Dog sledding is a historic sport that captivates the imaginations of many, and it’s no longer limited to harsh winter environments. Dog sledding businesses let people experience this sport first-hand by offering dog sled rides and tours.
Dog sled businesses aren’t limited to cold places like Nome, Alaska (where the Iditarod ends). Innovative products and business owners are bringing these businesses to warmer climates and metropolitan areas, in addition to cold remote regions.
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Learn how to start your own Dog Sledding Business and whether it is the right fit for you.
Start a dog sledding business by following these 10 steps:
- Plan your Dog Sledding Business
- Form your Dog Sledding Business into a Legal Entity
- Register your Dog Sledding Business for Taxes
- Open a Business Bank Account & Credit Card
- Set up Accounting for your Dog Sledding Business
- Get the Necessary Permits & Licenses for your Dog Sledding Business
- Get Dog Sledding Business Insurance
- Define your Dog Sledding Business Brand
- Create your Dog Sledding Business Website
- Set up your Business Phone System
There is more to starting a business than just registering it with the state. We have put together this simple guide to starting your dog sledding business. These steps will ensure that your new business is well planned out, registered properly and legally compliant.
Exploring your options? Check out other small business ideas.
STEP 1: Plan your business
A clear plan is essential for success as an entrepreneur. It will help you map out the specifics of your business and discover some unknowns. A few important topics to consider are:
- What are the startup and ongoing costs?
- Who is your target market?
- How much can you charge customers?
- What will you name your business?
Luckily we have done a lot of this research for you.
What are the costs involved in opening a dog sledding business?
The largest startup expense of a dog sledding business is acquiring dogs. A business can start out with a small team of dogs, but it will need at least a few.
To find dogs, business owners should talk with mushers and contact rescue groups. Retired racing dogs are usually well-trained but not free. Rescue dogs are a low-cost option but may come with behavioral issues. When purchasing dogs, Mushing recommends that business owners ask why the dogs are being sold and request a full refund if the dog doesn’t bond with the existing team well. When getting rescues, business owners, should be prepared to find the dogs different homes if they aren’t suitable for dog sledding.
In addition to dogs, business owners also need:
- sleds (and carts)
- gang lines, necklines and harnesses
- booties and thermal gear
- shelters and pens
Wikihow recommends having at least 1,000 square feet of pens for a team of ten dogs. Each dog would also need their own shelter. Of course, business owners also need land for these facilities.
What are the ongoing expenses for a dog sledding business?
The ongoing expenses for a dog sledding business are substantial. They include the cost of:
- providing dogs with veterinary care
- purchasing food for dogs
- repairing and replacing equipment
- maintaining facilities
Additionally, new dogs must be acquired as older dogs are retired from sledding altogether.
Who is the target market?
The target market for a dog sledding business tends to be vacationers. People on vacation have discretionary income to spend, are willing to spend it and are looking for activities to do.
Within vacationers, dog sledding businesses tend to attract active individuals who love the outdoors, winter and dogs.
How does a dog sledding business make money?
A dog sledding business primarily makes money by offering tours via dog sled. In warm weather, tours may be given on a cart rather than a sled. Offering cart tours helps extend what would otherwise be a seasonal business into a year-round one.
Some businesses also offer tours of their kennels, but many are willing to share their dogs with interested parties for free. Even those that do charge for kennel visits normally only charge adults a nominal fee and let kids in for free. This isn’t a major source of revenue.
How much can you charge customers?
Dog sled businesses charge several hundred dollars for a tour. Peace Pups Dogsledding charges $300 per person for one-hour tours and $550 for longer lessons. Kennel visits are just $20 for adults and free for children.
How much profit can a dog sledding business make?
A dog sled business can bring in a sizable revenue, but much of this isn’t profit. A business that had two people tour five days a week might bring in $3,000 weekly That has to cover all of the above ongoing expenses, though, and most businesses aren’t fully booked during the warmer seasons even if they have carts. Thus, the winter earnings must cover all year-round expenses.
How can you make your business more profitable?
There are three main ways that a dog sledding business can increase revenue and profits. In addition to standard tours, businesses may give longer tours. Multi-day tours that involve camping can attract dedicated mushers who are traveling, and one-day tours that go to a destination (e.g. a restaurant) can attract couples on dates. Many businesses also get into breeding dogs, although some business owners have ethical concerns about this.
What will you name your business?
Choosing the right name is important and challenging. If you don’t already have a name in mind, visit our How to Name a Business guide or get help brainstorming a name with our Dog Sledding Business Name Generator
When registering a business name, we recommend researching your business name by checking:
- Your state's business records
- Federal and state trademark records
- Social media platforms
- Web domain availability.
It's very important to secure your domain name before someone else does.
STEP 2: Form a legal entity
Establishing a legal business entity such as an LLC or corporation protects you from being held personally liable if your dog sledding business is sued.
Form Your LLC
Read our Guide to Form Your Own LLC
Recommended: You will need to elect a registered agent for your LLC. LLC formation packages usually include a free year of registered agent services. You can choose to hire a registered agent or act as your own.
STEP 3: Register for taxes
You will need to register for a variety of state and federal taxes before you can open for business.
In order to register for taxes you will need to apply for an EIN. It's really easy and free!
You can acquire your EIN for free through the IRS website, via fax, or by mail. If you would like to learn more about EINs and how they can benefit your LLC, read our article, What is an EIN?.
Small Business Taxes
Depending on which business structure you choose, you might have different options for how your business will be taxed. For example, some LLCs could benefit from being taxed as an S corporation (S corp).
You can learn more about small business taxes in these guides:
- LLC Taxes
- Sole Proprietorship vs LLC
- LLC vs Corporation
- LLC vs S Corp
- How to Start an S Corp
- S Corp vs C Corp
There are specific state taxes that might apply to your business. Learn more about state sales tax and franchise taxes in our state sales tax guides.
STEP 4: Open a business bank account & credit card
Using dedicated business banking and credit accounts is essential for personal asset protection.
When your personal and business accounts are mixed, your personal assets (your home, car, and other valuables) are at risk in the event your business is sued. In business law, this is referred to as piercing your corporate veil.
Additionally, learning how to build business credit can help you get credit cards and other financing in your business's name (instead of yours), better interest rates, higher lines of credit, and more.
Open a business bank account
Besides being a requirement when applying for business loans, opening a business bank account:
- Separates your personal assets from your company's assets, which is necessary for personal asset protection.
- Makes accounting and tax filing easier.
Recommended: Read our Best Banks for Small Business review to find the best national bank or credit union.
Open net 30 accounts
Net 30 accounts are used to establish and build business credit as well as increase business cash flow. With a net 30 account, businesses buy goods and repay the full balance within a 30-day term.
NetMany net 30 credit vendors report to the major business credit bureaus (Dun & Bradstreet, Experian Business, and Equifax Business Credit). This is how businesses build business credit so they can qualify for credit cards and other lines of credit.
Recommended: Read our best net 30 vendors, guide and start building business credit.
Get a business credit card
Getting a business credit card helps you:
- Separate personal and business expenses by putting your business' expenses all in one place.
- Build your company's credit history, which can be useful to raise money later on.
Recommended: Apply for an easy approval business credit card from Divvy and build your business credit quickly.
STEP 5: Set up business accounting
Recording your various expenses and sources of income is critical to understanding the financial performance of your business. Keeping accurate and detailed accounts also greatly simplifies your annual tax filing.
Make LLC accounting easy with our LLC Expenses Cheat Sheet.
STEP 6: Obtain necessary permits and licenses
Failure to acquire necessary permits and licenses can result in hefty fines, or even cause your business to be shut down.
State & Local Business Licensing Requirements
Certain state permits and licenses may be needed to operate a dog sledding business business. Learn more about licensing requirements in your state by visiting SBA’s reference to state licenses and permits.
Most businesses are required to collect sales tax on the goods or services they provide. To learn more about how sales tax will affect your business, read our article, Sales Tax for Small Businesses.
For information about local licenses and permits:
- Check with your town, city or county clerk’s office
- Get assistance from one of the local associations listed in US Small Business Associations directory of local business resources.
Certificate of Occupancy
A dog sledding business is generally run out of a physical location such as a lodge. Businesses operating out of a physical location typically require a Certificate of Occupancy (CO). A CO confirms that all building codes, zoning laws and government regulations have been met.
- If you plan to lease a location:
- It is generally the landlord’s responsibility to obtain a CO.
- Before leasing, confirm that your landlord has or can obtain a valid CO that is applicable to a dog sledding business.
- After a major renovation, a new CO often needs to be issued. If your place of business will be renovated before opening, it is recommended to include language in your lease agreement stating that lease payments will not commence until a valid CO is issued.
- If you plan to purchase or build a location:
- You will be responsible for obtaining a valid CO from a local government authority.
- Review all building codes and zoning requirements for your business’ location to ensure your dog sledding business will be in compliance and able to obtain a CO.
STEP 7: Get business insurance
Just as with licenses and permits, your business needs insurance in order to operate safely and lawfully. Business Insurance protects your company’s financial wellbeing in the event of a covered loss.
There are several types of insurance policies created for different types of businesses with different risks. If you’re unsure of the types of risks that your business may face, begin with General Liability Insurance. This is the most common coverage that small businesses need, so it’s a great place to start for your business.
Learn more about General Liability Insurance.
Another notable insurance policy that many businesses need is Workers’ Compensation Insurance. If your business will have employees, it’s a good chance that your state will require you to carry Workers' Compensation Coverage.
STEP 8: Define your brand
Your brand is what your company stands for, as well as how your business is perceived by the public. A strong brand will help your business stand out from competitors.
If you aren't feeling confident about designing your small business logo, then check out our Design Guides for Beginners, we'll give you helpful tips and advice for creating the best unique logo for your business.
If you already have a logo, you can also add it to a QR code with our Free QR Code Generator. Choose from 13 QR code types to create a code for your business cards and publications, or to help spread awareness for your new website.
How to promote & market a dog sledding business
One of the most effective ways to market a dog sledding business is online because vacationers often research their trips beforehand. A professional website, active social media profiles and online reviews can help impress potential customers when they’re making plans.
How to keep customers coming back
Testimonials form and pictures of previous customers can help convince prospective customers to book tours. These help customers imagine themselves on vacation partaking in the sport, and they can read about and see the fun that dog sledding provides.
Still unsure about what kind of business you want to start? Check out the latest Small Business Trends to help inspire you.
STEP 9: Create your business website
After defining your brand and creating your logo the next step is to create a website for your business.
While creating a website is an essential step, some may fear that it’s out of their reach because they don’t have any website-building experience. While this may have been a reasonable fear back in 2015, web technology has seen huge advancements in the past few years that makes the lives of small business owners much simpler.
Here are the main reasons why you shouldn’t delay building your website:
- All legitimate businesses have websites - full stop. The size or industry of your business does not matter when it comes to getting your business online.
- Social media accounts like Facebook pages or LinkedIn business profiles are not a replacement for a business website that you own.
- Website builder tools like the GoDaddy Website Builder have made creating a basic website extremely simple. You don’t need to hire a web developer or designer to create a website that you can be proud of.
Using our website building guides, the process will be simple and painless and shouldn’t take you any longer than 2-3 hours to complete.
STEP 10: Set up your business phone system
Getting a phone set up for your business is one of the best ways to help keep your personal life and business life separate and private. That’s not the only benefit; it also helps you make your business more automated, gives your business legitimacy, and makes it easier for potential customers to find and contact you.
There are many services available to entrepreneurs who want to set up a business phone system. We’ve reviewed the top companies and rated them based on price, features, and ease of use. Check out our review of the Best Business Phone Systems 2022 to find the best phone service for your small business.
Recommended Business Phone Service: Phone.com
Phone.com is our top choice for small business phone numbers because of all the features it offers for small businesses and it's fair pricing.
Start a Dog Sledding Business in your State
- District of Columbia
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
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Is this Business Right For You?
Anyone who enjoys being outdoors and working with dogs might like running a dog sledding business. Dog sledding gets you outside in nature, and you get to spend your workdays with dogs.
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What happens during a typical day at a dog sledding business?
A day at a dog sledding business is full of activity. Business owners:
- feed and clean up after dogs
- play with and exercise dogs
- train dogs and introduce new dogs
- maintain and repair gear and facilities
Several times a week, business owners will take their team out for a run. Each run may be with or without customers.
What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful dog sledding business?
In order to run a dog sledding business, business owners must know how to mush, which takes time to learn. Business owners who aren’t familiar with dog sledding should:
- take at least one mushing class
- connect with dog sledding clubs and organizations
- find a dog sledding mentor
- read books on mushing
What is the growth potential for a dog sledding business?
Running a dog sled business is time-intensive, and dog teams develop special bonds with their owner. For this reason, dog sled businesses usually have a single location. Business owners can’t work with teams in different locations.
Take the Next Step
Find a business mentor
One of the greatest resources an entrepreneur can have is quality mentorship. As you start planning your business, connect with a free business resource near you to get the help you need.
Having a support network in place to turn to during tough times is a major factor of success for new business owners.
Learn from other business owners
Want to learn more about starting a business from entrepreneurs themselves? Visit Startup Savant’s startup founder series to gain entrepreneurial insights, lessons, and advice from founders themselves.
Resources to Help Women in Business
There are many resources out there specifically for women entrepreneurs. We’ve gathered necessary and useful information to help you succeed both professionally and personally:
If you’re a woman looking for some guidance in entrepreneurship, check out this great new series Women in Business created by the women of our partner Startup Savant.
What are some insider tips for jump starting a dog sledding business?
When selecting dogs, business owners should consider Alaskan and Siberian huskies. Alaskans are popular among racers, but their racing advantages aren’t important for dog sledding businesses.
Hounds, which some mushers use, should be avoided. They require insulated houses and additional thermal gear in cold temperatures, which increases facility and equipment costs. They also aren't the classic sled dog that customers expect to see.
How and when to build a team
Dog sledding businesses may be one-person operations, or they might have small teams of employees. When hired, employees may help care for dogs, maintain facilities and gear, and handle customer inquiries. Employees don’t usually take the place of dog team’s leader, though.