Lori Weiner raises and handles show dogs. In her 15-year career, she has shown Afghan hounds, borzoi, and two types of greyhounds—over 18 dogs in all—at thousands of shows in the U.S. and Canada.
So when Weiner thought of starting a business, she decided to go with her passion: pet care.
In February 2011, Weiner launched The Pet Hotel at Barkingham Palace, a Palm Desert, California-based boutique boarding and grooming place for dogs, cats, and birds.
Setting a High Bar
Everything is upscale, from the treatments offered in the wellness spa (hydrating masks and blueberry facials) to the lavish twin beds in the dog suites. If a dog arrives stressed out for their stay, it will be given a massage with pure-grade essential oils.
“It had to be good enough for me to put my own dogs in,” she says. “So we put in the full-size beds and everything they would have at home.”
The suites include televisions (on the Animal Planet channel, of course), and webcams for their owners to check in. Weiner’s boarding facility has 38 suites in varying levels of luxury for dogs, as well as large birdcages and cat condos.
There’s even a doggy gym.
A Growing Industry
Weiner is one of many business owners cashing in on this niche industry. Pet owners are expected to spend $52.87 billion on their pets this year, according to the American Pet Products Association. It’s expected $4.11 billion will go toward grooming and boarding, as the demand for luxury accommodations and treatments grows.
But it's not an industry without some fierce competition.
The number of pet grooming and boarding businesses has grown 2.6 percent on average per year from 2009 to 2012, resulting in a projected 78,034 enterprises open for business this year, with pet yoga centers and puppy spas among them.
The number of pet grooming and boarding businesses has grown 2.6 percent on average per year from 2009 to 2012, resulting in a projected 78,034 enterprises open for business this year.
Weiner's start-up brought in $220,000 in revenue last year. Weiner anticipates making at least $500,000 in the next year. Though she typically gets new customers via foot traffic or advertising, Weiner's recent partnership with a neighboring Westin Hotel & Resort is also adding to her client list.
Expanding the Dream
Although luxury-boarding accommodations are becoming increasingly popular in the pet care industry, Weiner’s Barkingham Palace is expanding beyond this niche. An 8,000-square-foot dog park/water park is in the works, as well as a 10,000-square-foot agility field. According to Weiner—who considers herself an expert on canines and competition—agility is one of the fastest growing sports for dogs.
“We kind of bend over backwards for people,” Weiner says, “And people are surprised because we’re so accommodating, but I have staff here 24/7."
Weiner currently has 12 employees rotating day and night shifts. Her business doesn't offer veterinary care (but there’s a vet on call 24/7) or online sales. She will also plan your dog's wedding or birthday party, but she hasn't had any takers just yet.