Louisiana State University School of Veterinary Medicine reports that three percent of the households in the United States have at least one reptile pet. Though not everyone would enjoy working with reptiles on a daily basis, here is an opportunity to turn a hobby into a rewarding business.
How to Start a Reptile Business
Determine your business type. Consider whether the business will be import/export, wholesale or retail breeding facility. Each will require knowledge of the retail market trends and acquisition of healthy stock for inventory or breeding. Determine whether the business will be a sole proprietorship, a limited liability corporation or a corporation.
Determine which animals to work with. It is often best to specialize in one or two species of animals, to maximize effectiveness of the business. Each species of reptile has its own specialized housing and breeding requirements. Cage sizes vary widely, from housing for large pythons to cages for small lizards, so animal species play a key role in up-front planning.
Prepare business plan. This document will determine the resources required for a successful startup, time and manpower required and a projection of where the business will be in one, five or ten years.
Acquire proper permits and licenses. A business dealing with live animals, will require licensing and permits. The first of these are federal and state tax identification numbers, and a state business license. If you are importing animals, a federal import/export license will be required. States may have specific animal licenses and permits as well.
Choose a location. If you are importing or exporting animals, these may be shipped in or out of the U.S. from eighteen specific cities, designated ports of entry. Maintaining an extensive collection of animals will require a significant fuel bill to heat and cool the cages, and it is worthwhile to investigate areas where the climate is neither too hot nor too cold. Large snakes, lizards or crocodilians may require outside enclosures, which would preclude cold climates.
Prepare a facility. Decide whether the facility will be a standalone structure on private property,a warehouse or storefront. Review zoning regulations, to help determine the best structure. Purchase cages and other supplies necessary to house the animals. Set them up to assure that the proper environmental conditions are maintained. Have food on hand for the animals when they arrive.
Line up suppliers and acquire livestock. If the business is breeding animals, acquire sources of high quality breeding stock. If the business is importing or wholesale, be sure that an adequate quantity of animals are available for inventory. Obtain the necessary livestock to begin the process. If the animals are to be shipped, to set up accounts, in advance, with companies experienced in shipping reptiles.
Advertise to create a customer base. Prepare a web site of professional quality, to give the customers confidence in the ability of the business to deliver as advertised. If the business is selling animals online, include a price list and shopping cart on the site. Use other sources to advertise the business, such as reptile-related magazines, which carry display ads and classifieds. Display inventory at local or national reptile shows.
One of the biggest problems in starting a business in the reptile industry is becoming too large, too fast. Limit the number of species and the amount of animals in the inventory, until you understand the cost, time and labor involved.
Initially, work with animals that you truly enjoy. Some species have specialized requirements, which will make the job tedious if you do not enjoy the animals for what they are.