For most, a part-time college job means waiting tables or selling at a department store, but Jon Haim has successfully turned walking dogs into a profitable side business while he works his way through college. Five years ago, while working at Petco, Haim got word that a dog trainer he knew had clients in need of pet sitters and dog walkers. He formed Unique Pet Sitter Services and has since built his clientele list up to 75. His experience will come in handy for his future degree in business management, which he is working toward at Cal State Northridge. Haim recently spoke to reporter Jennifer Netherby about watching pets for a living.
"A lot of people work all day and they don't have time to walk their dogs. So I offered to walk their dogs as many times a week as needed. They liked the idea and when they were on vacation, they'd ask me to come to their house and feed their dogs and watch them. I've sat cats, ferrets, snakes and birds.
"I usually work with seven to 10 clients every week. I work five to six hours a day walking dogs. I walk them for between 45 minutes and an hour. I charge around $15 an hour. But it depends on where the person lives and how many dogs they have. For my regular clients, I usually walk their dogs three to five times a week.
"I walk all types of dogs. I've met every dog possible. The only dog I haven't walked yet is a Great Dane.
"There are a lot of pet sitters out there, but I try to be the least expensive. I get most of my clients through word of mouth. I've tried to advertise through fliers and ads in papers, but it doesn't seem to work. I tried to expand my business and hire other dog walkers, but that didn't work either. A lot of people don't trust others to walk their dogs.
"My customers are typically business people who work a lot of hours. They really care for their animals. I had to take one dog to the veterinarian because the owner said it had a toothache.
"I plan to continue this business while I'm in school and then I'll either hire other people to walk dogs or pass the business on to my brother. It pays pretty well for now. Basically, my only costs are gas to drive to my clients' homes and money to pay for basic maintenance of my car."
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