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The Biggest Mistakes I Made When Starting My Pet Business

Starting a boarding cattery has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life, but let me tell you, it hasn't been without its bumps in the road. When I opened my boarding cattery back in 2017, I had no idea just how much I’d learn along the way. From new regulations in 2018 with star ratings to the pandemic, lockdowns and travel restrictions and the cost-of-living crisis, it's been quite the journey. 


There are a few things I would do differently if I were starting my pet business again.  So I’m sharing some of the biggest mistakes I made with you so that you can avoid them if you’re starting your own pet boarding business.



A cat lying down with the text Mistakes I made when I opened my pet business


Offering a Discount When I First Opened my pet business


Offering a discount to entice customers seemed like a no-brainer at first. Who doesn’t love a good deal, right? But in reality, it didn’t help my business at all. By offering a discount, I inadvertently sent the wrong message—that I didn’t value my services at their full price. In fact, I was undercharging even without the discount. 


Most of the people that came only came because of the discount.  We both knew that they either couldn’t or wouldn’t pay the full price, as someone once said ‘I wouldn’t pay that for my dog let alone my cat!’ Poor cat!  At the time I didn’t realise that these bargain hunters, weren’t actually my dream clients. Thankfully for me there were plenty of people who were my dream clients, they were willing and wanted to pay my prices, without a discount.   If you want to attract your dream clients then check out this post here.


Not Setting Clear Boundaries From the Start of my pet business


Oh boy, was I eager to please! If a customer wanted something, I’d bend over backward to make it happen. Drop off a cat at 5pm on a Sunday during my family dinner? Sure! Pick up at 9pm after you land, when I should be winding down for the night? No problem! Oh and don’t forget I’m over an hour away from the airport! And then there was the pregnant cat, who was supposed to have the dream birth and no just what to do when she delivered 3 days into a 2 week stay during a fully booked August (with my 2 kids in toe 5 and 2!) Ah, that still haunts me now. 


Looking back, my lack of boundaries led to burnout and frustration. Now, I have strict opening hours and clear policies. Guess what? My clients respect my time, and I feel so much better.


Spending too much Time on Admin


In the beginning, admin tasks ate up a huge chunk of my time. Emails back and forth, answering the same questions over and over—it was exhausting. I realised I needed better systems. Now, I have templates, automation, and detailed processes. It saves me loads of time so that I can get back to doing what I love, looking after the cats.


Working for Free in my Pet business


Yep, what a shocker!  Can you believe that when I started I didn’t fully account for my time and expenses and ended up working for free?   I spent most of my time caring for cats during the day and catching up with admin in the evenings and at weekends


After I revisited my why (why I set up my business in the first place) I got to work setting up efficient systems.  I also managed my time so that I had a good balance between work and personal life. Now, I make sure I’m paid fairly for my time and efforts. It’s a game-changer!


Not Taking Time Off for Myself


At first, I couldn’t imagine taking time off. I thought I needed to be available 24/7 365 days a year. But with a young family, a husband that worked away and no staff to delegate to eventually, I realised the importance of breaks to avoid burnout. 


Now, I plan my time off well in advance, blocking off periods throughout the year to rest and recharge. This change has made a huge difference in my overall well-being and business success. I know that many pet business owners feel torn taking time off but for me, my time is more important than any money I’m missing out on by not taking the bookings.


Always saying Yes to everyone


As a self-confessed people pleaser, saying no was tough, it still is!  I accepted every booking, even when it wasn’t in my best interest. Like the pregnant cat mentioned above!


Over time, I learned to trust my gut and say no to unsuitable bookings. Don’t get me wrong, occasionally I’ll get in my own way and then instantly regret not believing my initial instincts.  However, tuning in and listening to my heart has helped me maintain the quality of service and focus on customers who are a good fit for my business.


Undercharging and not valuing my time


When I first started, my prices were initially higher than local competitors, but they didn’t reflect the value or high standards I provided. As much as I love what I do it’s a business, not a hobby.

Now I regularly review and update my prices to ensure that my business remains sustainable.  I don’t announce price rises either, I mean Tesco don’t ever let me know, they just do it! 



Which of these do you find the hardest part of running your pet business?

  • Saying no to customers

  • Setting clear boundaries

  • Managing admin and paperwork

  • Attracting the right customers



Conclusion


Mistakes are part of the journey when starting any pet business, but they’re also experiences that have enabled me to make the business that it is today. 


By sharing my mistakes, I hope to help you avoid the same pitfalls and build a successful pet business. Remember, value your time and services, set clear boundaries, and keep adapting to improve your business.


P.S. If you’ve got any questions or want to share your own experiences, drop me a comment below. Let’s support each other on this wild ride!


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