. We won’t cover every issue in great detail, but this should be enough to get you started.
Pet taxi services are typically local businesses, trying to corner a niche market. Owners looking to get their furry friends to the vet or the airport quickly and safely tend to pay well. And while most pet taxi businesses operate long-distance — the profits are highest when you stack your shipments — there is still room for this type of service. Some drivers on CitizenShipper already operate this way within their communities, doing very well for themselves. So here’s what you’ll need to do in order to join their ranks.
Come up with a business plan
So if you’re asking yourself, “how do I start a pet taxi service”, the answer is simple. You do it like any other start-up: by working out a solid business plan. Here’s a couple of questions this plan should answer:
- How much demand is there for a pet taxi service in your area?
- Is this demand being met, and why existing services are insufficient?
- How do you intend to finance your new pet taxi business?
- What kind of ROI (return on investment) can you expect in the short term?
- What are the long-term prospects for a pet taxi business in your area?
Take your time when drafting your business plan, and be as thorough as you can. This foundational element will be of great use in the days and months to come. You might need it to secure an investment, or just to outline all the necessary steps for your own benefit.
If you have many competitors in the area, consider expanding your pet taxi business plan for a more specialized and niche area, which distinguishes your business from the others. Think about what your costumers might need, which extends the usual offers of other providers. For example, you could team up with a grooming business and include dog grooming services into your offer.
The licensing involved in starting a pet transport service
As far as paperwork is concerned, you won’t need much beyond the standard vehicle license and registration. The necessary licensing varies by area, but at a bare minimum, get a USDA registration. It’s free and applies on a federal level, which will be important if you later decide to expand your reach. Getting a pet care certificate can also be beneficial — there are many online courses available.
Keep in mind that registering your new company with the state may be a different matter. Depending on local regulations, you might need to incorporate, starting an LLC or a similar legal entity. In most areas, however, registering with the USDA should be enough to get you off the ground.
When you’re starting a pet taxi service, you can no longer rely on your standard car insurance, but have to start thinking about liability insurance. To deal with liability issues, some providers offer expanded coverage to include the risks associated with animal transport. If you don’t have that option, look into getting bailee insurance. And once your business takes off, you might consider commercial general liability policies. Make sure you find the right insurances to cover the costs for damages to your vehicles or the pets, so you and your customers are secure in the case of an accident.
Equipment and expense planning
Your initial expenses will vary depending on the scope of your operation. Most drivers start small, dipping their toes in the water before taking the plunge. For example, one way ist to use your existing vehicle at first and only get a bigger one if it becomes necessary. This makes it easier to calculate the fuel costs: plan for at least +50% of your current expenditure.
Other than that, you’ll need the full array of pet transport gear and supplies. Get USDA-approved carrier crates able to fit dogs of different sizes. You might want to buy leads and leashes of your own instead of relying on the customers’. Get your doggy pads, your sanitizers, your wet wipes. As some pet business professionals say, you can’t ever have too many wet wipes!
It is at this stage that you’ll see a direct benefit of your business plan. If it involves market research, you’ll have a rough estimate of the income that you can expect. Make sure to plan your expenses accordingly! Don’t dig too deep of a hole for yourself early on, but don’t skimp on the essential equipment either.
Define a service area and start advertising
If you’ve drafted your pet taxi business plan right, you already have a service area in mind. Pet taxi businesses typically operate in urban and suburban areas, where short routes pay well. Assuming you live in such an area, all you have to do is reach out to the customers and start making money. But it’s easier said than done, we know. Here are a few suggestions to get you going:
Online marketplaces. It’s fairly easy to find customers in a given area. Just open an account on a bidding site, select the pets category, and you’ll see a list of shipments. You’ll need to bid low at first until you’ve got a couple under your belt. Once you’ve got a reputation as a reliable, professional service, start upping your price.
Social media. Whether you use it personally or not, it’s an extremely effective advertising arena for small businesses. Create an account for your new shipping service and start following other pet-related accounts. The easiest way of gaining traction there is to share pictures of the animals you’re transporting! Some drivers boost their profile incredibly quickly this way.
Partnerships/Word of mouth. If you have an existing business relationship with dog breeders, it should help you immensely. If you don’t, try reaching out to some. It’ll get easier over time, as you build up a reputation and word of mouth gets around. Vet clinics are also an excellent source of referrals, so try offering them a discount if you can.
Make sure you provide only high-quality service
In the service industry, businesses live or die by their reputation. Even when you’re just starting out as a pet taxi service, you’ll need to keep this in mind. Do your best to cultivate relationships with customers, partners, and referrers. And most importantly: Take good care of the pets, because their owners will sense if something is wrong with their loved friends. Whenever you reunite a pet owner with his little buddy, don’t forget to ask for a review. If you have a profile on an online marketplace, maintain your star-rating as high as possible. When communicating with potential customers, strive to come off as friendly, honest, and professional, emphasizing your love of animals.
One of the ways to project professionalism is to spell out the terms of service and issue a standard written contract to each customer. While many pet taxi services rely on verbal agreements, both you and the customer will feel safer with a contract in hand. There are online resources available for putting together a contract template for your small business. Check them out and find one that suits you!
At CitizenShipper, the customer automatically enters into a contract as soon as they click “book driver”. However, we do not mediate the transaction — how you two handle yourselves beyond that point it’s your business, but you can always contact us with questions. This is why we recommend that drivers offer written contracts of their own, an added guarantee of the quality of their service.
How do I become a pet taxi? As easy as one, two, three!
Starting a pet taxi always comes with a lot of fears and challenges, but we hope that this guide has answered most of your questions on how to start a pet taxi service. The job is not for every driver, nor is it profitable in every area. But if you have the right frame of mind and the right market niche, you can definitely make it work.
If you think you’ve got what it takes, sign-up for free on CitizenShipper and gain access to shipments in your area. Start building your pet taxi business today, and see where it leads you!
For any additional advice or assistance, feel free to contact us at any point.
We wish you good luck with your new business and therefore a new chapter in your life!
Last updated at December 15, 2021
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