Weird Business: Refurbish and Sell Used Pet Toys

Image: Dog toys
Ralph Daily under Creative Commons

This post is part of our series on Weird Jobs. Check out the other articles to learn about more weird jobs you could try!

When she first started her business in 1997, Janet Huey repeatedly heard, “It will never work.” After all, she was already 44 years old — it was a little late in the game to be starting a business, let alone one that was so “weird.” Right?

Well, that was a little more than 17 years ago and Janet’s Houston, TX-based microbusiness is still going strong. In fact, although she’s “not rich,” Janet is only one year away from paying off the 10-year mortgage on her house!

Janet Huey is the founder of Pet Stuff Resale and has made a career out of refurbishing used pet toys.

The Pet Stuff Resale Story

“After a downsizing from a job I loved, I floundered for two years until I figured out what I wanted to be when I ‘grew up,'” joked Janet. “I took a job at a pet store out of desperation, and it — along with my rescue background with greyhound adoption — triggered the idea [for Pet Stuff Resale].”

“I started with donated inventory and a list of everyone I knew in rescue from vets to rescue buds to shelter employees,” said Janet of her business’ humble beginnings.

But, like any growing business, getting started isn’t the hard part; the biggest challenge is marketing. Janet relies primarily on referrals, connecting with others through social networking and her pet fostering and rescue work. All 50 employees at her local veterinarian’s office know her by name and send multiple clients her way. She also claims that the her truck advertising is “the best investment [she ever] made.”

“I [also] wear scrubs a lot, which encourages questions,” added Janet. “And I have a small dog on my arm as much as possible. I [also] wear pet jewelry to trigger conversations. Most of my clients are women.”

She’s also found a few unexpected benefits to running her business. While helping others, Janet has been known to help herself — to great deals! “While I’m trolling thrift stores and resales for pet items I do find some wonderful non-pet items, including clothes and shoes,” she said. “Yesterday I wore a linen shirt that was $2.00, [and] got hiking boots for $3.00. [The best part] Is how much fun it is at times. I love my job even after all these years!”

Looking to Start Your Own “Pet Stuff” Business?

If you’ve got a knack for refurbishing old pet toys, why not make a little extra cash from it?

Janet Huey’s Pet Stuff Resale has no website — only a Facebook page — and no physical store front. Instead, Janet takes her goods “near Dairy Ashford and I-10” on weekends, selling directly to local buyers.

“It saves people money and keeps stuff out of landfills,” she said, adding, “I have no storefront, no shipping, no credit cards, no website, no PayPal.”

But while this business doesn’t require technical support, it does require a lot of hard work. “I have put in more of my time than most people would. I don’t mind working every weekend,” said Janet. “Okay. Football season is tough …”

Still interested? You’re not the first person who’s tried to follow in Janet’s footsteps. “People contact me to help them start but disappear when I quote my consulting fee … which proves they don’t need to be doing it,” said Janet. “I could save them lots of mistakes. My advice would probably be to look into something else, [but] not because I’m worried about competition. I would not mind the competition. [But] there’s a reason PSR is the only one of its kind: It’s lots of work!”

However, if you’re not afraid of “lots” of hard work, Janet suggests gathering as much information as you can on animal care and pet supplies from your local pet stores and veterinarians. The more you know about the products you’re refurbishing and who you’re refurbishing them for — the animals! — the better.

“Also, ignore naysayers who have no business background and look for non-traditional thinkers with business sense,” she concluded.

Your Turn: Would you become a professional pet toy reseller? Let us know in the comments!

Lauren Tharp is a freelance writer and the owner of LittleZotz Writing. Through her website, Lauren helps small businesses bring their brands to life through written content; and she also helps fellow writers get started as freelancers via weekly blog posts, bi-monthly newsletters, free e-books, and one-on-one mentoring.