Pet-powered profit

Each pet gets its own room with a sizable amount of space.

Each pet gets its own room with a sizable amount of space.

I’m taking my cat for a mani-pedi session today.”

This is perhaps one of the more unexpected things you will hear from a pet owner.

While seeing clothing on cats and dogs no longer surprises, a set of hot pink claws is still something unusual.

While some might think that it is adorable, pretty nails on pets actually serve a purpose beyond aesthetics — they keep furniture and pet owners scratch-free.

The procedure actually uses vinyl nail caps that glue onto the claws of pets.

Husband -and-wife team William Lin and Chee Jo Anne, the 30-year-old founders of the company Pet Playground in Ara Damansara, Petaling Jaya, say the are the first to introduce the product in the country.

Lin (left) and Chee ploughed RM250,000 into starting the business.
Lin (left) and Chee ploughed RM250,000 into starting the business.

“Pet manicures are not new and is quite common in the UK where we import the nail caps from, but it has not been available in Malaysia until now,” said Chee.

The nail caps cost RM50 per set of 10 nails.

Chee explained that the manicure works by fitting little casings on the pets’ trimmed nails.

“It is not just beauty or accessorising, it covers pets’ nails to stop them from destroying furniture or hurting people,” she said, adding that the manicure lasts from four to six weeks, and the animals do not feel it.

Chee noted that the service is popular with some regulars, but is still largely foreign to most local pet owners.

“Not many people know about this yet, but we hope it will grow in popularity,” said Chee, who aim for the service to generate a bigger slice of revenuefor the business.

The sales of pet-related products are not a priority at Pet Playground, but a selection is available to pet owners should they need it.
The sales of pet- related products are not a priority at Pet Playground, but a selection is available to pet owners should they need it.

Pet manicures arejust one of the services offered by Pet Playground.

The core of the business is its cageless pet boarding service.

“We are pet owners ourselves and we used to send our pets for boarding where they were always cooped up in the cage.

“This made us feel guilty about holidays since they usually roam freely when they’re at home,” explained Lin and Chee, who own 12 cats and three dogs of their own.

With this in mind, both chose their love for pets over careers which they left in order to start Pet Playground in 2010.

After seven months training to handle animals and a year’s planning, the couple invested RM250,000 to start the business.

Understanding the plight of pet owners, Lin and Chee designed a hospitality experience for pets with a range of services to keep owners and their pets happy.

Lin and Chee's pet cat, Anna, flaunting her freshly manicured nails. Such grooming services contribute 20% of the shops business.
Lin and Chee’s pet cat, Anna, flaunting her freshly manicured nails. Such grooming services contribute 20% to the shop’s business.

“The emphasis of our pet boarding service lies in the space we provide”, said Lin.

Operating across the three floors of a shop lot, Pet Playground boasts 25 hotel rooms priced between RM50 to RM200 per pet or per room for people with more than one dog.

Pet owners can opt for rooms, ranging from small to large and with or without air conditioning.

The boarding area also has a pet garden where pets get half an hour to play everyday.

“Friendlier pets get to hang around together,” said Chee, adding that bigger pets also get taken for outdoor walks twice a day.

When visitors step into the hotel area, they are likely to be welcomed with classical music.

This is Pet Playground’s music therapy for pets and the couple says it calms animals not used to being separated from their owners.

Chee noted the importance of soothing pets and make them feel more at ease, especially during their first visit.

To make their services even more complete, Lin and Chee almost always tend to pet owners’ particular requests.

“There were instances where pet owners request that their pets be hand-fed specially cooked meals and also fresh fruit.

“What we do is just try to fulfill whatever our customers want and accommodate as best we can; this makes their pets feel more at home too,” said Lin, adding that they do pick up services as well if time permits.

The cageless experience and comprehensive services has led many pet owners to depend on Pet Playground.

“Our longest boarding period for a pet is close to eight months, and some customers come from as far as Johor,” said Lin.

“We are definitely fully booked during holiday seasons.”

Pet boarding generates the most revenue, up to 60%, for the entire business.

Chee said that they never take breaks during holiday seasons in order to shower care for their guests.

“We need to be really hands-on. Taking care of people’s pets is like taking care of their children. It is a very big responsibility,” remarked Chee.

Both Chee and Lin spend time with the pets during their stay whenever they can. They also encourage all four of their employees to play with the pets during their free time.

The business generates 20% of its earnings from grooming and another 20% from sales of pet-related products.

While selling pet products is not a priority, Pet Playground has a selection of goods available to enable pet owners with easier access to suitable products.

“We also sell cats and some small animals too, but only special ones that we come across,” said Chee, who stated that they would rather help with adoption.

“We offer two types of adoption services — rescue and adoptions,” said Chee.

Adoptions involves helping pets get new owners, while rescue involves helping to care for clean and healthy strays.

“People rescue animals and place them here for boarding, and we offer a special price for this,” Chee explained.

Pet Playground also offers a pet relocation service.

“It is just not an easy task to perform for most pet service establishments. Most find it tedious, especially when relocating pets to other countries with strict rules — the procedure can take up to six months.

Once you miss a step, the entire process has to be restarted,” explained Lin of the tedious paperwork and processes.

The couple provides the service anyway, and have helped to relocate many animals.

They considering plans for running a bungalow pet hotel in another location in Petaling Jaya where space, gardens and grass are in abundance.

“It will be similar to our existing pet hotel, but there will be even more space for pets to run around, and more boarding options for customers to choose from,” said Lin.

He also said that the plan is in motion, and will hopefully be in fruition by Nov this year.