When your job is pet waste disposal, it pays to have a sense of humor in your marketing.
Scoop-N-Doo in Columbia popularized the “Got Poop?” slogan, modeled after the famous national “Got Milk?” campaign Goodby Silverstein & Partners created for the California Milk Processor Board. A burgeoning T-shirt business resulted, and now some people call Scoop-N-Doo just to purchase the shirts.
Scoop-N-Doo owner David Jacks learned about the business from a friend who is a professional pooper scooper in Wichita, Kan.
“I was working in a dead-end job as a technician for a soda distributorship and had come to realize that if I was going to move up, I was going to have to move or find another job,” Jacks said. “I’d owned my own business before, as a painter, but there was a lot of competition and people were undercutting each other on prices and it was just tough to make a living.”
Within six months or so he had more than 50 clients and took a job as a “casual driver” for Roadway, working three days a week as a driver and three days removing waste. At that point his wife was able to quit her job and work full time from home while caring for the couple’s children. Soon everything fell into place, and when he had 100 or so clients, he was able to devote full time attention to his business. He now has about 200 customers and a three-day work week.
“Everyone has their own reasons for hiring me,” Jacks said. “Some are elderly, some are disabled, but most people just want to spend their free time enjoying their pets. People are spending a lot of money on their animals these days. Some dog breeds sell for over $500—and they just want to enjoy them and provide the best care for their investments.”
While most of his clients are private pet owners, Jacks has several commercial accounts, including the University of Missouri’s Small Animal Hospital, and these accounts provide him with a steady stream of income. Jacks doesn’t use contracts, relying on a “moral code” and an eight-week, pre-paid billing system for his residential accounts. And while most of his clients are dog owners, he’s cleaned up after llamas, horses, cats, cattle and even the occasional pot-bellied pig.
Two Jefferson City pet waste cleanup companies, Happy Scoop and Doo Doo Disposers, recently joined Columbia’s 12-year-old Scoop-N-Doo in mid-Missouri’s poop-scoop scene. Both are taking fresh approaches to marketing.
The owners of Doo Doo Disposers in Jefferson City, Mike and Shelly Jett, have placed large, colorful magnets on the sides of their vehicles—and those of all their adult relatives.
“I may be new to the business, but I have a lifetime of experience!” Mike Jett quipped. He has raised and trained dogs since he was a child. “When I’m housebreaking a dog, the keyword I use is, ‘Go do your chores.’ Now I say, ‘When your dog does his chores, I do mine.’”
Jett plans to expand his business to include treatment for brown spots in yards caused by pet urine and to provide outdoor application of flea and tick treatments. But his primary business is cleanup of pet waste in residential yards.
When asked how he got the idea for his business he said, “As I was cleaning up my own yard one day, I happened to ponder the idea that there really isn’t a difference between [hiring someone to do] this and hiring somebody to mow my grass or landscape my yard, so I talked it over with a friend, and we formed a partnership and got started this past May.” Doo Doo Disposers is still a part-time occupation for Jett, but he hopes that it will soon become his primary occupation.
Jefferson City police officers and business partners Michael Griffin and Michael Ward launched Happy Scoop in February. The two friends are both dog owners who started talking and decided that theirs was a service that people could use. They did their own research, checking out veterinarians’ Web sites and learning about the health issues related to pet waste. The pair soon found the Web site of California-based Scoop Masters, www.scoopmasters.com, which offers a complete guide to starting a pet-waste removal business, including information about tools, techniques, billing, taxes and marketing to help new business owners get started.
In May Happy Scoop won the Marketing Makeover Package award from the Jefferson City Chamber of Commerce, which provided the company with a free logo design and 52 weeks of promotional air time from Zimmer Radio Group to help get their business established.
All three business owners agree that their most powerful advertising comes from word of mouth, and all have found local pet stores, veterinarians and pet groomers willing to let them post flyers and distribute brochures about their services.
Nationally, some successful pet waste removal companies have begun to open franchises—and to include other services, such as pet sitting (“doggy daycare”) indoor stain removal, pet-taxing and dog walking, in response to customer demand.
The pet-services industry is a subset of an industry estimated to be worth more than $40 billion in the United States. Sixty-three percent of U.S. households own at least one pet, which equates to 71 million homes, according to data compiled by the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association in its 2007-2008 National Pet Owners Survey.
While the largest portion of these expenditures will go toward basics such as food and veterinary care, pet services (including grooming, boarding and personal care) account for $3 billion dollars of this booming industry.
The pet-waste removal business is now supported by its own trade organization called “aPaws,” the Association of Professional Animal Waste Specialists. Founded in 2002, the group supports the success of the many “Mom and Poop” companies that have sprung up to meet the needs of pet owners who have more disposable income than time.
Deb Levy, president and Co-founder of aPaws, said the group, with more than 100 members, is very concerned with educating customers about the health concerns of leaving pet waste in yards, where it can breed disease and infiltrate the water table. The group also educates clients about issues such as dog-bite prevention. “We hold a convention each year during ‘Scoop the Poop Week,’” Levy said. “We always look for new ways to team up with other organizations.” Supporting waste-removal companies nationwide is serious business. The trade organization provides owners with newsletters and holds events to keep businesses up to date on industry news.
The average cost for cleanup for one animal (generally of the canine variety) in a typical yard one time per week is $6-$10. The size of the yard, the cost of additional services and the number pets all contribute to fee structures. Depending on the number of pet owners in any given area and the efficiency of the removal process used, annual income from a full-time pet-waste disposal business can reach as much as $200,000—one indication of why interest in this business is rapidly expanding.