The Startup
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The Startup

The Steps I Took When Starting My Own Business

Tips and advice for entrepreneurs

Photo by Riz Mooney on Unsplash

My journey to start my own company, specifically a pet sitting business, began out of a frustration to become gainfully employed post-college graduation.

After a year of unsuccessfully looking for jobs, applying for jobs and attending interviews, I grew tired and defeated from the plethora of no’s and sounds of silence from potential employers.

I knew I needed a job and I needed to make money. I began thinking about my options for self-employment and I was naturally drawn to the idea of pet sitting because I worked for a pet sitting company through high school and college summers. I greatly enjoyed it, I knew I had a passion for taking care of animals and I knew a little bit about the industry, but I wasn’t sure if starting my own pet sitting company was a good idea.

After all, starting a business involves more than just a love for whatever you will be doing.

Could I really start a business that would be successful?

I knew if I wanted to actually do this, I needed to do some research to fully consider the idea of starting a company and becoming self-employed. I began with simply searching the internet for “how to start a business”. This may be pretty self-evident, but my first tip for those of you who are interested in starting a business is: do your research.

Research

Research doesn’t have to be overwhelming and complex. Just start somewhere, anywhere. Read about what interests you and go from there. My searches started with, “how to start a business”, “how to register your business and business name”, and “professional pet sitting”.

After I did some preliminary searching, I started making lists of what would be required for me to actually get a business going. My list looked a little like this:

  1. Think of a business name and what the primary goal is of my business.
  2. Think about what makes my business special/why I am qualified to offer this service or product.
  3. Decide what kind of business structure I want to have: corporation, limited liability company, sole proprietorship, or partnership.
  4. Register my business name so that no one else can have the same one (and so that I don’t take someone else’s).
  5. Plan out what services I would offer — write descriptions and prices.
  6. Write a mission statement.
  7. Figure out if I need a business license to operate.
  8. Come up with a business logo.
  9. Figure out tax information.
  10. Think of what ways I will market/advertise my business.

This leads to my next tip for starting a business: get organized

Get Organized

Starting to make lists of how you are going to take action or what action you need to take can help you plan, envision and make goals that are attainable. It also helps you to put all the chaos of a huge venture onto paper so that you can brainstorm what you are going to need to do to make this dream happen. Sometimes that involves writing down vague items like my #8, “Figure out tax info”. I certainly had no idea what specific “tax things” I would need to do, like filing for an EIN (a federal tax identification number for your business). So, I didn’t write down specifically, “file for an EIN”, but I knew that figuring out taxes was going to be a hurdle I would eventually need to cross, so onto the list it went.

A book that significantly helped me with figuring out some of the foundational parts of beginning a business was, “Legal Guide for Starting and Running a Small Business” by Fred Steingold. Not every chapter may be necessary for you, but it is an extremely helpful resource for the most common legal questions when starting a business such as:

  • how to choose a business structure
  • getting licenses and permits
  • insuring your business
  • hiring independent contractors
  • understanding tax rules

All the background work involved, including research and lists, can be boring, tedious and time-consuming. But weeding through the legal stuff and building a proper foundation was and is necessary for building a business successfully.

The next step in the process for me, was (and is in my opinion) the most fun: create your brand.

Create Your Brand

This is part of the joy of starting a business that I find extremely satisfying. By becoming self-employed, you are the boss of your decisions for everything - from what you call your business, what the logo is, how late you are open, if you pet-sit farm animals or just cats and dogs, if you want to accept 20 clients a week, 40 clients a week, if you have employees or independent contractors, designing your website, creating business cards, flyers or pamphlets.

All of this “stuff”, in my opinion, is the nitty gritty. This is where your personality and talents get to shine. Your business, and ownership of it, is going to be an expression of you.

It is also comforting being your own boss to realize that you can change and adapt your business as you grow (and you should!).

During this creative part of starting my pet sitting business I found a couple of things very useful:

  1. Making connections with other people in the business: I reached out to the owner of the pet sitting company I worked for to get some advice on building my own. You may not have a contact you already know, but I recommend connecting with other pet sitters to build a working, professional relationship but also to share in the process.
  2. Supporting other local businesses: I looked for a local company that created business apparel (cards, pens, shirts, hats) so that I could build a relationship with another community business, support local, and get a better deal (usually) then buying from an online company. Reaching out to local businesses is also a great way to spread the word about your company.
  3. Building a website for people to find you (and to tell a story): Having a website is an awesome way to give people something to review and refer them to, it’s also a great way for people to get in touch with you. Wix is the website maker I used because it’s free and it allows you to create your own personalized site with and extremely easy-to-use interface. (But there are many other website builders out there)
  4. Continuing education-Pet Sitters International: PSI stands for Professional Pet Sitters International. This is perhaps the most important resource I used. It is an educational organization for professional pet sitters and it was incredibly helpful in teaching me about what is means to be a professional pet sitter, getting me started with advertising on their site, getting me bonded as a company, pointing me towards resources such as a pet sitting appointment notebook or online appointment setting, etc. It is also a wonderful way to continue learning about the pet sitting industry and share that with your clients. I highly recommend becoming a member if you are beginning to pet-sit professionally.

Final Tips

Once you have done your research, organized with a plan of action and attainable goals, and created your brand, you are well on your way to being a business owner! For me, my business did not feel truly official until I received my first inquiry from a potential client asking me for pet sitting services. But looking back, I think my business truly started the day I registered my business name. That was the celebratory mark of my ideas coming together and my business becoming officially official.

My final piece of advice is to remember that starting a business, like any other job you might begin, takes time to learn, to become adjusted, and to grow.

  • Be proud of yourself for taking a leap into a direction that takes self-discipline and responsibility.
  • Celebrate the little accomplishments along the way.
  • And don’t be afraid of failing.

I didn’t always have successes. I had to learn how to say no, how to be tolerant and/or patient with people who shared very different values and views on dogs than I did, and I had to learn how to build a separation and balance between being “always on call for work” and “home/family time”. What I perceived as my failures along the way were actually all extremely valuable opportunities to learn and grow. I’m not a perfect person, dog mom, pet sitter or business owner, but I am always on a journey to becoming better and building upon what I learn whether I realize it at times or not.

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Mary-kate

Mary-kate

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Animal lover. Outdoor Enthusiast. Rescue Dog Mom. Consider becoming a medium member and supporting me here: https://mary-kate.medium.com/membership