Demographics and social trends point to an accelerating demand for personal services such as dog waste removal.
I’ve always been interested in new and different ideas, especially ideas about making money. Even as a kid I had my little money-making projects.
I picked wild berries in the woods in Maryland, put on magic shows, set up lemonade stands, and I ran a newspaper route. I managed to keep myself occupied and make enough money to provide myself with spending money. And I also enjoy doing things that are just a little out of the ordinary.
The first time I heard that someone was offering to clean up after people’s dogs for a weekly fee, I just laughed — I had to! I had never heard of such a thing — a person going around cleaning up after people’s dogs for a fee.
But the more I thought about it, the more sense it made. I mean, here was a job that obviously has to be done, but a lot of people prefer not to do it themselves.
So I spent one winter studying and planning; spending time in the local libraries in the few hours I had available between the two full-time jobs I was working (making less than $6 an hour at each of them).
I learned that there were about 100,000 dogs within 15 miles of my home. With only one percent of them I’d have enough customers to improve my life.
I studied ways to scoop large quantities in the shortest time. I practiced with different tools, using “simulated dog waste” to time how long it would take to clean a yard.
Back in those days I was living in a tiny upstairs apartment, and I didn’t even have a car. But I vividly remember walking a half mile through the snow to catch a bus for work, and saying to myself over and over, “Someday I’m not going to have to do this anymore!”
I had hold of an idea that I KNEW was going to take off, and it was’nt going to take much money to make it happen.
In the first month of the business, I spent a total of about $150 for tools, flyers, cards, and a couple of very small classified ads. I got a few customers right off the bat, and made my initial investment back, plus profit, after just a couple of weeks. And that’s how I got into the dog waste removal service business.
Little by little, constant improvements began to add up. Step by step, my little business was making customers happy and getting bigger and bigger. The first vehicle I could buy to use just for business was an old Honda Civic for which I paid $300.
My customer list kept growing. I began hiring employees when I couldn’t do all the work by myself. When I had several people working for me I hired someone whom I knew could become a good manager. After a few years that person was able to take over more and more of the daily operation of the business.
The service outgrew my home office and and employed 7 workers, with a fleet of 6 pickup trucks — serving between 650 and 700 regular weekly customers. I was making a personal income of about $45,000 a year and spending most of my time with my family, traveling, reading, and doing the things I enjoy.
After ten years I felt it was time to move on to new projects. For me it was time to focus on some new ideas, so I sold my business to an excellent manager whom I know will continue to improve the business and serve the customers well.
Over the years I’ve had so many requests for information that I finally put it all down on paper. I detailed my operating procedures, office protocols, and even samples of successful marketing materials. I distilled my decade of experience from starting with almost nothing to building a successful, thriving, well-liked and profitable dog waste removal service business.
Ten Frequently Asked Questions:
1) “Is this for real!?”
It certainly is! I’ll readily admit it sounds pretty funny at first. But all over the country new dog waste removal services are being started, and customers are signing up for them. Demographics and social trends point to an accelerating demand for personal services needed by busy professionals, executives, single parent households, and people who simply have better things to do than scoop up after dogs.
2) “How do you charge for this service?”
Scoopers make excellent profits! Prices around the U.S. vary from $7.50 per dog per week to $15 per week. Cleaning an average of 6 yards per hour earns $45 per hour! With 650 clients, I was depositing more than $20,000.00 per month. Even if you generate only half that amount you can hire others, pay them a great wage, and still net excellent profits for yourself.
3) “What do you do with the waste you collect?”
The best disposal method will vary according to local regulations and available facilities. Some simply place the waste into plastic bags and leave it in the customer’s trash cans. Others share a trash bin with another small business or take the waste directly to a local landfill. You’ll need to check the rules in your area.
4) “How do you get customers?”
Make effective use of publicity and inexpensive marketing. Successful marketing is the cumulative use of various media and methods, such as classified ads in neighborhood weekly newspapers, business cards, fliers, voice mail scripts, and vehicle signs, to name a few.
5) “How long does it take to clean a yard?”
Some small yards or dog runs can be cleaned in just a few minutes. A first-time or one-time cleanup in a yard that hasn’t been cleaned for a year or more could take an hour! Of course, you’ll charge extra for those jobs. Overall I could average 6 yards per hour over the course of week’s work, including travel time. My employees productivity ranged from 4 to 7 yards per hour.
6) ” What kind of tools do you use?”
Forget about those scissors-type “pooper-scoopers” sold in pet shops. They’re simply not made for this kind of work. Use a “lobby dust pan,” a small shovel and plastic trash bags to quickly and cleanly scoop up dog waste. You’ll learn techniques that will enable you to find all the waste in a yard without wasting precious time.
7) “What do you do in the winter?”
Work! Sometimes the snow postpones a day’s work, but usually it melts in a day or two and you can catch up later the same week. Dogs keep doing their thing all year long, and if you didn’t keep up with it through the winter, things can get awfully foul by Spring.
8) “Could you also clean apartments and condo grounds?”
Absolutely! Most of your work will probably be in the back yards of single-family homes, but many professional scoopers service commercial accounts, too. These kinds of clients will each pay you hundreds of extra dollars each month.
9) “Why would anyone pay you to clean up after dogs?”
Busy dog-owners are delighted to pay someone to have this done! Many dog owners need a way to dispose of pet waste that is both legal and practical, especially if local city ordinances prohibit the placement of animal waste in with residential refuse.
Environmentally, uncollected dog feces is a significant contributor to ground water pollution. Uncleaned back yards stink, they annoy the neighbors and attract flies that lay their eggs on the feces and then move on. Plus, pets and people using dirty yards track poop into the house.
You can provide simple, neat, and cost-effective solutions to all these problems and more. Lack of time; physical difficulty; and the “Repugnance Factor” mean many people are more than happy to pay someone to do this necessary chore. Some clients even tell us we are a “godsend” and credit us with stopping family quarrels!
10) “Is there really a market for this?”
Yes! This is a rapidly expanding market. My business reached 700 clients each week and it’s still growing with a new owner . A Colorado service cleans more than 2,000 yards each week! I know two owners of dog waste services in Saint Louis, and some cities are supporting four or more services. Professional pooper-scoopers now operate in Canada, Australia, and many states in the USA.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Matthew Osborn is the founder of Pooper-Scooper, a site dedicated to helping connect customers to dog waste removal services, and the author of “The Professional Pooper-Scooper: How to Start Your Own Low-cost, High-profit Dog Waste Removal Service.”