How to Start an Online Dog Boutique – Avoid Getting Ripped Off!

Starting an online dog boutique is a fun, exciting, and promising business venture for any dog lover. Creating a business around one’s passion is the first step towards success. Since most dog owners love their pets (and tend to spend a great deal of money on them) it only stands to reason that at some point, the owner contemplates the thought that perhaps running an online dog boutique would be a way to escape the rat race of their traditional job, replace lost income, or perhaps supplement their retirement. While all of these intentions are fine and well, the reality is that having a profitable online dog boutique requires much more than a love for animals. Often times, this is the first experience at an online business and also the first step into the pet industry, which is ultra competitive. This combination, unfortunately, often spells financial disaster for the individual stepping into uncharted waters.

Before I continue, I must clarify my qualifications in writing this article. While many who write such “advice” type articles have never really done what it is the recommend, I on the other hand, come from a position of experience. I own and operate not only a popular online dog boutique, but also a bricks and mortar storefront selling the same product line. I have seen the good, bad, and ugly. I have helped hundreds of individuals get started and I have witnessed incredible financial loss by people who refused to follow my advice. Regardless of your industry, any successful entrepreneur will tell you that a great deal of their success was due to the fact that they mentored with someone in their industry, followed their advice, and walked a similar path. So, with that in mind coupled with the fact that my company has been around for 6 years, I do offer a level of credibility to the reader.

The biggest pitfall that I see people falling into right now is being charged WAY too much for their website design and many of these design companies are over-promising and under-delivering. With the horrible state of the economy these past few years, literally millions of people are turning to the internet as a way of creating home based income. In response to this influx of internet “newbies”, web designers are flooding the scene trying to grab a piece of the pie. Knowing that they are dealing with an online novice, they can prey on the inexperienced entrepreneur. More often than not, 3-4 months later the boutique owner still does not have a functioning website and they have invested a small fortune, often $10,000 or more! Frustrating to say the least.

The second biggest problem I see with the new online dog boutique owner is that once their site is up and running, they literally have NO knowledge of how to market the site and get traffic. As a result, they again fall victim to marketing companies out there who are also aware of this situation and they end up spending hundreds of dollars each month on marketing methods that are ineffective and do not drive enough traffic to their website. In essence, they go from the frying pan into the fire and find themselves quickly out of business and out of savings!

The dog industry is unique in many ways, and although the web designers and marketing “experts” will claim to know what to do to ensure online success, the reality is that most are just looking to make a sale and have little experience creating successful online dog boutiques. Having a pretty site with nice products is nowhere near enough to be profitable. So, having seen the winners and the losers in this industry, here is my advice…

#1… Find a mentor who has experience in the industry. If you are going to take someone’s advice, make sure that it is someone who has actually “walked the walk”. You may have to pay something to get this kind of advice, but it is usually priceless experience talking.

#2… PLEASE don’t build an online dog boutique unless you know how to promote the site online and you have a budget for marketing education and training. It’s not an easy thing to do and many before you have failed. Online marketing is far different than your standard advertising methods and if people can not find you, you’re dead. But, if you take the time to actually invest in your education and learn effective marketing techniques and strategies, you’ll be ahead of 99% of the other website owners out there. Plus, this education can transfer beyond the dog industry and serve you in any business in the future.

Popular Educational Tours – Five Must-See Cities For Students

There is a picture in a maroon binder somewhere in the world of me standing with a friend in Colombia, South America. I am barely standing in my own strength, being so consumed by my own dramatic feelings of teenage homesickness. I had rarely endured 500-mile youth group trips until then, and here I stood across the ocean and several degrees closer to the equator from everything I had ever known. By the end of that photo album, I’m a new person. I have learned to love a culture so different from my own. I care about another language. I have friends here, I’ve learned to cross the street bravely and audaciously in the city of Ibague, and I never slam the door of a cab – the drivers really hate that. I have learned more than I could have known I wanted to. Travel is loaded with discovery, and students – in school and of life – should do it as often as possible. The experience I describe above was out of the country, but there are so many treasures for learning right here in the United States. These are five of the most popular destinations for educational tours in the United States.

Philadelphia

This is an obvious one. Our nation’s first capital and the site for the Second Continental Congress who famously signed the Declaration of Independence during the American Revolution is also the resting place for Benjamin Franklin and the memorial home of Betsy Ross. Benjamin Franklin was crucial in the industrialization and improvement of Philadelphia. His biographer, Carl Van Doren, said of Franklin’s burial, “No other town burying its great man, ever buried more of itself than Philadelphia with Franklin.”

Other historical attractions in Philadelphia include the famous Liberty Bell, Valley Forge National Park, and Old City Hall. But don’t only visit Philadelphia for the history. This city, which is currently the sixth most populated in the United States, is every bit the modern metropolis. It is home to Adventure Aquarium as well as of course the birth place for the Philly Cheese Steak sandwich. Don’t forget to watch National Treasure before you go to both inspire you for some of the historical attractions you will see and to remind you how engaging history can be. And don’t miss the Philadelphia Museum of Art where art, history and pop culture converge as your students will no doubt want to attempt the famous run up the steps first immortalized by the fiction hero, Rocky.

Boston

Very similar to Philadelphia in historical significance, Boston, Massachusetts, is also rich with American foundations. Here you can visit Paul Revere’s house, the Museum of Fine Arts, Museum of Science, or the Children’s Museum. You can walk the Freedom Trail, a tour of Colonial and Revolutionary Boston and the famous sites related to America’s fight for freedom. In the Faneuil Hall Marketplace you’ll find eateries, boutiques, and street vendors crowded with Boston culture. And if you need a quieter tour, consider the traditional swan boats in the public garden lagoon. Boston is nestled in the heart of America’s first colonies and serves as an excellent destination for student groups.

Washington D.C.

Don’t forget our country’s current capital, not that anyone would. Washington D.C. is arguably one of the most visited destinations in the country. Capitol Hill, the Lincoln Memorial, and all kinds of museums of art and science make up this classic American focal point. Arlington National Cemetery is one of the greatest places to visit in Washington D.C., and student groups will never forget the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and its traditional changing of the guard, which occurs every half hour in warm months and every hour in winter.

Most visitors will not feel their D.C. tour is complete of course without visiting the White House itself. In an election year, student tours can be planned for the following year’s grand inauguration. What a memory for any student to be there for the swearing in of their new president! But a trip to our capital city in any year will certainly awaken in anyone an appreciation for our government and the branches that work together to uphold it.

New York City

New York City holds ready-made thrills for almost any young person in America. Art, history, culture, science, and commerce all make New York City a prominent hub of activity. The Metropolitan Museum of Art can take two days to fully appreciate. The Statue of Liberty and Empire State Building are famous symbols of American culture, although Top of the Rock – at the top of Rockefeller Center offers a more interactive journey and beautiful view of the city. Time Square has become a more modern symbol of the various aspects of New York City culture, and Broadway is of course famous for live shows and theater certain to dazzle any New York visitor.

Like the other cities, New York City of course offers various tours already designed for you in order to help navigate this overwhelming metropolis. Circle Line Tours does it in a boat ride, Central Park offers one based on popular movies, and the city offers several other walking tours as well.

Orlando

Walt Disney was passionate about “general mass education” and he loved to accomplish the goal through his fantasy worlds designed as showcases for technical innovation, cultural diversity, and sheer arts and entertainment. The parks in this city are more than tributes to popular cartoon characters. They are rich with sights and sounds and service that will thrill students and adults alike. Don’t expect to only learn in Epcot Center, famous for its tribute to science and innovation. There is something to discover in all of Disney’s theme parks. In this generation, the mere inspiration behind an entertainment giant of such magnitude can shape the hearts and minds of tomorrow’s leaders in arts and science.

I will never think of Disney World again without thinking of Randy Pausch, the professor and scientist whose dreams as a child came true when he was offered the chance to be a Disney imagineer. Today, Pausch’s lessons from that reality have been included in one of the most inspirational lectures and books of our time about the value of our dreams and the effort it takes to achieve them. Orlando is rich with this kind of inspiration – the kind people discover on their own when you just give them the chance to imagine what could be.

The choices for amazing student tours are really endless, but these are five of the most popular cities for any student group. There is a world for them to see and discover and so many things for them to invent and create. These cities can open the door at least for their inspiration.

Online Dog Boutiques – How to Successfully Get Started!

Online dog boutiques have become somewhat of a trend in the past few years. Perhaps this is because of the wide-spread (although somewhat inaccurate) belief that the pet industry is “recession proof”. I consider myself to be an expert on this topic not only due to the fact that I own and operate a successful online dog boutique, but also because I supply product for hundreds of other online dog stores worldwide. On a daily basis, I talk with experienced boutique owners as well as those who are just getting started. In the past few years, specifically, I have noticed a difference between those that survive and those that vanish. In this article, I would like to share some of that experience with you.

In 2009, my company had nearly 2000 people register with us as either brick and mortar stores or online dog boutiques. Sadly, only one year later, I find that roughly 70% are already out of business. So much for “recession proof”, right? Well maybe… Here’s the thing… Most of the “newbies” entering into the online shopping realm for the first time will believe that the way to get started is to build a site and find a number of good suppliers and invest a bunch of time, energy, and money into launching your online boutique. After all, this sounds perfectly logical and 5-6 years ago, I would have thought the same thing. The problem is that the internet is so vast that it is nearly impossible for anyone to find a new website. So, these unsuspecting souls spend thousands on their site only to see a small smattering of sales and the monthly maintenance ends up costing more than the generated profits. Discouraging to say the least.

There is a solution to this problem, however, and those who discover it can survive their freshman and sophomore years. It is so simple, yet so overlooked- proper marketing strategy. Sounds too easy, but it’s true. Most people that start online dog boutiques do so because they love dogs, not because they love their computer! They are usually complete novices to online marketing. But alas, all is not lost. After all, there are hundreds of companies out there that, for a fee of $300 to $2000 per month will “get you to the top of Google”! Boy, I wish I had $5 for every one of those phone calls I’ve received in the past 2 years. What they really should say is, “For about $500 per month, we’ll do some stuff that might get you to page one if we do it for a year or so, but it might not. Oh, and most of the stuff that we’ll do is stuff that you could do for free”!

OK Greg, so now you’re saying that we need to market but what do we do?

Here’s my advice, and since my site ranks #1 or #2 in many keyword searches, I would say that it is sound advice.

If you want to start an online dog boutique, the first thing you should do is bone up on your internet marketing. You can take a class, maybe a few weekend seminars, or you could do what I did and join a mentoring program that allows you to work with top people in the industry on a daily basis. Most likely, none of these options will be free, but if you have an aversion to spending money on education, then you should stick to things that you already know how to do. Plus, educating yourself is far cheaper than paying other companies thousands of dollars for their promises. Now, once you successfully learn effective marketing strategies, then you go and set up your site. You will be able to build and market yourself at the same time and you should plan on putting MORE time into marketing than you put into developing your site.

Following this plan will give your online dog boutique a fighting chance of survival. I hate to see anyone fail or lose money. There’s enough of that going on in the world today, don’t become another statistic.

As always, I wish you the best of success!