Pets Are Big Business

Pets Are Big Business

In America, pets are big business. In fact, according to the American Pet Products Association (APPA), 65 percent of U.S. households, or almost 80 million families, own a pet.

This figure is 22.7 million more than it was in 1988, the first year the survey was conducted. It’s clear America’s love affair with pets is strong, and growing stronger.

Most prefer dogs, by a margin of almost 12 percent, but cats aren’t far behind. In fact, remove percentages and actual ownership involves 85.8 million cats versus 77.8 million dogs. This is because people who own cats often own two or more, while dog owners typically own one – especially if it is a large dog.

People are also, and increasingly, turning to fish (12.3 percent), birds (6.1 percent), small animals (5.4 percent), and even reptiles, especially lizards, which are no longer seen as cold, uncaring, indifferent creatures but ones with personalities as distinct as those of cats and dogs.

The same is true of snakes and, yes, even tarantulas. Nothing seems to escape our love and fascination with the other members of earth.

Pet Ownership Translated into Dollars

In 2006, Americans spent $38.5 billion on pets, pet care, and pet sitting or grooming establishments. This is the same amount that the Federal government spent on education during that year.

By 2015, that figure had risen to $60.59 billion, with the lion’s share going toward veterinary surgical care. The next largest category covered food. Third were routine vet visits, and fourth were boarding facilities.

Food treats came in at about 25 percent of the actual food total – $269, in the case of dogs (with cats only $20 million behind).The smallest amount, a miserly $28-47 million, was reportedly spent on toys – a figure that seems almost fictional knowing how much doting pet owners spend on their “fur people”.

Pet Ownership, By Age and Sector

When the Great Recession (2007-2009) struck, Americans tightened the purse strings. Retail sales fell, as did sales of vehicle fuel, fast food, vacations, and major appliances.

Pet spending did not, proving yet again that a pet business is good business. This willingness to spend on fur people is very much evident among homeowners, who spend about three times as much as renters. An even better demographic for pet product and service sales is among married couples without children. Whether new nesters or empty nesters, this group spent the most on their pets.

This is also the group, or demographic, that sees their pets as “family” (by a 63.2- percent margin), as opposed to those who see their pets as companion animals (35.8 percent). These are the pet lovers who go online and refer to a beloved animal as “my baby”, or “my kid”.

Millennials Taking over the Industry

The most promising group of pet-product consumers are Millennials, the 18-34-year-old segment, who have seen their futures shrunk to the size of a corporate cubicle and an efficiency apartment. Millennial singles often see pets as their only recourse to companionship: relationships are too difficult to sustain, and marriage is economically hazardous.

For married Millennials, pets serve the same purpose, only more so. Compared to other pet owners, notes consumer marketing agency Packaged Facts in their National Pet Owner Survey, many Millennials seem to regard their pets as surrogate children, and pet ownership as a good way to practice for that “real” family.

Thus, as the Boomers decline in both health and prospects and give up their pets, expect Millennials to take over the pet industry. Because this demographic is inclined to splurge on their pets – sometimes even to the extent of foregoing personal purchases – entrepreneurs can also expect rapid and enthusiastic uptake of fads, fashion accessories, feeding and watering devices, treats, carrying cases, cat stands, pillow beds, healthful foods and, most notably, electronic apps that allow owners to keep track of a pet’s health and safety.

Entrepreneurs planning on starting a pet business would do best to focus on this demographic when it comes to advertising and social media (try Snapchat and Instagram, as well as the old faithful apps like Facebook and Twitter). Product focus should be on innovative designs and technologically advanced tracking and monitoring devices.

But a good, old-fashioned dog walking service, or a 21st century Sherpa tent designed for dogs and hot summer nights, would likely be successful, too. Just focus on the right market and make sure you consult the VA Law & Business Review to make sure you and the IRS are on the same page, legally speaking.  

Hiring Seasonal Employees This Summer

Hiring Seasonal Employees This Summer

Depending on the type of business you have, you may get busier during the summer months. While some businesses make it work by using existing staff and increasing the workload, hiring a few seasonal employees can not only help with the increase in demand, but can also keep the potential workplace stress low. By hiring seasonal employees, your company is more likely to run efficiently during a busy season and your customer/client base may increase even more. Another plus? Your year round employees can take some time off without compromising your busy season.


Although the idea of training in a few seasonal employees may sound like too much work, particularly right before a busy season, if you make the time to train them in properly, you are likely to see positive results in your productivity. Whether you’re planning on hiring a few seasonal employees this summer or twenty, here are some things you should know:

Seasonal Employees Have the Same Rights


Even if you’re only planning on only keeping a seasonal employee on for a few months, he or she has the same employment rights as your full-time employees. According to U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), laws that harassment, discrimination, and workplace health and safety apply to all of your employees, whether temporary or full-time. Depending on where you live, it’s also important to find out if you need to offer unemployment benefits. However, in regards to Obamacare, you are not required to offer health insurance to seasonal employees unless you staff over 50 full-time employees for 120 days or more.

Taxes, Workers’ Comp, & Social Security


As you would with other employees, you must withhold part of Social Security and Medicare taxes from your employee’s wages. Additionally, you must provide worker’s compensation for all of your employees, regardless of how long they are employed by your company. When hiring a seasonal employee, make sure you have and know the correct tax information for seasonal workers or part-time help.

Training Employees This Summer


If you anticipate hiring a seasonal employee each year, you may want to create a special training program or manual just for seasonal employees, however (for consistency), consider training seasonal employees the same way that you would a full-time employee. Make sure to go over standard operating procedures, all workplace safety information, and any employee rights and company expectations. When you’re in a rush to hire on new employees, it may be easy to go over information quickly or unintentionally skip some information all together, but if you take the time to train properly, you are less likely to face issues at the peak of your busy season.

You May Have Found a Future Employee


One of the nice things about hiring a seasonal employee is that if they don’t work out, it’s not as big of a deal than having to terminate a full-time employee. On the plus side, you may have found a future full-time employee or someone who is willing to return when you need seasonal help.


Is Your Startup Business Idea Any Good?

Is Your Startup Business Idea Any Good?

Whether you are still in the brainstorming stage of a startup business or if you’re already a business owner and have ideas for starting another business, the thought that crosses your mind more often than not is, “Is this even a good idea?” When coming up with business ideas, it’s easy to be optimistic and confident until someone tells you it’s not the greatest idea or you find out that a business like yours already exists.

Dreams of starting a business can be a fleeting thought, but if you really want it to work, you can definitely give it a go. Will it be easy? Not always. Will everyone love it? Probably not. However, remember the old saying, “You’ll never know until you try”? Keep that in mind as you come up with a business idea or two.

Got an Idea? Questions to Ask Yourself

Having a long list of ideas are better than none. While you may only have a few viable ideas out of the bunch, it’s a good start. When tossing around ideas, it’s important to ask yourself some questions and see if your business idea can answer them. Here are some questions to consider when planning your business:

Is Your Idea “Trending”?:

When planning a startup business, it’s wise to keep your eye on trending businesses. While not every business that starts out trending and strong is in for the long haul, it can give you a good starting point. Pay close attention to businesses that continue to trend as they grow.

Will My Business Solve a Problem?:

Think as your startup business as the scientific method (in a way). You must ask yourself a question, do your research, and come up with a conclusion. A successful business often solves a problem. Whether you are looking for a way to keep people from losing their car keys or how to decrease the number of roadway accidents, your business should solve a problem. The problem may not be yours, but you’re likely to find someone with the problem.

Are People Willing to Pay for My Business?:

Whether you’re selling a product or a service, a big question you should ask yourself is if people will pay for whatever you’re selling. These days, there are a lot of services available for no cost (which can make for tough competition), so you’ll need to determine what makes you stand out from the others.

Does it Excite You?:

Many people start up a business because they know it’s a good idea, but they only feel a little passion for it. Sure, a business may be profitable, but if your heart’s not in it, it’s not going to thrive as well as it could nor will it last. Although you have a specific audience that you’re trying to capture and excite, don’t forget about your own emotional investment. Remember, if you believe in your business idea and are excited, it’s a great starting point. Ask others what they think, take advice into consideration, but don’t let the naysayers steer you away from something you really want to do.

Customer Base : How to Build

Customer Base : How to Build

Starting a new business can be terrifying. You pump time and money into your new venture with no idea of how it will turn out. All business owners start somewhere, though. And one thing every new start-up needs is a customer base.


Here are five things any new business can do to begin building that brand.


Use Social Media (and Do a Good Job of It)

Every company needs an online presence these days. Most businesses realize that, but they often neglect the details. Unless you’re selling a product directly online, you should focus more on social media than on an elaborate page.


Few customers will spend time navigating through an elaborate website. You need to go to your customers. A healthy social media presence will allow customers to incorporate your deals and ads into their own time.


And make sure your social media presence is up to date. If your page hasn’t been update in three years, no one will know how accurate your information is. Spend the time needed to get good content available online.


Hire a Few Reliable Employees

The more employees you have, the more time you’ll need to spend in human resources and management. A large staff may sound appealing, but remember that each person will need wages, paperwork, and maybe even benefits packages. And the more people you’ve got working together, the more likely it will be that people will feud and cause problems.


Find a few good people. Hire them. And keep your staff lean. Good employees—so long as your treat them well—will be loyal and hardworking. They will also attract customers. Customers like to go to a business where they know the people working. That customer-business relationship is key to growing your start-up.


Get to Know What Everyone Does

Learn the basics of what every one of your employees does on a normal day. This will help you build rapport with your staff; you’ll understand how hard their work is, and that understanding will help build the mutual respect between employee and employer that is necessary for building a strong workforce. It will also prevent your employees from thinking you don’t understand how the place actually works.


Know Your Customer

Again, customers like going to places where they know the workers. Learn your customers’ names, talk with them about their days, and slowly build that relationship. Remember to be sincere, though; nothing turns potential regulars again like a slimy conversation with the owner.


Once people know you, they will feel personally invested in your establishment. If it’s home to them, they’ll keep coming back, and will feel the importance of spending their money on you instead of the similar shop a few blocks down.



Do Good Work

This one should go without saying, but it pays to remember that customers will be happier when they get high quality service. Whatever it is you do, do it well. Solid product or content will be the best marketing tool you’ll ever have. Quality is the first thing customers consider when planning a shopping trip.   


Obamacare : Is Your Business Ready?

Obamacare : Is Your Business Ready?

If you are a small business, are you ready for the latest requirements in Obamacare? If you haven’t heard, starting on January 1, 2016, businesses with 50 to 100 employees will be required to offer insurance for their employees. According to the Affordable Care Act, if employers fail to provide affordable health coverage to their employees in the upcoming year, businesses will face a tax penalty (which can result in up to thousands of dollars).

I thought a business with 50 employees was considered small?


Last year, businesses with less than 100 employees was still considered small and wasn’t required to offer insurance to full-time employees, but revisions to the Affordable Care Act lowered the number to 50 employees or more. While this may be beneficial to hardworking employees, it’s a bit trickier for small businesses.

I was making plans to expand my business, now I don’t know if I can or should


For most small businesses, expansion means success. However, with expansion comes more employees and with more employees comes required insurance benefits. While many small businesses care for their employees and want to offer full-time work for all who qualify, some employers may need to draw the line on how many full-time employees can work for the business (full-time is at least 30 hours per week).

Sometimes I hire seasonal employees, do I have to offer benefits to them?


If you own a business that requires more employees during a certain time of year, such as the holidays or during the summer months, you are not required to offer health insurance unless you staff over 50 full-time employees for 120 days or more.


Is there a way to get around the new changes of Obamacare?


There’s no way to get around the Affordable Care Act and it’s not worth trying or the risk. Some businesses try to split into separate entities (with less than 50 full-time employees). This won’t save you any money in the long run because Obamacare treats related companies as one. If it’s more time you need, the federal government is giving businesses (who have all of a sudden become “large”) until April 1, 2016 to comply to the new changes.

I still have no idea what I’m going to do!


Most small businesses will agree that the Affordable Care Act can be overwhelming and confusing, particularly if you don’t have a human resources department to take care of all of the new changes or simplifying the process for you. Take advantage of the extension, but don’t wait until the last minute.


If you’re struggling to wrap your mind around the changes, consider contacting your local or state chamber of commerce, hire an employee benefits consultant, or speak with a licensed insurance broker who can help you find the right health plan that will be best suited for your business.


Even if you feel like the Affordable Care Act has set you back a bit as a business, don’t give up on your dreams of running a business; celebrate your success!


Black Friday Safety

Black Friday Safety

When it comes to Black Friday, you either like or loathe the post-Thanksgiving shopping extravaganza. Black Friday has become so popular that it has started to infringe on Thanksgiving itself, making many people wonder if consumerism is more important than time with family. Regardless of how you feel about Black Friday, it’s a pretty big deal and it looks as though it’s here to stay. Although the major shopping event of the year is good for the economy and for the shoppers who want to save some money, it can also be dangerous for shoppers and retailers. On average, each year, there’s a small handful of reported injuries that take place on Black Friday; however these statistics may be low considering that not all injuries make the news or are reported. If you decide to venture out and wait in line at one of the big box stores, take the time to make sure you’re safe.

Stay Safe in Retail


During the holiday season, retail employees work hard for every cent they earn. Long shifts, extended store hours, holiday music on an endless loop, and stressed out customers are common challenges each day in the life of a retail worker. Black Friday marks the beginning of the holiday shopping season and it rarely slows until the after the holidays are over and shoppers have made exchanges or returns. Black Friday means job security to many who work in retail, but it can result in workplace injuries and even death. On Black Friday in 2008, a Long Island retail worker was trampled to death by shoppers who had more or less broke down the barriers to get inside of the Wal-Mart. In such a frantic rush to get the biggest deal, Black Friday shoppers may have had no idea that the person who had fallen had been killed by bargain hungry shoppers.


While retail workers strive to make Black Friday shopping safe and organized for all shoppers, employees are often at risk for injuries that can leave them out of work permanently due to a disability, which can put an end to financial security. According to the Virginia SSDI attorneys at Marks and Harrison Law Firm, in order to receive disability pay, an eligible disability should be expected to last for at least one year or expected to result in death. Think about the Long Island worker, had he not tragically passed away, his injuries may have been severe enough that he would never work again.

Safety Plan on Black Friday


Implementing a Black Friday safety plan not only keeps shoppers safe, but benefits employees and the business overall. Here are some Black Friday safety tips to help keep employees safe, and ultimately have safer shoppers, during the mad dash for bargain prices:



  • Delegate Jobs: While it may be difficult to train some employees to a different department, delegate employees to certain responsibilities such as calling the police or emergency responders.



  • Explain Expectations: If employees have never worked when the store is full, explain what they can expect. Employees that don’t do well under the pressure of crowds should be delegated a different role for the day.



  • Have Security or Backup: When a line forms outside before a store opens, there’s almost always a mad and chaotic rush through the entryway (that’s kind of the thrill of Black Friday). Hire security or people who aren’t afraid to face a crowd head on, but can do it safely. This individual should know how to manage a crowd without using force.



This Black Friday, stay safe, be prepared, and keep the post-holiday shopping tradition strong.


Advice for Startups

Advice for Startups

It doesn’t matter if you are a fresh college graduate, recently retired worker or an average middle-aged person just wanting to try something new, there is always an opportunity to start your own small business. That is the beauty of a small business; it can be started anytime you want. That is not to say that starting and maintaining a small business or startup is a piece of cake. On the contrary, you have to be prepared to do a lot of work in order to be successful. Many people invest a lot both economically and intellectually at an initial stage and often don’t plan for the long term. The key is to have a solid plan of action to avoid failure. Let’s face it, there is a chance that your business may not work out the way you want, but if you follow some basic advice, it will increase the chances of success by a huge margin.

How to get started

Obviously, the first thing you need is to find out the kind of business you want to start. Here, it is important to keep a few things in mind. The most common mistake people make at this stage is that they choose whatever is trending. While there is a chance that it may work for a short duration, the odds are low that it will be a success in the long haul. Pick an idea that you are passionate about, and that you are confident about executing. Do your research and be sure that there is a market for your product or service. Choose something that combines both your passion and current market need. These are a few things you must ask yourself at this stage:

  • Will it be worth the time and money spent?
  • Do customers need it? Will customers like it?
  • What is the future of this small business?
  • Am I really confident about doing this?
  • Who are my competitors? How am I different/unique?

Another significant factor which can make a huge impact on business is the location of your company. Ensure that the placement of your small business is within the reach of the customers. Even if your shop is online, make sure you are reaching the right audience and are able to be found by potential customers.

Protecting your investment

It is imperative that you are on the right side of the law when starting your own business. Securing your business from fraud, copyright infringement, and other legal troubles can be vital, especially if you have come up with the “next big thing.” When it comes to online companies, the risk is even greater in the form of cyber-attacks, copycats, and even online scams. Brick and mortars stores are also in danger of lawsuits or other legal issues involving employees. Therefore, it is quite imperative to make your business safe and secure. In this case, knowledge in business law can help significantly. A deep understanding or trusted consultant in Business law can help you steer clear of any unwanted situations that may arise while you are developing out your small business. Be aware of the laws in your area prior to starting your own small business. If this is not an area of strength for you, be sure to reach out to professionals who can help you through the process.

How do you protect your small business from legal issues? Please leave your comments below:

Fight Cyber Attacks in a Big Way

Fight Cyber Attacks in a Big Way

As a small business, if you’ve been keeping your fingers crossed hoping that you won’t become target of a cyber attack, your luck may be running out. Just because big corporations, such as Target, have been hit hard, who’s to say that you’re immune? Sure, you are a small business and maybe you think you’re just a blip on the radar in the business world, but if someone wants to get access to your information they will find a way. If you are a business of any size, you have private customer and employee information that should never get into the wrong hands. Regardless of the size of your company or the number or your employees, it’s vital to protect yourself against cyber attacks. Here are a few ways to stay a little bit safer without losing sleep at night.

Amp Up Security


Many big businesses, avoiding a cyber attack or after the unfortunate success of an attack, move to amp up their security by hiring a privacy analyst. Unfortunately, small businesses may not have the financial means to hire an expensive but valuable employee for their business. Does that mean you should just hope for the best? Not unless you consider yourself a good gambler.


Even though a privacy analyst may not be possible for every business, cybercrime prevention must be a step in any type and size of business. So, maybe if you can’t afford a full-time privacy analyst, you can hire someone to help you implement a cyber attack plan.

Employees You Can Trust


A problematic employee can make or break a small business. In addition to having a good employee that understands and shares your passion for your business, he or she must also be a trustworthy individual. For instance, if your business handles a lot of confidential information, you need to know that your employees will respect and commit to privacy. Additionally, you need to know that all of your personal and professional information will be kept private and not shared with the wrong people.


Educate your employees about cyber attacks and encourage them to have a smart and safe online presence. It may seem like a “no brainer”, but people often forget about online security, particularly if they’ve never been attacked. Teach your employees (and remind yourself) to be cautious when using social media, change and have multiple passwords for accounts, and pay attention to fraudster-like activity such as suspicious customer complaints.


Stay in the Loop

Once you build up your cyber security and have your cyber attack prevention plan in place, don’t think that the work is done. Cyber attackers evolve as quickly as technology and they continuously find ways to retrieve sensitive and confidential information that can destroy even the smallest of companies. One of the best ways to avoid your chances of becoming a cybercrime victim is staying up to date on security technology and other news in the cyber world. If you can’t have an employee solely dedicated to your security, consult with a professional every couple of months to make sure you are on track.

5 Ways to Avoid Startup Failure

These days it’s not uncommon for someone to change career plans and decide to start up a small business. The great thing is that it’s socially acceptable. Everyone is cheering each other on, saying “go for it!” and “what have you got to lose?” and in reality, some startups succeed and some fail. Maybe you’re ready to ditch corporate America and open up that specialty shop or maybe you finally decided to be an independent consultant rather than rely on being part of a company. If you’ve got the patience and the drive, there’s no doubt you can get started. In order to stay on the right track and be successful, there are some things that you should avoid doing that often lead to the failure of a start up. Make a couple of “right” moves to avoid failure and you’ll be happy you went after your dream job.
Be Confident, Even When You’re Not

Once you begin to establish your startup, it’s important to have familial and friend support, but you need to be confident in your startup and your ability to succeed. If you constantly second guess every decision, how do you expect to sell your ideas and promote your business to others? Sure, a startup is a big, scary, and often times risky decision, but you need to be confident for the sake of your customers, your employees, and yourself. If you fail to be confident, your startup is likely to fail.
Ask For Feedback and Advice

Startup businesses can be intensely personal; a part of you. Unless you have years of experience running your own business, you may need a mentor or consultant. Find someone who you respect and trust to bounce ideas off of, yet someone who is not part of your personal circle (spouse, family, best friend).
Hire the Right People

The beginning stages of a startup are often a whirlwind. You may not expect needing employees right away, but then all of a sudden you do. Eager to keep the business moving forward, you hire the first person who seems qualified. Hiring the wrong people can break your business. Choose people who understand your plan and vision and show potential for having the same passion. It may take a while, but it’s worth the search.
Be Original

Many new startup business owners want to own a business, but rather than choosing something they are passionate about, they base their plan on what’s trending. While this is important to do to some extent, don’t “copy and paste” another existing business. For example, if you are really interested in making specialty cakes, you need to create a style or a product that will set you apart from every other trendy cake shop in your city. The most successful startups are a perfect balance of originality and trend.
Listen to Your Clientele

Your customers will make or break your business. If you don’t care how your customers perceive your business or your products, then you probably don’t care whether or not your business will succeed. Ask for feedback, even if you may not want to hear the truth. Whether customer feedback is positive or negative, listening, learning, and taking action can help your startup grow and have a better chance at returning customers.

The Pros and Cons of New Overtime Rules

The Pros and Cons of New Overtime Rules

President Obama’s new overtime rules raise the overtime annual salary threshold to $50,400 from $23,600. This change will expand overtime protection to include nearly 5 million workers in 2016, as stated by the President, and reported in Huffington Post.

According to the President, “a hard day’s work deserves fair pay,” and the reform will be good for lower salaried workers who have been putting in long hours of overtime with no additional compensation. The President also stated that the change will benefit employers who are already compensating their employees fairly, as they can no longer be undercut as easily by businesses that have been underpaying their workers with the prior overtime threshold.

As discussed in an article on NPR News, under the old rule, any salaried manager who made more than $23,600 a year could be required to work extra hours with no additional pay, while overtime was strictly limited for non-salaried employees. Employers often misclassify workers as managers – yet at lower salaries – to avoid paying overtime.

Updating the Fair Labor Standards Act with a significantly higher overtime threshold can help put an end to this abuse. In the future, employers will be forced to hire more workers, as opposed to overworking existing salaried employees, or pay their salaried employees overtime rates at time and a half, unless they make more than $50,400 a year.

Some employers consider President Obama’s proposed changes to be unrealistic and burdensome, as discussed in a Rochester Home Page article. New business owners interviewed for the article stated that the change will affect their plan to convert from hourly to salaried employees as the business expands.

One of these owners said that he would simply hire more employees for lower-skilled positions, and if he did hire salaried workers, he would limit their hours to no more than 40 per week. The existing overtime threshold for salaried workers is below the poverty level for a four-person family, according to the Rochester Home Page article.

A Washington Post story on the subject reports that, according to a well-known economist, the change could have the advantage of creating additional jobs. Workers get paid time and a half for their overtime hours. Employers may decide to hire more workers to avoid paying time and a half – hence more jobs may be created.

Some salaried employees may find themselves in the position of working fewer hours instead of being paid for their overtime after the reform goes into effect. Although this may not pad the pocketbooks of those workers, at least they will have more personal time free, and hopefully a higher quality of life.