It’s easy to start a pooper scooper business and (apart from one obvious aspect of it) there are few downsides. There’s a market for pet waste removal pretty much everywhere. It doesn’t cost much to get started and it’s an option for entrepreneurs of all ages. Below you’ll find the pros and cons of starting a pooper scooper business along with the steps to follow to set your operation up for success.
But first… a story. At our house, my husband takes on all the yardwork. Picking up doodies falls among his—well—duties. Every year, he travels back to his home state of Wisconsin to spend time with his dad and brothers hunting over Thanksgiving. During the course of those two weeks, no one is scooping up any of the poop in our yard.
We have two small dogs, around 10 lbs each, but you’d think we had at least 10. Because when my better half comes home at the end of each of these 12-day travels, there are upwards of 60-70 deposits ready to be removed. (Yes, one of my tiny dogs is a prolific pooper!)
Meet Mocha (Black Pomeranian) and Harley Quinn (Long-haired Chihuahua and prolific pooper).
And we’re just one household in a neighborhood of 500+ homes. Throughout the U.S. there are countless neighborhoods where a pooper scooper business could paws-itively clean up!
What Is a Pet Waste Removal Business & Who Should Start One?
A pet waste removal business is (as the name suggests) a business model wherein you undertake the pick-up, bagging, and disposal of pet poop. It’s often referred to as a pooper scooper business and mainly applies to dog waste, especially in residential settings.
It works especially well for people who don’t mind being outside in all seasons and have the physical ability to get to customer’s locations, scoop up said poop, and dispose of it. Because it doesn’t require a big investment beyond time, it’s a dog-gone-good option for teens (or even pre-teens) looking to earn money and get experience running their own business at an early age.
How Much Pooper Scoopers Make
According to ZipRecruiter, pooper scoopers in the United States earn an average of $15 per hour, with hourly earnings ranging from $8.41 to $18.75 per hour. This translates to annual earnings from as low as $26,000 a year to as much as $37,500 for top earners.
However, Salary.com indicates a much higher average salary for pooper scoopers at just under $40,000 per year. The states where pet waste removal professionals earn the most are:
- $44,482 – Washington DC
- $44,074 – California
- $43,990 – New Jersey
- $43,595 – Alaska
- $43,487 – Massachusetts
The cities with the highest average salary for waste removal services are all in California, and include:
- $50,148 – San Jose and Santa Clara
- $50,020 – Fremont, California
- $49,958 – San Francisco
- $49,948 – Daly City
- $48,749 – Oakland and Berkeley
- $48,654 – Hayward
Pros and Cons of Starting a Pooper Scooper Business
If you’ve been thinking about starting a pooper scooper business, the time is right. In fact, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association, 44.5% of U.S. households have at least one dog, up from 38% in 2016. But opportunity isn’t the only factor on the plus side. Here are some of the pros and cons of offering pooper scooper services right now.
Pros of offering pooper scooper services:
- Its low cost: In terms of equipment and supplies needs, it’s very inexpensive. You can get started with little more than latex gloves for hygiene, any scooping aids you want to use, and bags for disposal.
- No experience required: Some lines of work require expensive schooling and years of experience. But pet waste removal doesn’t require any special training, education, or prior work experience.
- Flexible hours: Apart from the actual time commitments you make to your customers, this type of small business startup offers virtually unlimited flexibility to work on your own schedule.
- It’s scalable: It’s possible to start a pooper scooper business without having to pick up a single pile by lining up work and hiring others to do the “dirty” work.
The cons of starting a pet waste removal business are few but potentially include:
- Poor weather conditions (on occasion): Rain or shine, to make money with a pooper scooper business you’ll need to be willing to work out-of-doors regardless of the weather. This might make for a few ruff days.
- Rules and regulations: You could have local regulations or homeowner association (HOA) rules to comply with.
- Disposal issues: In most cases, you’ll probably be able to dispose of pet waste in the residential or commercial trash bins of your customers. However, customer preference or waste disposal rules could mean you have to find (and fund) your own means of disposing of pet waste.
Now that you know more about all of the benefits of going into the dog-poop-scooping business, follow these steps to build an absolutely paw-some brand.
Outline Your Business Plan
You don’t have to spend a ton of time outlining your business plan, but there are some basics you should cover to make sure your business is set up for success.
Research & Define Your Market
To be sure you’re not barking up the wrong tree, first make sure there’s a market for your services. As part of this, you’ll want to research local neighborhoods where there’s an opportunity to sign up multiple clients and define your overall area of service.
Thinking about this aspect of your business now will help you later on. For example, having several clients clustered in the same neighborhood enables you to plan efficient routes to maximize your time.
Outline Your Pooper Scooper Scope of Services
Doody calls—how will you answer? On top of researching and identifying your best prospects, you’ll need to decide what services you want to offer. Here are some of the questions to answer:
- Do you plan to serve residential properties, commercial properties, or both?
- Will you offer one-time or recurring services (or both)?
- Will you offer waste disposal services included or as an add-on for clients who don’t want you to use their trash bins?
- For clients with an ongoing contract how frequently will you plan to revisit their properties?
Calculate What to Charge for Pet Waste Removal
With your scope of services outlined, it’s time to build a menu of services and price them. The biggest cost of starting a pooper scooper business is obviously your time, along with equipment and supplies. However, you’ll also need to factor in considerations like:
- Multi-pet properties vs. those with just one dog
- Per-visit cost for a one-time service vs. a client signing up for weekly pooper scooper services
- Any discount incentives you want to offer for prepaid services, such as a client paying for 6 months in advance
- Size of the property (e.g., where you may be required to span a half-acre vs a small residential yard)
- Supplies (gloves, bags, and so on) and any equipment needed
- The cost of gas and wear and tear to your vehicle (if you are driving to your clients)
- Any costs associated with waste disposal on your part (i.e., are you funding trash pick up or can you place bags in the client’s bins)
Make It Official
If you’re in it to win it, cover these basics to make sure your company is set up correctly. Not only will it save you time and effort in the long run, but it can keep your company out of the financial doghouse!
Choose a Pooper Scooper Business Name
First, the fun stuff. Choose a name for your new venture! There aren’t many rules you’ll need to follow, but here are some tips for landing on a great business name:
- Make it memorable, and preferably short
- Avoid strange spelling (e.g., dogz vs dogs)
- Make sure the name is available (e.g., not trademarked by someone else)
- See if you can purchase a website domain name that matches it exactly
- Explore whether it’s available to use for social media profiles
- Research its history—the last thing you want is to choose a business name that’s identical to another business that has a poor reputation or bad online reviews, for example
Get a License to Provide Pooper Scooper Services
If you don’t dot the i’s and cross the t’s by making your business legal, it could leave you howling with disappointment. Take the steps to get your business properly licensed with a federal Employment Identification Number, or EIN (for tax purposes) and follow your state, county, city, and other regulations.
Get a Business Bank Account and Payment Processing
Separating your business finances from your personal finances is a must. And un-fur-tunately, failing to do so is a common rookie mistake. Set up a business bank account and think about how you’ll collect payment from your clients. A few options include:
- Invoicing services available through your bank (like Zelle)
- Apps like Venmo, Square, and PayPal
- Card readers (via apps)
- Google Pay (and you can request and send money through Gmail!)
- Cash or check
Protect Your New Pet Waste Removal Business
While it might seem far-fetched, your pooper scooper business does face risks. For example, you could inadvertently step on a sprinkler head while at a client’s house and be held liable for fixing it. Other common claims incurred in your industry happen if a client’s pet gets hurt or accidentally let out, like if a gate doesn’t get closed all the way.
That’s exactly why you need pooper scooper insurance. It adds a layer of protection that makes all the difference if your day suddenly goes to the dogs. What’s more, it’s super-affordable, from $13.33 a month (or $139/year), especially compared to what you might have to pay without it.
In addition, it conveys credibility for your brand, giving both you and your client added peace of mind.
Promote Your Pooper Scooper Services
Pet waste removal businesses often start up as “cottage” enterprises that grow through word of mouth. But word of mouth isn’t the only way to raise the woof and get the word out about your business!
Create Marketing Materials
Business cards are a must-have for your business. Not only do they make your brand look legit, but they make it easy for clients to remember your business and get in touch. What’s more, you can invite clients to give away extra copies of your cards to generate customer referrals.
If you plan to canvass specific neighborhoods, door hangers are a great option. They’re pretty inexpensive and give you the ability to get the word out about your business to every home in the neighborhood.
Plus, you don’t have to spend a ton on design to get professional-looking business cards, door hangers, brochures, and so on. For example, you can visit VistaPrint if you want to browse premade templates, customize them for your business, and order print copies in an hour or less!
Reach & Engage Your Target Audience
A door-to-door print marketing campaign is just one way to reach members of your target audience. For example, BrightLocal’s latest Local Consumer Review Survey revealed that 98% of consumers went online to research local businesses in 2022 (up from 90% in 2019). That includes everything from finding services like yours to checking the reputation of service providers before hiring them.
With that in mind, for max reach, here are some of the most effective ways to reach and engage your target audience:
- Send direct mail campaigns (or door hanger campaigns) targeted to the neighborhoods where you want to offer pooper scooper services
- Make a website with content and keywords that make it local-search-friendly
- Create a Google Business Profile and trick it out with your company info, menu of services, hours of operation, photos, videos, and so on, including locale-based keywords for people searching for pet waste removal services in your area
- Get social: Make a Facebook business page, connect Instagram and go all-in with totes adorbs pet pictures
- Ask customers to leave positive reviews on your Google and Facebook profiles
- Join your neighborhood’s Facebook groups (or start one)
- Create free listings for your services on Angi (formerly Angie’s List) and Yelp
- Extend client referral rewards and incentives
- Try out first-time customer specials
Set Your Pooper Scooper Business Up for Success
Who’s afraid of the big, bad woof? Not you! Now that you’re ready to get this paw-ty started, make sure you account for the last few essentials of how to start a pooper scooper business below.
Plan Efficient Routes
As you bring on more and more new clients, route planning will be vital. To maximize revenue, you’ll need to schedule clients efficiently by location. Here’s where using referral rewards can be especially effective in helping you cluster several clients within a short distance.
Plus, it’s great if your goal is to grow your pooper scooper business to the next level. Having these client cluster groups makes it easy to hire employees and hand off all the clients within a specific locale.
Stock Up on Supplies
There’s more than one way to scoop a poop. Check out our list of the best professional pooper scooper tools to start with. And make sure to protect yourself by using gloves and following best practices for hygiene, health, and safety as far as pet waste removal.
Minimize Risks That Can Sideline Your Operation
Speaking of which, it’s important for you to stay out of doody (figuratively speaking) by minimizing your risks. In addition to putting pet care insurance in place to protect your business financially, make sure to protect yourself by using gloves and following best practices for hygiene, health, and safety as far as pet waste removal.
Now you know what it takes to start a pooper scooper business, how to set it up correctly, and how to promote your services. All that’s left is for you to do it! If you’re ready to get the insurance your new business needs, learn more about what pooper scooper insurance is and get your coverage in place today.