Initial research

troopers-60770_640After meeting with Pastor Marty, I was even more excited about starting a pooper scooper business. I started to dream what this business would eventually look like. I could see in my mind’s eye everything that my company could be. Obviously, it would start with cleaning up after the dogs. But what else could I do?

I realized that with Fort Knox in the vicinity that there would be many opportunities to watch pets for soldiers as they traveled to visit families out of state. So pet sitting became part of the vision of the company that would eventually become PetCorps.

Then, I thought, If I can watch pets for people, then I can certainly walk dogs, so dog walking became part of the vision.

Next, I realized that if I was travelling to people’s homes frequently, that I could deliver dog and cat food to their doors, saving them a trip to the pet store.

Another convenience I could offer pet owners was transporting their pets to the groomer or vet for a nominal fee.

Finally, I envisioned a doggie day care and training center, one that focused on enriching the cognitive development of dogs (because dogs need mental stimulation, too). The center would have a certified trainer (because I am not one) and a staff veterinarian.

With all these ideas, I began to realize that there was no way I could do it all by myself. To achieve this vision was going to take a lot of people and a lot of money. At the time, I didn’t have a lot of cash resources and I hadn’t learned how to handle money properly. So I focused on what I could do with the resources I currently had.

I started scouring the internet looking for proof of viable pooper scooper companies. That’s when I discovered pooper-scooper.com. This web site provided a directory of pooper scoopers all over the country and even parts of the world. This was the evidence I needed to convince me that this could work.

On the same website, there was a link to purchase a copy of a book written by the site’s author Matthew Osborne. The title of the book was The Professional Pooper-Scooper: How to Start Your Own Low-Cost, High-Profit, Dog Waste Removal Service. I think I spent about $50 to buy the book. It was packed full of information that I needed to get started. I think I read the book within a week and started making lists of things I needed to do to prepare myself for this work.

Pooper-scooper.com soon became my go-to resource for everything related to becoming a professional pooper scooper. On the site, there was a discussion board. Before I created a username, I trolled the forums as a guest, gleaning from the experiences of professionals everywhere.

From this initial research, I learned that pooper scooper businesses were real, they solved a real problem in the market, and others before me have successfully operated these businesses for over twenty years.

Unfortunately, my excitement got the best of me. I was so excited about this opportunity, that I started to believe that others might try to enter this market in my area. I decided I had to be the first to market on this.

I searched for competitors in my area. There were several in Louisville, KY but none had moved into the Hardin County area. Now I knew I needed to get started as soon as possible.

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How many yards do you clean in a day?

When prospective pooper scoopers contact me for coaching, one question that comes up often is “How many yards can you clean in a day?”

The answer is…it depends. There are several conditions that will affect the number of yards you can clean in a day.

Size of the yard

Central Kentucky’s landscape is interesting because it has a blend of overlapping urban and rural areas. Some of the wealthier neighborhoods have large lots in a rural setting and some neighborhoods have small lots in an urban setting. I can clean a quarter acre lot in ten minutes or less. I can clean an acre lot in 40 minutes. The average yard takes about 25-30 minutes to clean.

Driving distance

In urban settings, houses are closer together. The opposite is true in rural settings, houses are further apart. How much time you spend driving depends on the distance between stops, traffic flow, road closures, and other driving conditions. In rural settings, it could take twenty minutes to drive to the next stop, while in urban settings driving to the next stop could take as little as six minutes.

Two times a week, I travel to Louisville, Kentucky to clean yards. From my home, that’s about an hour drive. Because of this, I know that I have one less hour to clean yards on days I go to Louisville. Another time constraint that I deal with is having to pick up my children from day care and my wife from work. To pick the boys up by 4:30, and still have time to pick my wife up at 5:00, I have to leave my last stop by 3:30 p.m. That means I have a shorter work day on the days I work in Louisville.

Time since last cleaning

Initial cleanings usually take longer because dog owners have likely not cleaned up the yard in a long time. These first time cleanups can take an hour or more to service.

Routine cleanings often take less time because waste has not had time to accumulate.

Number of dogs

The more dogs a household has, the longer it will take to clean the yard. The obvious reason is because more dogs equals more poop. The more poop in the yard, the more often your grid pattern will be interrupted as you stop to scoop.

What I can do

Based on my experience cleaning yards, I have on record yards that take as little as eight minutes to as much as 40 minutes to clean. The average of these is 24 minutes. Factor in driving time and on average, it takes about 30 minutes to clean a yard. That means in an hour, I could feasibly clean 2 yards. That means in an eight hour work day, I could clean up to 16 yards. In a six hour work day, I could clean up to 12 yards.

At this stage in my business, I am not at full capacity. On some days, I clean as few as 5 yards. There is at least one day a week that I am at full capacity, cleaning 16 yards.

I could improve my capacity by hiring an individual to help service yards. In this way, if we both are capable of cleaning 2 yards per hour, our effective capacity would increase to 4 yards per hour. However, I am not quite ready to make that leap yet. I’d like to get my customer list up to about 64 customers before I hire someone to help me.

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Six reasons to stop resisting dog waste cleanup

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While professional poop scooping companies have been around for more than 29 years, there are still many people who prefer to clean up after the dog themselves. And there are still others who avoid the chore altogether because, well, let’s face it…picking up dog poop is disgusting!

I could give you a bunch of reasons why you should clean up after your dog to be a good citizen but instead I’m going to give you six reasons that impact you individually. When you make it personal, you’ll be more likely to tackle this chore or hire someone to do it for you.

Odor Control

Have you ever just ignored picking up dog poop? Sure, we all have. It is a very unpleasant part of pet ownership. Yet, leaving it to sit on your lawn isn’t the best way to deal with it. As it accumulates, its natural odor begins to pollute the air. It ruins a poolside afternoon, a family barbecue, and could even become a nuisance to neighbors. If stepping outside to get a breath of fresh air makes you gag, it is probably time for some serious scooping. Do yourself a favor and keep the yard clean for a pleasant breathing experience.

Greener Lawn

You might be thinking your dreams of a green lawn are doomed if you have more than one dog. But that’s not necessarily so. Make your yard a fun place for people and pets by using “dogscaping,” to create safe areas for dogs to dig without ruining your beautiful landscape. Clean up dog waste regularly to avoid lawn burn. We’ve all seen lawn burn…it is easy to recognize based on its characteristic yellow spots dotted across your lawn. While dog urine is the most likely cause of lawn burn, nitrogen from dog waste can also cause it. Keep the waste cleaned up and the lawn watered for a greener landscape.

Hazard Maintenance

When I was a child, I remember visiting my grandma and stepping in a pile of poo in the backyard. It is one of the most awful experiences I remember. The waste sticks to the bottom of your shoe, it stinks, and it’s down right embarrassing. Keep the yard cleaned up to enjoy it without the fear of stepping in a land mine.

Risk Management

Over the years, pet owners have expressed to me the concern of their dog bringing germs into the house. If a yard is covered in waste, your dog will likely step in it or worse…eat it. Ew…gross! Not only that, a dirty lawn makes for dirty paws and fur. Could your dog be bringing germs into your house without your knowing it? It’s possible. So keep the yard cleaned up to keep the germs out and to help Fido kick the nasty poop-eating habit.

Pest Control

Dog poop attracts rodent pests, such as mice and rats, because it is a food source for them. Yuck! Not only do mice and rats eat this stuff, they also carry with them disease-causing organisms that can make dogs or humans sick. Keeping the yard clean helps keep the rats out.

Parasite Prevention

Did you know you could get roundworms or hookworms from your canine companion? Roundworm infection in humans leads to blindness and hookworm infection could result in anemia. In most cases, infection happens in children who play in contaminated soil and practice poor personal hygiene habits. We recommend teaching your children good hygiene habits to help reduce their risk of infection. However, we also recommend regular use of de-worming medicines and regular yard maintenance to help reduce the risk of exposure to these harmful organisms.

Recommendations

If you’re a do-it-yourself pooper scooper, we recommend cleaning up after your pet each time it goes potty using the bagged-hand method.

  1. Place your hand inside a bag.
  2. Grasp the waste with your bagged-hand and pull the bag inside out.
  3. Tie off the bag and dispose of it in your trash.

If you don’t want to get up close and personal with the dog waste, we don’t blame you. Instead, try picking up the waste at least once a week using reliable scooping equipment. We recommend a lobby dust pan lined with a trash bag and a rake or shovel.

But if this chore is too repulsive for you, don’t worry. We get it. Plus, you have better things to do with your time than to scoop dog poop, don’t you? If so, why not hire a professional to do the dirty work for you?

In Central Kentucky, contact PetCorps Professional Pet Care. We find, collect, and haul away dog waste for safe disposal. We offer service once-a-month, once every other week, once-a-week, and twice-a-week.

Outside of our area, check the directories at apaws.org and pooper-scooper.com for a company in your area.

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Reading Roundup: August 19

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I’ve read several interesting posts this week all about different aspects of pet care. From knowing what to do to break up dog fights, to whether declawing is appropriate, to a heroic rescue by an animal control officer, there’s a lot of great information circulating around the web this week.

Do you know the best way to break up a dog fight and come out unscathed?

I can remember a time or two when I was growing up where my pet dogs would get into scraps with one another. If you’ve ever experienced this, it can be quite terrifying. Our first instinct is to break up the dog fight but if we act before we think, we could end up with some serious injuries. In this article, discover:

  • several methods you can use to break up a dog fight
  • signs of interdog aggression
  • how to recognize and discourage aggressive behaviors in your puppy

NJ politician introduces statewide declaw ban

In case you didn’t know it, a declaw procedure is considered major surgery. Here’s why: it is actually an amputation surgery. Take a look at your hands. Notice how your fingers are segmented by three knuckle joints. Your finger nail rests on the distal joint. Now, imagine you are a cat about to undergo a declaw surgery. The veterinary professionals performing this procedure will be completely cutting off that distal joint. It is often a painful procedure and recovery is often difficult.

Do you think this is a procedure that should or should not be performed on cats? Let us know in the comments.

Spot Check: You probably aren’t washing your cat and dog’s food and water dishes enough

When I worked at Animal Control, we washed the food dishes daily. As a pet owner, however, I have been guilty of washing the dishes only when they look nasty. This article encourages you to improve your dish washing habits to improve the life of your furbabies.

Hero Animal Control Officer Rappels 100 Feet Down into a Ravine to Save a Puppy

What an incredible dedication to animal care! This animal control officer went above and beyond the call of duty to rescue a puppy that slid into a ravine.

Proper Pet Waste Disposal: How to Protect People and the Environment

This week’s reading roundup wouldn’t be complete without a story on pet waste cleanup and disposal. In this article, you’ll find out:

  • how dog poop is harmful to humans
  • how dog poop is harmful to the environment
  • why it isn’t useful for fertilizing your lawn or vegetable garden

Extra Credit

The last article included a link to an article by the Environmental Protection Agency. If you skipped over it, you’ll definitely want to take the time to read it because it discusses how nitrogen and phosphorus from dog waste can provide a nutrient source for blue-green algae in source water. We first wrote about this after Toledo, OH faced a water crisis in August 2014.

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Equipment Review: Quickie Manufacturing Jumbo Debris Pan

As a professional pooper scooper, you will be picking up a lot of waste. Because of this, you’ll need a reliable tool to make it easier. That’s why I prefer the Quickie Manufacturing Jumbo Debris Pan. At first glance, it is simply an industrial size dustpan. But here’s why I like it:

Advantages

Load Capacity

The pan is big enough to allow you to scoop up to four gallons of waste before changing out the trash bag.

Sturdy

The handle is rigid so it won’t bend easily as compared to litter pans with slender upright handles.

Solid Bucket

The bucket is thick plastic and stands up against normal wear and tear very easily. You won’t have to worry about the bucket getting dinged up or broken after extended use.

Limitations

Handle Fastener

The weakest part of this tool appears to be where the handle is fastened to the pan. In nine years of scooping, I’ve only had to replace the debris pan once due to scooping on an incline and catching a mudslide. As I braced myself from falling down the hill, the bucket caught the ground, but the force of gravity upon me caused the handle to snap completely off.

Handle Grip

The handle grip is on an angle. When you first purchase the debris pan, you will need to turn the handle around. Some scoopers have modified their debris pans by adding a horizontal handle for easy lifting.

Overall Rating

⭐️⭐️⭐️ out of 5 stars

Where to buy

Available through many online retailers such as Wal-Mart and Home Depot. Price ranges from $14 to $20 based on the supplier.

 

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Taking the first step

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I decided that the best thing I could do was meet with my pastor to discuss my business idea.

I scheduled a meeting with Pastor Marty at Java Jireh Coffee Shop. Pastor Marty was sitting at a booth under a dimly lit coffee house light. She was seated behind her laptop computer when I slid into the seat across from her. She tucked the laptop away and greeted me warmly.

“Earlier this year, you preached a message from the pulpit saying that God would inspire members of our church to start a business,” I said. “I always believed that I would be one of those people who would start a business. I just didn’t know what.”

She nodded intently, listening. “I was researching business ideas and you’ll never believe what I found. As a former vet tech, I really believe this is right up my alley. What do you think about me starting a pooper scooper business?”

Intrigued, she asked me what that would look like.

“From my research, it appears that people have been doing this for over 20 years,” I said. “Basically, I will be going to people’s houses and cleaning up the dog waste from their yards and disposing of it for them. I know from experience that most people don’t like to do it and they certainly don’t like stepping in it. But I actually have plenty of experience doing it from working in vet clinics.”

She agreed that the business was right up my alley. She also said, “Jason, I appreciate you coming to me for this. Most people don’t even consult their pastor before starting a business, or getting married, so it is good that you are doing this.”

“Well,” I interrupted. “I just want to make sure that I am in God’s will.”

“Jason,” she said very tenderly. “I can’t be the Holy Spirit for you. But I can pray and agree with you that God will anoint you for this work.”

So she did. She prayed right there in the coffee shop that God would anoint me to clean up dog waste as a ministry to other people.

And I did see it as a ministry. In those early moments before PetCorps was brought to life, I saw it as an opportunity to minister the Gospel of Jesus to people. I was prepared that if someone asked me why I would do what appears to be a menial job, that it was an opportunity to serve other people. People who had a need. Not just because they couldn’t fathom cleaning up after the dog, but also because some are unable to do it because of disabilities. And others, like business owners, have more important things to do with their time.

Pastor must have asked me if I knew anything about business because she referred me to speak with a business owner from our church. I told her I would meet with him.

Meanwhile, my plan was to change my major. I was currently taking classes in occupational training and development while enrolled in the Green-to-Gold program at the University of Louisville. Instead of pursuing that degree, I decided to change my degree to business.

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What’s the best way to advertise your pooper scooper business?


One of the most asked questions entrepreneurs ask me is about advertising. Advertising can be tricky at times because it is part art and it is also part science. The art is in crafting simple ad copy with compelling graphics in order to persuade buyers to take action. The science is found in testing different marketing channels, frequency and repetition, and gathering feedback from your customers.

Advertising can also be one of the biggest expenses for new business owners. Because of this, you’ll need to monitor which channels work the best to ensure a good return on investment.

Free Advertising

Publicity


Publicity is the best advertising. In November 2008, I was honored to have The News-Enterprise reach out to me to write a feature story about PetCorps. From that one story, my customer base grew fourfold within a few short weeks.

You’ll be successful at getting publicity when you first open your business. You can also get publicity by participating in community events, promoting special events (like National Scoop the Poop Week), or passing major business milestones.

Craigslist

By far the easiest way to advertise your business. Post a classified ad to the pet services category in your area. To get the best results, post a similar ad every other day for about a month. You will have to tweak your ad since Craigslist does not allow duplicate ads. Be sure your post includes a picture as buyers look for posts with images.

One drawback of using Craigslist is that they removed the ability to use <a> anchor tags to link prospective buyers to your website. You can still include this information within the body of your ad, but users will need to copy and paste the URL into their web browser.

Another possible drawback is attracting the wrong type of customers. Because Craigslist is a free advertising tool, it may attract buyers who are looking for a bargain.

Inexpensive Advertising

Fliers

Print up half sheet fliers and distribute them door-to-door in your target neighborhood. To minimize your cost, create your fliers using Microsoft Word and take the file to a local print shop to have copies made. You could print them yourself, but you’ll have to pay for ink or toner and the print quality will not be optimal. Besides, it only costs $10 to $15 to make copies at a print shop and they will cut them for you.

Identify your target market and find neighborhoods where they live. Distribute the fliers door-to-door and avoid going to houses where “No Soliciting” is prominently displayed. Do not place fliers in mailboxes. Instead, put them on doors. Also ensure the neighborhood does not have a no solicitation policy.

Networking with Local Businesses

Take some fliers, posters, brochures, and business cards around town to local veterinary clinics, groomers, pet stores, and the like. Post your business cards on community bulletin boards.

Bring a gift, too. Businesses like donuts, bagels, and other snacks their staff can enjoy. It creates a sense of good will between you and the business.

Classified Ad in the Newspaper

Try dropping a three- or four-line classified ad in your local newspaper. Be clear and to the point. Be prepared to run the ad several weeks in a row, though.

When I first started my business, this tactic worked for getting new business. In today’s world, print media is becoming less reliable as more consumers take to the web to find information about businesses. In today’s world, having an online presence isn’t enough but it’s a good start.

Web Site

There is a considerable investment in starting and maintaining a web site; however, it is really easy to get up and running. For tips on creating a web site that performs, we recommend following the StoryBrand Framework. For quick tips by Donald Miller, visit fiveminutemarketingmakeover.com.

Blog

A few years ago, I started hearing about content marketing. Content marketing involves developing and distributing quality content that your customers find interesting or useful. As a marketer, you get to freely share your knowledge with your audience which helps build trust and credibility with your target market. The willingness to share the content freelt builds good will with customers who are prime candidates to make a purchasing decision.

In some ways, you could also use your blog as your sales platform. At PetCorps, we maintain a blog on WordPress and our business web site is a separate entity maintained on GoDaddy.

For tips on creating great content for your blog, visit ProBlogger and subscribe to the ProBlogger podcast.

Social Media


Once you have built up a repository of great blog content, it’s time to share it on social media. On some platforms, you’ll need to pay-to-play, meaning that the only way your content will be seen is if you promote it. We have social accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest, and Snapchat. Up until now, we have found Facebook and Twitter to be the optimal platforms for sharing content and converting customers.

Premium Advertising

Phone Books

As soon as you start your business, you’ll start getting cold calls from several companies that say they’ll be able to help you grow your business. One of those calls will come from telephone directories. I once spent over $600 for a year-long phone book ad and never received one call from someone saying they found me in the phone book. Do I think it’s worth the investment? Absolutely not. You’ll be better served using that $600 in another advertising medium.

Radio


This is a great advertising medium…when you can afford it. To run a successful radio campaign you must know that repetition is key. You’ll want to make sure your ad plays when your target audience is listening. If you only run one spot per day, you most likely won’t see a return on investment. Three or more spots is best and I recommend 30-second spots. This will average between $15 and $25 per spot based on your market.


These are some of the ways we have reached new customers. What are some other ways you have tried? What has worked best for you?

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