Good Morning
Good Morning

LI pet-care businesses gather to nuture a network

Ralph Del Gatto, left, and Enno Deroos are

Ralph Del Gatto, left, and Enno Deroos are co-owners of Pet Tree, a company that sells living memorials for deceased pets. They were among the pet business owners to attend a Plainview workshop of the Long Island Pet Professionals. (June 22, 2011) Credit: Jessica Rotkiewicz

About 30 trainers, pet photographers, dog-treat makers and others gathered Tuesday in Plainview to learn about business strategies and new trends for those who run pet-related businesses.

The idea of the session was to enhance professionalism and help business owners network and collaborate, said Nancy E. Hassel, a freelance public relations professional and founder of Long Island Pet Professionals, the association that organized the daylong program. "Working together is better for the whole industry," she said.

Read, keep up with what's new and "incorporate trends into your own business," said Charlotte Reed, a former corporate lawyer and now a consultant and "pet trendologist" in Manhattan. Among the trends she told participants about: food and fitness services for overweight dogs; holistic and all-natural foods and supplements; "me too" products that allow pets to engage in activities with owners, such as wet suits for surfer dogs. Make being knowledgeable a part of your brand, she said.

Ralph Del Gatto, 50, who's worked in the funeral industry and now sells cemetery memorials, said he sees a niche for a pet commemoration business he and a partner just launched.

Pet Tree Llc in Plainview helps pet owners create live tree memorials for deceased pets, incorporating part of their cremated remains. His partner, Enno Deroos, 48, a cut-flower wholesaler, said this can be especially helpful for children, seeing "life coming out of death."

Among Del Gatto's take-aways from the event? Tips on Web search-engine optimization, shared by speaker Michael Ayalon of East Meadow, a former chief financial officer of a technology company, now owner of, a web design business. It was "very, very resourceful," said Del Gatto, who learned how keyword placement on websites can help search engines find their homepage.

Hassel, whose professional association has grown to 150 members since its launch 2½  years ago, said she's seeing many people start side business and new careers in the pet industry. According to the American Pet Products Association, owners in the United States are expected to spend $50.84 billion this year on pet-related products and services.

Kimberly Loper, 38, of Center Moriches, who's worked for years in a garden center, launched last month her home-based venture, Life Is Grruff all-natural dog treats, sold mostly at farmers' markets. She said she plans to follow up on one speaker's suggestion, cross-promoting services and products, in her case with trainers, groomers and shelters.

Overall, she said, she was impressed with attendees' interest in networking and collaborating, more so than what she's seen in horticulture. The pet people, she said, are "much more of a community."

More news